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‘Bubba’ Green’s mushroom homecoming: Re-rooted at The Woodlands Nature Reserve

By Charles W. Waring III


Bubba Green, the man to see about mushrooms. Images provided.


More than 40 years ago, William “Bubba” Green III started riding around the grounds of Middleton Place where his family lived and his father worked. In rural surroundings interwoven with many threads of history, he saw all the flora and fauna and eventually became one of his father’s assistants on the driven deer hunts, where he learned much about the habits of wild creatures. He also participated in the drag fox hunts.


Bubba also witnessed his father as a caterer and heard him speak about Gullah cuisine, the way in which the woods and waters have so much to offer for our health and how good human relations are a reflection of nature in balance. He learned the importance of careful observation, respect for the voices of wisdom and belief to embrace the best in others.


Centered now at The Woodlands Nature Reserve on the west side of 61, the student has become the professor, and Bubba, at age 45, is now the man to see if you want to learn about growing your own mushrooms, buy some for your restaurant or acquire a few for your home kitchen. Before he kicked the mushroom business into high gear, he was regularly visiting with his famous father at The Gullah Grub Restaurant in St. Helena near Beaufort.


Starting five years ago, a man from West Virginia with the aura of a profit came to visit Gullah Grub three summers in a row. He wanted to learn more about Gullah cooking and culture and was also keen to find lion’s mane mushrooms in the wild. Bubba learned that a farmer could make a living raising rare mushrooms, and the idea spore slowly germinated until Bubba experienced some heart surgery that put the pause on everything, especially his old labor-intensive business of harvesting oysters from local creeks and rivers. A fresh perspective brought healing to mind and body; his old friend Holland Duell heard Bubba had been ill and was recovering and invited him to come start his mushroom business on the section of Middleton property that he and his sisters now own and renamed The Woodlands Nature Reserve.


During our recent visit, Bubba graciously cooked up a pot of shrimp and grits for us to enjoy as we caught up on his new business venture. Filled with good humor and a positive outlook, he explained how “we need to live more like the mycelium family; everyone has a connection within and to our community and we cannot afford to lose one of them.” Turning to family, he really beams when he talks about his daughter and son and how well they are doing in school. Expect to hear more about those children soon.


He says he believes he is “very blessed” to live and work where he does and have the opportunity to be a farming entrepreneur. Your author and Bubba go way back to when I watched William III riding in the saddle with his daddy on the driven deer hunts in the early 80s. Bubba was soon on his own saddle and looks forward to doing more of that in the future with his brother Jamie.


The Gullah cook and Gullah huntsman and Gullah waterman and Gullah woodsman are deeply infused in this complex and delightful person. My own life in the woods has often been beside Bubba and his family, and the relations go back to the early 70s; a lot of tannin-flavored water has flowed under the bridge and understanding each other is as natural as the lion’s mane mushrooms finding a home on a log. My father could not tell a deer hunting story without speaking glowingly about the Green family, and I cannot either; we all did a lot of smiling and laughing on the tailgate together. Just a few years ago, Bubba, exactly like a heroic character out of a classic adventure film, led the successful expedition to recover a wounded buck in extensive swamps filled with alligators; it is a story never put into ink, but rest assured it will be one day. My admiration for the sportsman in Bubba remains at a fever pitch — but I need to dig into mushrooms.


My friend knows the various “shroom” varieties and their life cycles and he showed me the greenhouse where the spores get growing. Bubba has the science of this down cold, and he really likes to discuss what health benefits we have from mushrooms and what the future might bring. Clarity is helpful in a name, and his business is called the Mycelium Connection.


Production moves in cycles, and he had just harvested when I visited. He was getting prepared to offer his next cycle of mushroom products to the public. The website for the Woodlands is the best place to keep up with his sales events and classes, but he is happy for people to text him if they wish to buy products or visit. He says there is no point in raising mushrooms unless they are the absolute best and he will make sure they are delivered to Charleston’s finest restaurants.


Zun Management, an offshoot of The Woodlands Nature Reserve, leases the space to Bubba, and they help him with marketing and publicizing his mushroom workshops. He also advises that he sees value-added mushroom products in his future. Expect to see medicinal products and dried mushrooms for soups and gravy. Oh, and he has a cookbook that he intends to write; he suggested that many meats will be replaced with mushroom options.


