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  • Writer's pictureInsa Elliott

(Practically) Magic Mushrooms

Updated: Apr 13, 2018

Racks of Shiitake Mushrooms at Mycoterra Farm

Before I arrived at Mycoterra Farm, a gourmet, organic mushroom farm in Deerfield Massachusetts, I had an image of what my farm tour would be like. I thought I'd see the mushrooms growing in dark, dank sheds on piles of manure, so I wore some waterproof boots, in case I needed to hose them off.

Boy was I wrong. The 21,000 square feet facility that Mycoterra's owner, Julia Coffey, took me through resembled a lab with the same level of brightness and cleanliness. Julia is also as much a scientist as a farmer and during my tour of her organic gourmet mushroom farm taught me a lot about mushrooms.

For example, I learned that mushrooms are super foods, rich in anti-oxidants. Shiitakes specifically manufacture Vitamin D with exposure to the sunlight, just like our skin does. Very cool.

Julia showed me their process for mushroom production, starting with a petri dish. Then mushroom spores are used to inoculate bags of sterile sawdust and straw.

Mycelium growing in sterile sawdust

In these bags mycelium, the vegetative stage of the mushroom lifecycle, grow until they resemble kind of a mushroom brick.

At this point, the mycelium are chilled and then moved to racks in a humid environment, and the magic begins.

The mycelium blocks begin to fruit with what we consider are mushrooms.

Lions Mane look like cauliflower and taste like seafood

The mushrooms are quite simply beautiful, each with their own architecture and "personality".

In one shed, I saw classic shiitake, cauliflower-like lions mane, graceful oyster and and woodsy chestnut mushrooms.

"cute" Nameko mushrooms

Nameko mushrooms were grown in a colder, wetter shed to mimic their native Japan climate. With their shiny, round brown caps, they're about as close as you can get to a "cute" mushroom.

Mycoterra produces 1500 lbs of mushrooms weekly but has the capacity to expand to 6000 lbs. They grow mushrooms 12 months out of the year, but some varieties are seasonal.

On my way out, Julia harvested for me one quart each of lions mane and shiitake mushrooms.

For my family's Easter dinner, I sautéed the lions mane simply in butter, revealing their crab-like taste and texture. The shiitake I combined with asparagus into a savory tart. Both were hits!

You can learn more about Mycoterra Farm at:

Here's a great video of Julia talking about her mushrooms:

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