I didn’t discover the Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, mushroom festival until 2010. Even then, I didn’t attend due to travel commitments that weekend. Who knew there was such a big event in the green rolling hills south of Philadelphia?
When my schedule finally allowed a visit, I attended with enthusiasm a true mushroom lover like myself would have.
I went to the mushroom soup competition, walked the streets poking my nose in most every booth, and had lunch at one of the food stands on the main drag. This is no small event. Around 100,000 visitors attended last year!
The mushroom festival takes up a whopping mile of the main drag, State Street, and offers an amazing assortment of mushroom products as well as booths hawking goods that have nothing to do with mushrooms.
Friday, a parade starts the festival off with a night of festivities at 6 pm on State Street. Most events are on Saturday and Sunday, September 10th and 11th throughout the day. Want to be part of the show? Enter the amateur mushroom cook-off, the cute-as-a-button baby picture contest, national friedmushroom-eating contest, or the mushroom soup contest. There is also a mushroom run and fun walk to work off all the calories consumed from the fried mushrooms and other treats.
This year, there will be a special local’s prize of $200 at the friedmushroom-eating contest for those who live within 15 miles of Kennett Square. The professional eating contest people are in a league of their own, and it’s only fair that mere mortals should have a chance to win, too.
In 2014, the friedmushroom-eating record was set when an astounding 11.5 pounds of fried mushrooms were consumed by Molly Shuyler, taking home the $700 prize and probably a gut ache, too!
My favorite event was the Soup and Wine Event held in a big tent. I enjoyed sampling several creative and delicious mushrooms soups last year. I agreed with the judges that Hilton Garden Inn had the best of the lot. All my favorite restaurants were out on State Street serving up regular menu items and special mushroom appetizers and entrees.
After lunch, I indulged in a scoop of mushroom ice cream. I was as dubious as such a flavor could be good, but it was worthy. The rich vanilla ice cream blended well with the delicate flavor of white mushrooms.
I look forward to this seasonal treat when the festival starts up again this year. It’s not like you can go to your favorite ice cream shop and order mushroom ice cream. They would look at you like you are crazy.
It’s not all fun and games at the festival. The Mushroom Festival grant program has given out over $700,000 in grants to local non-profit organizations since 2000.
There is a sales tent and the grower’s exhibit worth visiting. There, you will find brochures from the Mushroom Council to help you cook up these healthy and tasty treats. Bring a cooler if you plan on buying fresh mushrooms as mushrooms like to be stored at 35° Fahrenheit. The Mushroom Cap and Phillips Mushrooms sell dozens of non-perishable mushroom products at the festival you can take home with you.
For current information on times, places of vendors, parking, and events visit www.MushroomFestival.org where you will find most anything you need. Phillips Mushrooms — the largest supplier of specialty mushrooms in North America invited me to conduct a cooking demonstration at their retail store Friday September 9th.
Admission is free to this event at 1020 Kaolin Road, Kennett Square. Drop by and taste some great mushroom items as a warm up to the festival. I hope to see you there this year for one of the best food festivals on the East Coast.
This is a hearty soup that tastes great on a cold day. I like it with a wheaty slice of bread, and a glass of Zinfandel. Serves four
• 2 medium-sized russet potatoes cut into 1-inch pieces, about 2 cups
• 3-4 cups water, enough to cover potatoes
• 3 Tbsp garlic-infused olive oil, or plain olive oil
• 2/3 cup diced yellow onion
• 1 1/4 cups celery cut into ½-inch slices
• 4 cups Maitake mushrooms cut into 1 ½-inch pieces, or use quartered Crimini mushrooms
• 3/4 cup carrots cut lengthwise and then into ½-inch pieces
• 3 Tbsp flour
• 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
• 2 tsp chicken base or chicken bouillon cubes
• 1 tsp Spike Seasoning Salt
• 3 cups water
• 1 cup half and half
• 1/4 tsp dried thyme
• 1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley (optional)
1. Start by cooking potatoes in 3 to 4 cups of water in a 2-quart pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat until potatoes are cooked but not too soft, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Sauté onions and celery in 3 tablespoons of garlic-infused oil for 3 minutes on medium-high heat, stirring often.
3. Add mushrooms and carrots reducing heat to medium, stirring often. Cook until most of the liquid is cooked out of mushrooms. Add the flour and cook on low heat for 5 minutes, stirring often.
4. Add 3 cups water, chicken base, Spike, thyme pepper and half and half. Turn heat up to medium and stir constantly until flour has blended with liquids, about 3 to 5 minutes.
5. Add potatoes and continue cooking for about 5 minutes or until the soup starts to simmer. Add salt and pepper if needed.
6. Top with parsley and serve.
Note: A cup of frozen peas or corn, cooked and set aside, can be added with the water and half and half.
If not using garlic-infused oil, add a minced clove of garlic with the onions and celery.
Kurt Jacobson has been a chef for 40 years and, after being schooled in the U.S. Coast Guard, he trained in many restaurants under both kind and maniac chefs. Kurt is starting his fourth year of container and raised-bed organic gardening and is volunteering at Wilbur’s Farm in Kingsville, Maryland, to learn real organic gardening. For this and other recipes using garden greens, and more fresh veggies check out his food blog. For tasty travel ideas check out Kurt's travel blog, TasteofTravel2.com. Read all of Kurt's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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