Oyster, Pioppino, and Chestnut, oh my! We had the chance to talk mushrooms with Becky Harhaj of Rebel Rooster Farm, located 15 miles south of Mankato, Minnesota. Read on to learn more about these delicious gourmet mushrooms and why Harhaj and her family relocated from the Twin Cities for a more sustainable life.
Tell us a little bit about Rebel Rooster Farm.
We started Rebel Rooster Farm in 2016 after we left the Twin Cities to give our children a better life with better food. We were going against the norm and being rebels by uprooting our lives to move to someplace more sustainable. One of our first animals on the farm was a huge, beautiful, black rooster. Rebel Rooster seemed to fit us well! I left my cosmetology career and started reading about farm life, animals, farm equipment, and homesteading before we moved to the farm. It was a huge adjustment for all of us, but especially for my husband and I, since we both were born and raised in the Twin Cities.
What is special or unique about the produce you grow and/or animals you raise?
We raise our animals as naturally as we can and give them plenty of room to roam. They are part of our farm and each one has a name. We raise most of our animals free range or on pasture. We have an organic focus and our goal is to take care of the land around us. We focus on organic and sustainability with our mushroom growing as well. We are one of the few gourmet mushroom growers in Southern Minnesota and have a large portion of farm duties dedicated to growing quality gourmet mushrooms.
Tell us more about your mushroom growing operation.
We grow several varieties of mushrooms and hope to include wild mushrooms into our business someday, too, as we have wooded acreage to support foraging for wild mushrooms. We grow Pioppino, Chestnut, Lions Mane, and several varieties of oyster mushrooms.
What are some common myths about mushrooms?
It surprises me how many people crinkle their nose when you talk about mushrooms, because they picture a mushy grey thing out of a can. The gourmet mushrooms we grow are more comparable to meat. When cooked, they are tender, flavorful, and go well with just about any dish. Naturally, we eat mushrooms regularly. The simplest way to cook our mushrooms is to slice and saute them in oil or butter with a pinch of salt and pepper. The kids steal them as they come off the pan so I typically have to make extra to be sure I have enough for supper, knowing there will be mushroom robbing in the kitchen! Another great way to cook with mushrooms is to add them directly to soups and sauces. I think mushrooms are an overlooked protein source that can add flavor and nutrients to soup and sauce.
Why are locally owned farms important?
There is immeasurable value being able to look into the eyes of the person growing your food. To be able to point out a farm to my children while driving down the road and say, “That’s where I bought vegetables from last week” is huge! It’s real for them. It’s a place that exists. We know where the food comes from and most importantly, we can keep our money in the community. My dollars are going to help pay for a farmer to put their kids in soccer or dance. My money is being used to help my farmer neighbor.
This interview has been edited. All photos courtesy of Rebel Rooster Farm.