Cultivating Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms | PARAGRAPHIC

– A day and a half ago, this thing was the size of the tip of my pinky. There’s been stories of toxic waste clean up by mushrooms. Without mushrooms, we would be overrun with waste, there would not be any life on earth. (upbeat music) Ganoderma lucidum sensu stricto is known as the mushroom of immortality. They’re anti-viral, anti-bacterial. It’s been shown to shrink and terminate tumor growth. And we do about 180 bags per cycle and we do that three times a week. Yeah, this used to be done in my house. (light music) We have some shiitake mushrooms right here that are ready to go. – There’s thousands of ways that these guys can save our world and make our environment that much better to live in. – Cultivating fungi and mushrooms is like a balance between science and art. I’m gonna be taking a look inside of my– This is the spawn incubation/culture media room. And I’m just gonna select our some cultures for today and take a look at some of my spawn. Today I will be taking little pieces of tissue from these plates and dropping them into nutrient media broths to basically expand the mycelium. Yeah, my name’s Michael Crowe and I own Southwest Mushrooms. Here we cultivate a wide variety of gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. (light music) Yeah, we just dropped a couple chunks of mycelium tissue of Cordyceps. Mycology is the study of fungi and basically a growth of different fungi. People don’t realize that there is such a wide array of different mushrooms out there. Molds and fungi starts from spores rather than seed. Two compatible spores will mate and form mycelium. Mycelium starts out, we plant it on a Petri dish and from there we transfer healthy sectors of mycelium into bags of sterilized grain. Here we have organic wheat berries that we use. From there, mycelium will spread and devour whatever food source that it’s working with. Full colonization occurs, you’ll se a big, nice, healthy bag of white mycelium. This can get broken up and utilized to inoculate any where from 20 to 30 of our production blocks. Without good spawn, you don’t have mushrooms. A lot of people that will try to get into growing mushrooms because they’ve grown a lot of plants before think that it’ll be basically kind of similar, but it’s definitely totally different. You’re germinating spores of Petri dishes, you’re growing out the mycelium, you’re doing transfers into sterilized grain substrates as opposed to soils. Yeah, this is our production area, this is where our substrate gets made. We use a blend of oak hardwood sawdust plus added supplements like organic wheat brand and certain seed wholes to basically form our substrate to get the maximum efficiency from our mushrooms. Bags are filled up to approximately 10 to 12 pounds and then from there, we make our way into the sterilization area, where the substrate will be sterilized for a prolonged period of time, to make sure we kill of any microorganisms or competitor molds or fungi. Nothing’s needed, it’s all sterile, so you don’t need to use any kind of pesticides or any kind of fertilizers or additives. You have to really take a lot of care into make sure that you’re only growing the fungi that you desire. This is the sterilization room. This is where we sterilize all of our substrate. In here, we can sterilize up to 1600 pounds of fresh substrate at a time. And basically, steam comes through and sterilizes at a high temperature. About 212 degrees. If it’s not sterilized properly, you’ll take it in to inoculate and you’ll run into a lot of contamination problems and molds outgrowing your mycelium. We have our spawn right here, this is California reishi. So we’ll take our spawn and just kind of break it up, separate each individual grain. And allow that to become a vehicle for our mycelium. So I’ll take a scalpel and then I’ll heat sterilize it. The HEPA filter right here is basically providing us just a clean workspace to perform our inoculations. So we’re getting a stream of sterile air. It’s eyeballed. I’m pretty good at eyeballing it, so that’s what I do. (chuckles) So the bags are placed in front of the flow hood, inflated with a little bit of that sterile air, and then sealed. All right, so now our bag’s inoculated. And we’re just gonna wanna shake it up. (rustling) All right, that bag’s done. People think that all mushrooms are grown in the dark on manure. We have wood-loving mushrooms, mushrooms that can grow on insects, and mycorrhizal species of mushrooms that can connect with different plants. This area is our shiitake incubation area. The shiitake generally takes eight weeks before we can get it into the fruiting room. We can see the mushrooms at this stage beginning to popcorn. As the mushroom begins to mature, you let the blocks ripen and they begin to turn brown. And this is a block that’s ready to go into our fruiting room. It’s ripe and ready. Generally, a lot of people, a lot of new