Richard Tory offers an easy solution to this season’s bounty of fresh vegetables and foraged mushrooms: Reduce them.

The organic farmer and longtime mushroom proponent will lead two all-vegan classes demonstrating how and why to make homemade broths and reductions at this year’s Common Ground Country Fair.

The annual celebration of local, organic food is hosted by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and takes place Sept. 23 to 25 in Unity. Last year marked the highest attendance ever, with more than 65,000 visitors.

Tory has made homemade broth for a long time, while reductions are a more recent passion.

“I was into making vegetable broth with all the ends of stuff and then I started experimenting with mushrooms,” Tory said. “I finally realized you could reduce it all the way down so it’s like a syrup. No salt, no fat – just the mushroom essence. It is an unusual taste.”

A retired social worker, Tory runs Shooting Star Farm in Canaan and is a vegetarian who leans vegan and macrobiotic. He’s been foraging for mushrooms and leading mushroom-hunting workshops and walks for decades. Tory also is a familiar name on the Common Ground roster, yet this is the first year he’s offering a class on broths and reductions.

His broth-making process begins with three quarts of water and “about 10 cups of chopped-up things” – assorted vegetables, mushrooms, broccoli stems, garlic. He does the same with a mix of only mushrooms.

He boils the broth for roughly an hour and then strains out the solids. This creates about a gallon of flavorful vegetable or mushroom broth. If he keeps cooking the broth for another 30 minutes or so, it reduces to about a cup of syrup bursting with umami flavor.

“It’s sweet and very rich and it almost tastes like beef,” said Tory, who first embraced vegetarianism in 1971 on a Maine commune. “Not that I remember beef very much.”

Tory is fond of the “intoxicating aroma” that fills his house as this broth reduces. He uses the resulting reduction to drizzle on vegetables and grains or as a base for soups and sauces.

“You almost want to drink it off by itself,” Tory said.

He stresses that cooking mushrooms is important, as it neutralizes any bacterial contamination and makes the mushrooms easier to digest. “If you do have a problem with (mushroom) digestion, you’re not going to have a problem with the broth,” Tory said.

Tory’s classes are among 650 workshops, talks, performances and other events taking place at this year’s fair. Find a complete schedule at mofga.org/thefair. Educational displays, hands-on demos and exhibitors related to agriculture, environmental concerns, social and political action, energy and shelter, health and healing, crafts, herbs and folk arts can be explored across the fairground. The Exhibition Hall features judged entries of organic vegetables, fruits and flowers.

But the draw for many is the food. Now in its 40th year, the fair features two huge organic farmers markets at each gate and two sprawling food courts on either side of the grassy common.

Fair staff closely vet the food to make sure every ingredient used is certified organic. (Rare exceptions are made when a particular ingredient can’t be obtained anywhere as certified organic.)

Unlike conventional agricultural fairs, the Common Ground provides a robust selection of vegan and vegetarian options.

This year, vegan choices include falafel, black bean tacos, samosas, wraps, baked potatoes, fried mushrooms, veggie burgers, channa masala and eggplant sandwiches.

At last year’s fair, Heiwa Soy Beanery, based in Rockport, won the blue ribbon for the most unusual food: its vegan tofu fries. Heiwa will be back again this year.

“We take the tofu and cut it up into a french fry crinkle cut because it’s classic and fun, and the crinkle cut brings a smile to people’s faces,” Heiwa owner Jeff Wolovitz said. “We soak the tofu in a saltwater brine to add extra flavor and to allow it to crisp up. Then we deep fry. You get this nice crisp outside and this creamy, custardy inside.”

The fries come with either a sesame-garlic or a cranberry ketchup dipping sauce.

Dessert is a little trickier for vegan fairgoers. One classic Common Ground Fair sweet choice is the Pie Cone, and the ones with only fruit fillings are vegan. And vegans who eat honey can try a new dessert vendor this year. The Ice Cup booth run by Sara Moscoso of Swanville will serve a powdery shave ice flavored with a cold-pressed mixture of strawberries or blueberries sweetened with honey.

“When I traveled to Nicaragua, I got into the shave ice they make there,” Moscoso said. “I came home and researched all the different ways different countries have of shaving ice.”

Her investigation led her to purchase an ice shaver from Japan that makes shave ice eaten “with a spoon rather than a straw.”

Tory points out that while Common Ground is much more veg-friendly than typical agricultural fairs, “it’s not a vegetarian fair” and notes that sensitive plant-eaters will need to sidestep the grilled meat booths just as they would at a conventional fair.

The difference is this fair is much more welcoming to vegetarians of all stripes.

“If you’re a vegan, it’s all there,” Tory said. “The farmers market, the herbs, the talks and a lot of information. And if you don’t eat animals but just like to look at them, it’s fabulous.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at

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