Tabletop Mushroom Garden & Lion’s Mane Crab Cakes

Several weeks ago I ordered a tabletop mushroom garden/farm to grow Lion’s Mane mushrooms, a variety that is very similar in texture and flavor to crab. Basically, the mushroom garden is a brick that comes wrapped in plastic, in which you cut some “X”-shaped slits on each exposed side of the brick. You can get a kit like mine here. Those are the spots that will allow the mushrooms to emerge as the nutrients in the bricks feed them. Each day the brick is spritzed with a spray bottle of water, and tented with a plastic tent held up by skewers. This keeps the humidity up as the mushrooms grow.

If you’re seeking a recipe, read this post for my basic method for growing and preparing the mushrooms, and then try using your favorite recipe for crab cakes subbing in the mushrooms for the crab. I will be testing more recipes before writing my own recipe, as my first try was by feel and using my basic method, and not a recipe, but I have listed all of the ingredients I used along with the process. I hope you find it helpful.

It takes very little effort, save for remembering to spritz the brick several times per day, and it is a fascinating project to watch if you like gardening in general. Here are a few photos I took of the mushrooms over the weeks they were growing.

You may have noticed that I started out with the brick on a dinner plate and as the mushrooms emerged, they tended to grow downwards, so I ended up suspending the brick on an inverted prep bowl to allow the growth to continue downward. Not sure if that is common, but it didn’t cause any problems, just a creative solution. I watched lots of YouTube videos of Lion’s Mane mushrooms growing including tutorials on when to harvest, how to harvest them, how to store them (and for how long), and of course….what to do with them.

My mushrooms were ready to harvest during the week when my husband and I were moving from our rental home in Sammamish, Washington to our new home in Woodinville, about a half hour away. So there wasn’t much time to cook, let alone something new to me using a fairly “sacred” ingredient that I grew with great love and curiosity. So I stored the harvested mushrooms wrapped carefully in paper and stored in my vegetable drawer. It worked out just fine. I checked every couple of days just to make sure there would be no sign that they were compromised. Here is how they looked at the time of harvest. They’re a bit strange and beautiful, and quite large. I had them growing from three of the “X” holes. Two of them were dominant.

I ended up making Lion’s Mane “Crab” Cakes using a mix of shredded mushrooms, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, eggs, bread crumbs, paprika, celery salt, Old Bay seasoning, pepper, salt, a splash of soy sauce, minced garlic and finely chopped onion. Next time I make them, I will measure and write up my recipe, as I simply did mine from instinct as I would do a regular crab cake.

The first step I took was to shred the mushrooms into pieces that looked remarkably similar to crab meat. The texture and aroma are indeed quite similar to crab. These mushrooms hold a ton of water, so in order to get them cooked to a pleasant mouth-feel, I placed the shredded pieces in a 350 degree oven for around twenty minutes. I kept my eye on them because I wanted them to just slightly start to brown so they would be very tender but not crispy. Depending on your oven and the size of your pieces you might adjust the amount of time, checking every five minutes for proper light browning.

As you can see, the shredded mushrooms look sort of stringy in places and meatier in others. It is no surprise to me that people compare it to crab, and use it similarly in dishes such as crab cakes, crab dip, chowders, and so on. These mushrooms also have a long list of health-positive benefits and notably are great for energy and sleep (both of which I can use all the help I can get). You can learn much more about all the amazing things about these beauties in this nifty little book.

I digress, let’s get on to the crab cakes. I mixed the crab in with all of the other ingredients looking for the proper texture for forming cakes. Because I was winging it with proportions, I decided to use a little cheat by spooning the mixture into my lightly oiled cast-iron muffin pan that I use for all kinds of things. But you can easily form these into patties and cook them in an oiled or buttered skillet, flipping about halfway through, and making sure to allow both sides to brown and the egg to cook all the way through, which gives the patties structure along with the bread crumbs. I served with lemon wedges because I wanted to offer no distractions from the crab cakes themselves this first time, but these would be great with tartar sauce, remoulade, cocktail sauce or even in a po’ boy sandwich.

Please note that if you click the links and purchase products from those links, although I do make a small commission (to sustain this website!), I actually own and use everything I link. In this post, I linked the mushroom kit, my cast iron muffin pan, and a great book on Lion’s Mane mushrooms, all of which I stand fully behind.

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