The atmosphere where he works and lives provides him with the natural surroundings to feel a sense of true peace. He truly knows that the Lowcountry woodlands and waters have a way of moving us in the right direction, if we are willing to stop being in a hurry and listen and see what is around us. Bubba insists on living the Gullah way in a harmony inspired by his Maker. He does not hide the fact of the wrongs done to the Gullah people who have been part of the land, but he speaks of the importance of forgiveness and the freedom it gives him to be filled with a palpable joy that declares he is indeed ready for this next chapter in his life.



To order mushrooms or learn about upcoming events


William “Bubba” Green III: (843) 475-3372

The Woodlands Nature Reserve: www.woodlandsnaturereserve.com/



From left to right: Italian oyster mushroom, king of pearl oyster mushroom, king blue oyster mushroom.


Bubba’s Mushroom Tasting Guide

Italian oyster: strong flavored; firm texture; good with soups

King blue oyster: best flavor of all; mild; firm texture; lead substitute for meat; will make an excellent mushroom paté

King of pearl oyster: soft texture; light flavor; nutty and buttery; good sauteed; works well with other flavors; it can be used the most different ways

Lion’s mane: used in studies with Alzheimer’s; taste like lobster and is a seafood substitute

Shrimp of the woods: very rare; light; seafood substitute

Shitake: Firm texture; Asian cuisine; great with meats or on its own; widely known



Bubba Green’s Mushroom Red Rice


Ingredients

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced or chopped

4 ounces onion of choice, chopped

4 ounces green bell pepper, chopped

6 ounces tomatoes, chopped (optional)

6-8 ounces bacon (optional)

1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil

2 pounds rice (using different varieties can enhance flavor)

32-ounce can tomato sauce*

32 ounces of water

Herbs and spices

Kosher or sea salt

Black pepper, coarsely ground

Ground garlic

Light brown sugar


Directions

In Gullah cuisine a lot is left up to the person preparing a dish! It is hard to give an exact measurement on spices because everyone’s palate is a little bit different, and the origin of the ingredients used, along with the strength of their flavor and how long it takes them to break down, will make a difference. So I urge everyone to do simple taste testing during the cooking process, and realize that your sauce needs to be highly seasoned because the seasoning will mellow out once you add the sauce to the rice.


In a two-gallon pot add a quarter of a cup of oil. Heat oil and add bell peppers first, then onions and mushrooms. (By dehydrating your mushrooms beforehand and then using a simple brine to reconstitute, they can take on the texture and the flavor of bacon.)

In Gullah cuisine seasonings are used during the cooking process and not added at the end, so as your bell peppers, onions and mushrooms are cooking, add small amounts of salt and pepper.


Sauté until ingredients are 3/4 the way done and then add tomatoes. Continue to sauté until tomatoes are soft.


Turn down the heat under your pot, add tomato sauce and water and turn the heat back up. During the next 10 minutes you will see your sauce start to take shape. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons of brown sugar. (Brown sugar helps reduce the acidity of the tomato sauce as well the acidity of the bell peppers.)


As your sauce cooks, you will see the olive oil float from the bottom to the top. This is exactly what you want; it actually helps carry the flavor through the rice. Now add the garlic and taste, taste, taste!


Take a 10 x 12 x 3 baking pan and add raw white rice. (Keep in mind that longer and whole-grain varieties of rice take a little longer to cook). Make sure the rice is evenly spread throughout the pan. Slowly cover the rice with the tomato sauce, then gently take your finger and stick it into the pan. You want the sauce to hit the first joint on your finger; this will mean you have 3/4 to an inch of sauce above the level of rice. (This is the way we were taught to cook rice in our household; all varieties of rice require that 3/4 to an inch of fluid to cook properly.) Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake in the oven 45 minutes at 350 degrees. At this point pull the rice out of the oven and fork. (Never stir cooking rice with a spoon; this causes rice to clump.)


* The variety of sauce you use can change the flavor of your dish due to the salt content, in addition to the fact that different varieties of tomatoes have their own flavor.


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