- Associated Press - Sunday, June 26, 2016

EDOM, Va. (AP) - Orv Lehman quit eating meat about 15 years ago for what he calls “the usual reasons.”

“Oh, you know,” he said outside his Edom-area home, “animal rights, health, the environment.”

After making his decision and launching headfirst into the vegetarian lifestyle, he began searching for food with plenty of protein to replace the meat in his diet.

That’s when he discovered the magic of mushrooms.

Lehman, 58, now a vegan, grows his own shiitake mushrooms and sells them at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market on Liberty Street every Saturday morning.

His outfit, Hawks Nest Farm - named after the roost on his property home to a family of red-tailed hawks - is just south of Lindale Mennonite Church off Va. 42.

Lehman regularly posts photos of the hawks and their nest on the farm’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/hawksnestveganfarm.

One Year To Grow

Unlike the mushrooms shoppers might encounter in most grocery stores, which Lehman said are grown indoors from blocks of sawdust, he grows his shrooms on logs of white oak.

“If you research it on the internet, log-grown (mushrooms) have twice as many nutrients as sawdust block-grown,” Lehman said.

To grow his mushrooms, he takes the logs and soaks them in a tank filled with water for 24 hours.

The water kills any insects, worms or diseases that might be growing in the logs, he said.

After they’re finished soaking, Lehman drills holes into the logs and plugs them with shiitake spawn, a process that’s referred to as “inoculating.”

In about a year’s time, he said, the mushrooms develop.

The logs that have sprouted mushrooms are placed in a shack where they’re protected from the sun, wind and rain.

Lehman, who works at Kreider Four Seasons Equipment, views his mushrooms as a hobby. He said he harvests about 4 to 8 pounds of mushrooms each week from March to November.

The logs only need to be inoculated once and can grow mushrooms for about four years, he said.

Once they’re spent, the logs are turned into firewood and wood mulch.

Delicious And Nutritious

Lehman said shiitake mushrooms can be used in vegetable stir-fry dishes, spaghetti sauces and as pizza toppings.

“It’s a real strong smoky, meaty flavor,” he said. “They’re like four to 10 times as strong as button mushrooms.”

But the mushrooms also have many health benefits.

Shiitake mushrooms contain vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, potassium and Vitamin D, Lehman said, as well as high levels of protein.

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Information from: Daily News-Record, https://www.dnronline.com

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