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What a Wonderful Neighbor to Have!
A few miles down the road is a large, windowless, warehouse-looking building right across the street from Merry Edwards, one of my favorite wineries. When I found out that it was a gourmet mushroom farm, I could hardly contain my excitement! After living here for 3 years, I finally got a chance to go inside! The only mushroom farm I had ever seen before was decades ago in Maryland where they grew common white button mushrooms.
I met their President and CEO, David Law, who together with the Chairman, Malcolm Clark, founded Gourmet Mushrooms in 1977. They were the first commercial grower of shiitakes but now they grow far more exotic mushrooms. Being visionaries and learning the many medicinal properties of mushrooms, they also supply nutraceutical products as well.
The Wonderful Tour
Bob Engel, their Director of Marketing, gave us the tour. The first thing that surprised me was that the mushrooms weren't grown in big dark drawers filled with sheep manure like the button mushrooms I saw many years ago. Each plant is grown in a pint sized jar filled with sawdust and some water and is inoculated with mycelium. They have about 50,000 jars of mushrooms growing which generate 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of these exotic fungi per week!!
|Bob Engel, Director of Marketing conducting the tour|
|There are 50,000 jars throughout the plant filled with mycelium!|
They had some cool equipment to sterilize the jars, fill them, spray them with water, etc.. After being inoculated, they all are stored in a large room where the temperature and humidity are held fairly constant - around 74 to 76 degrees F and between 75 to 80% humidity. After the mycelium starts growing on the top, (which could take 6 to 10 weeks) a Kinkake machine flips each jar over and scrapes off a bit of the mycelium to stimulate growth. The various mushrooms then go to their special rooms which have an optimal environment. Things move pretty quickly from that point on as they can go from Kinkake to harvest in a little over a week!
|Trumpet Royales are firm and meaty with caps that can be as big as two inches wide.|
They like 62 degrees F with 99% humidity.
|Forest Nameko have glossy caps and a rich amber color.|
They have a shiitake-like texture but their stems are edible.
They like a cool temp of 60% F with 99% humidity.
|These Nebrodini Bianco are my absolute favorite mushroom!|
They are dense and meaty - great for vegetarian dishes.
|These Maitake Frondosa are long known for their health benefits.|
I love their interesting leafy shape and rich flavor.
They are great in a mushroom gravy or in pasta dishes.
|Alba Clamshell mushrooms have a crunchy texture.|
Not Just for Eating!
Fungi have been used for centuries in natural medicine. They work as "adaptogens" and help the body get back into balance. Gourmet Mushrooms also cultivates mushrooms for the nutraceutical industry. For this, they grow the mycelium in a brown bran-like substance instead of sawdust and only use the mycelium, not the fruiting bodies. All their nutraceutical mushroom products are certified organic.
But Eating Them Fresh Has Huge Benefits
Research shows that women who ate a third of an ounce of fresh mushrooms daily (which is only one button mushroom a day) lowered their risk of getting breast cancer by 64%!
Where to Buy
Gourmet Mushrooms are sold under the MYCOPIA brand and can be found in independent grocery stores and specialty food stores across the U.S. If you know someone who really loves to cook with exotic mushrooms, you can also send them a Gourmet Mushroom Gift Basket.