Meet the Instructor: Kaley Hensel plants roots in Oregon

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Kaley Hensel harvesting nameko (Pholiota microspora)

The Pacific Northwest is known for its lush plant life, diverse wildlife, and ideal growing climate, which is exactly what brought Kaley Hensel from Missoula, Montana, to Oregon, along with the opportunity to join Chemeketa as a Horticulture instructor in December. 

Growing up gardening with her parents and grandparents in Colorado, Kaley developed a passion for plants at a young age. By college, she had enrolled in the Soil, Atmospheric, and Environmental Science program at the University of Missouri and fell in love with the tremendous amount of ecological diversity that surrounds us.

Learning about the relationship of soil, fungi, and plants encouraged her to pursue her master’s degree in horticulture, studying the effects of different fungal pathogens on elderberry.  This is where she fell in love with the hands-on style of instruction associated with horticulture programs.

Today, Kaley finds reward in growing her own mushrooms, including oyster, shiitake, lion’s mane, and wine cap, in her backyard garden. Amongst the mushrooms, you’ll also spot vegetables, including chile peppers and cabbages, and a variety of cut flowers. 

Inoculated crib stack fruiting with PoHu oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)

What she isn’t yet growing, she finds throughout the state while exploring with her fiancé Tim, who works in Chemeketa’s Agricultural Sciences program, and their two border collies, Dottie and Tails. 

They make frequent trips to the Oregon Coast and enjoy exploring the Detroit Lake area using an app called iNaturalist, where fellow nature lovers record the locations of different plants, animals, and fungi they observe. Kaley loves finding different species of fungi, especially ones she can cook with. (Check out one of her favorite recipes below!)

Kaley looks forward to discovering each new season this year, citing the daily changes she is already seeing in her personal garden, the Chemeketa greenhouse, and throughout the Willamette Valley.

She’s eager to grow with the College and be a part of the many exciting opportunities that are on the horizon for the Horticulture program, including Chemeketa Gardens, the program’s wholesale nursery that is launching this year. 

Get a glimpse of what the nursery will be selling on April 22, as the Horticulture program kicks off their first plant sale of the season on Earth Day.  Plant sales will be held on the Salem Campus in front of Bldg. 2 on Wednesdays, from 9 am to 1 pm.

Hedgehog Mushroom (Hydnum repandum)

Kaley’s recipe for plant-based, creamy mushroom soup
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked
1 cup black, long-grain wild rice
1 onion diced
5 cloves of garlic minced
1 lb mushroom chopped (I love using hedgehog mushroom, Hydnum repandum)
4 carrots peeled and chopped (I also like to add other veggies like potatoes and celery)
6 cups vegetable broth
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 can coconut milk, full-fat
2 TB nutritional yeast
1 TB dried chili flakes

1) Soak cashews overnight in water
2) Using a pressure cooker (I love the Instant Pot), add rice with 1 1/2 cups of water, splash of
olive oil, and salt for 30 minutes, allow natural pressure release
3) While rice is naturally releasing pressure, cook onion in a skillet for three minutes, then add
mushrooms and carrots and cook for five minutes on medium. Add garlic and cook one more
minute on medium
4) When rice is cooked, add dried herbs directly to the Instant Pot and stir in. Then, mix in
cooked veggies and broth
5) Bring to a boil
7) While waiting for soup to boil, in a blender combine soaked cashews and coconut milk, blend
until smooth
8) Add blender contents to soup and simmer for about 15 minutes

Serve with sourdough, yum!