BY RAEGAN NEUFELD
Mike and Amy Jensen, owners of Professor’s Classic Sandwich Shop, recently gave a presentation on growing and cooking mushrooms at the Hays Public Library.
The presentation was part of the library’s ‘Making Sense of’ series, which brings local businesses and community members together in the newly renovated part of the library. These presentations started in January with one taking place every month.
“We started in January with a ceramicist,” HPL Public Services Coordinator Nicole Thibodeau said. “The idea is to bring community members and businesses into our new space and really show it off, and help make a sense of community in that new space.”
Aside from the ceramicist, Breathe Coffee House and Regeena’s Flowers have also presented for ‘Making Sense of.’ Attendees got to see how the Breathe coffee truck works, as well as how Regeena’s makes a flower arrangement.
“It’s not just about doing a presentation,” Thibodeau said. “It’s about making sense of something, but also involving the senses. If the presenter can bring something to smell or taste then that’s an extra bonus.”
Thibodeau also said that she personally was interested in learning about mushrooms, and thought that the community would be too.
In addition to running Professor’s, the Jensens also grow and harvest their own mushrooms. They do this on their farm outside of Hays, as well as in the basement of Professor’s. This labor-intensive process was outlined in their presentation.
According to Mike, around 300 sleeves, averaging four feet in length, hang in the basement of the restaurant. These sleeves contain wheat straw, cottonseed hulls, and mushroom spawn.
“We’ll take the straw and cottonseed hulls and pasteurize them,” he said. “What we’re doing is submerging them in hot water to 160 [degrees], leave it in there for two hours, cool it, lay it out on a big table, and then we’ll add our mushroom spawn.”
As Mike went on to explain, the three ingredients are then mixed and hand stuffed into the sleeves. After that, it takes about three weeks for the mushrooms to then grow.
“If a sleeve weighs ten pounds when we make it, it will produce ten pounds of mushrooms, so the return is pretty amazing actually,” Mike said.
Once the mushrooms are harvested, the Jensens have several uses for them. Not only are the mushrooms used at Professor’s, they’re also sold to other restaurants and at the Downtown Hays Market on Saturdays when the market is open. The Jensens sell both fresh and dried mushrooms at the market.
“People always say, ‘what do you do with these dried mushrooms?’ Well, the cool thing about them is, you also have a recipe that says to add mushrooms, and you never have any in your refrigerator,” Amy said.
Amy then demonstrated how the dried mushrooms can be rehydrated within 15 minutes, bringing them back to their normal size.
“The water makes awesome stock because all the flavor goes into the water,” she added.
Amy also discussed an upcoming event that Professor’s is hosting. On April 21st, six different speakers will be talking about the state of the local ecosystem. Insects, fungi, wildlife, and more will be discussed, starting at 6:30 p.m.
As for the library, their next three ‘Making Sense of’ events will feature Cathy’s Breads, Salon Ten O Seven, and Gella’s Diner. Each presentation will happen at 5:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month.
“I just think if we can learn about what people are doing, we’ll open our minds and have some conversations, and have some experiences that make us feel like part of a community,” Thibodeau said.
To stay up to date with all of the Hays Public Library’s upcoming events, visit the calendar on their website and follow their social media pages.