Monday, March 14, 2016

I Wannabe the Fungi Guy

Mark Jones of Sharondale Farm in Virginia talks about his vision for the relationship of towns and communities to fungi. This whimsical vision includes the idea that every place will one day have its own mushroom cultivator, just as today every place has its own McDonald's. In the appropriate tech future that we are about to enter, this should be one of its finer elements. Since I may be the most advanced cultivator in my neighborhood, I might well look to be the Papa Smurf of Calvert Shores (aka Chesapeake Ranch Estates).

Before venturing into a business, knowing your market is key. One of my favorite things about Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation, by +Tradd Cotter, is the back matter regarding the various species worth cultivating. I particularly appreciate the information on marketing each type of mushroom. +Paul Stamets has a similar section in Mycelium Running - How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, which also contains information that can be used to connect with customers. Together, they give prospective growers many good choices beyond the usual shiitake, oyster, garden giant trio.

Depending on how many of my new logs fruit this year, we may start selling shiitakes next year at the farmer's market. Oysters shouldn't be difficult, either. I hope to see the golden oyster mushroom logs begin to fruit this year, and Sharondale Farms has supplied useful tips for ways to grow oysters indoors on agricultural waste. My two beds of garden giants are also primed for the season and could proliferate this year with a little help from Papa Smurf. And there are sundry small batches of other species we hope to harvest for our own consumption. Almond portobellos are one of the more exotic species we will be trying soon.

That should be plenty to get us into the mushroom business around here. The question is, what would be a big seller? Almond portobellos and garden giants will be a new sight to many shoppers here. What should we consider adding to the line of exotic species that we offer in the future?  The following table summarizes some of the information from Cotter's book that could help in this decision.

Genus Ease of Cultivation Market Connection
Agaricus Intermediate Have some cooking to entice buyers
Agrocybe Easy Bundle in paper, exposing only caps
Auricularia Easy Demonstrate rehydration method
Calocybe Intermediate Tropical
Chlorophyllum Intermediate Fruits in the fall
Clitocybe Intermediate Good in soups and gumbos
Coprinus Easy Extremely short shelf-life
Fistulina Intermediate A summer favorite; meat substitute
Flammulina Intermediate Ice/water bath; salad/soup topper
Fomes Advanced Powder or water extract - medicinal
Ganoderma Easy Medicinal orientation of display
Grifola Intermediate Sold locally; Cook for aroma; Medicinal delicacy
Hericium Intermediate Sold locally; Novelty for some; Seafood substitute
Hypholoma Easy Wrap in bundles/clusters
Hypsizygus Easy Help customers appreciate differences between species
Laetiporus Advanced Chicken substitute
Lentinula Easy Sold locally; the superstars; sell caps (mix stems in dog food)
Lepiota Intermediate Sell caps (eat stems or put in dog food)
Macrocybe Intermediate Tropical
Macrolepiota Intermediate Sell caps (eat stems or put in dog food)
Pholiota Easy Sell to Asian markets or restaurants, esp. Japanese
Piptoporus Advanced Powder or water extract - medicinal
Pleurotus Easy Sold locally; Explain differences in flavors of strains sold
Sparassis Advanced Crunchy, even when sauteed
Stropharia Easy Pre-sell to restaurants - does not store well
Trametes Easy Powder or water extract - medicinal
Volvariella Intermediate Tastes better than button; Sell to Asian markets; Sell primordia

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