Michael Heim of Boulder High Country Mushrooms explained what goes on inside the mushroom shed. It really does start with expert mushroom hunters. They collect pieces of edible and medicinal mushrooms growing in the wild. Back at the mushroom lab, they culture their harvest in malted agar.
Michael explained that the malt provides the food needed to grow into mycelium, the underground, thread-like, part of the mushroom. From there, the mycelium are cut with a sterilized knife and transferred to another growing medium. Michael showed me many jars of sterilized wheat berries growing mycelium.
In short order, the mycelium permeates the wheat berries. At this point, the mycelium may take divergent paths depending on the mushroom species being grown. Some continue to grow in a bag of sterilized wood chips, spent coffee grounds, and sawdust. Others will be placed in a bag of sterilized furniture dowels! Yes, furniture dowels. Subsequently, the dowels may be used to inoculate logs. First, drill holes in the log. Next, pound the dowels in the holes. Finally, cap with wax, to keep the critters out. Other mushroom varieties are placed in sterilized yerba mate. And some are placed in sterilized rice.
|Michael Heim in front of 6 foot tall grow bags|
Another potentially sustainable feature of mushroom farming lies in the choice of growing substrate. Many mushroom growers use organic waste from agriculture, landscaping, and food processing. Boulder High Country Mushrooms creates one growing mixture from spent coffee grounds, wood chips, and sawdust. All three are waste products from other industries.
Due to the heavy-handed use of sterilization/pasteurization at the mushroom farm, any renewable source of hot water would make the operation more sustainable. Michael mentioned this as he brought me out back to a large compost pile. I did not see the significance.
Here's one last thought on sustainability. Mushroom farming would be a wonderful enterprise in an urban area, where space is at a premium. Farmers can grow up to 25 pounds per square foot per year. And in a city, the farm could share space with a mushroom museum. No, I'm not really serious about that last point, but some of these specimens would make gorgeous works of art. The day I visited Boulder High Country Mushrooms, they were loading up to deliver the most spectacular oyster mushrooms I have ever laid eyes on.
|Michael Heim and Jared Urchek with oyster mushroom specimens|
If you live in the Boulder area and want some locally grown mushrooms, give Boulder High Country Mushrooms a call at (720)722-3512. You can choose from the following:
- Turkey Tail
- Lions Mane
- Medicinal Tinctures
- Consultation Services