growers will mistake the brown for contamination, but that’s actually just the mycelium ripening and getting ready to produce a good crop of mushrooms. And yeah, over here we have some freshly inoculated blocks, we can see the mycelium starting to jump off from the grain that is was inoculated with, and looking for sawdust to basically break down and utilize as a food source. In nature, you find oyster mushrooms growing off of the sides of trees, so here we kind of try to simulate that way of growth with this block. Inside is oak hardwood sawdust, and the bag kind of acts as an artificial tree bark. So when we give it an incision, it kind of just acts as in nature, when mycelium starts poking out at the right points and receiving the right O2 levels that sends mushrooms out. Once it completely devours all of it’s food source, the mycelium signals to produce mushrooms. Basically, the mushrooms will start pinning within a few days. You’ll start to see a bunch of little baby mushrooms forming all over the block. Usually, they’ll have like a stem and a cap. Underneath the cap will be the gills and the gills are responsible for producing all the spores that the mushroom will utilize to continue the life cycle. We grow mushrooms, that in nature, you’d find them growing right in the forest, right off of the sides of different trees. So we try to give these mushrooms a little bit of light stimulation. Kind of similar to what you’d get in a shaded part of the forest. What we do is as our blocks are ready to go in the grow room, we slap our blocks with our hands to basically simulate the tree falling in nature to shock the mycelium into growing. Once the tree or branch would hit the floor, the mycelium would be shocked into producing the mushrooms, because it’s basically thinking that it’s life cycle is coming to an end. That’s what mushrooms do, they’re basically nature’s grand decomposers. Their job is to break things down and turn it into organic material that can be reused by the environment. There’s been stories of toxic waste clean up by mushrooms. Mushrooms being able to break down oils. Kind of like the immune system for the planet. Also plastics in the environment. Without mushrooms, we would be overrun with waste. Basically, there would not be any life on earth. Mushrooms are very crucial to the environment and ecosystem. I started when I was about 15, I just got interested in mushrooms. Picked up a couple books and was just really fascinated by the whole process. How something can just start from spores, something that we really can’t see with the naked eye into just being able to devour things at such a fast rate and produce these mushrooms. And by the time I was 16, I was growing mushrooms as a hobby and just became really hooked on the process. So I started this business after selling some stocks and cashing out my 401K, so I wanted to continue working with mushrooms for life, I guess, and kind of make it a career path. So now I’ll just harvest the mushrooms just by simple cutting as close to the base of the block as possible. And then from there, we can go ahead pack everything in the next warehouse and get everything to the desired weights. Creminis, and button mushrooms, and portobellos, those are secondary decomposing mushrooms, so those mushrooms desire manure or compost based substrates. You wouldn’t wanna keep that stuff under the same roof, just because you don’t want any kind of cross contamination getting into your grows. So yeah, we’re just specializing in wood-loving species, so species that basically decompose hardwood in nature. You’ll find them growing off like fresh trees or basically recently fallen trees. Most strains are like shiitake, oyster mushrooms, more of the medicinal species such as reishi, turkey tail, lion’s mane. You’ll find maitake growing on oak or in certain hardwoods. Also the medicinal benefits that they offer are far greater than what you’d find in like a portobello or cremini mushroom. These are the mushrooms that contain those anti-cancer, anti-tumor benefits, those amino-modulating, immune system enhancing benefits. They’re anti-viral, anti-bacterial. Like, reishi specifically is used in chemotherapy and cancer treatments. It’s been shown to shrink and terminate tumor growth. A lot of people that have compromised immune systems are able to utilize certain mushrooms, like shiitake for instance, has been shown to dramatically increase production of necessary T-helper cells to help fight off infection and keep your body safe. This is called Ganoderma sessile, this is a reishi species from Palmer Woods near Michigan. And this mushroom’s mainly used for the medicinal benefits. You can take it and brew it into a tea or make tinctures out of it and utilize it for the health properties. A lot of mushrooms have their own unique healthy benefits that you can only get from that mushroom. It’s been used by eastern medicine for about 4,000 years. Shiitake, for instance, produces polysaccharide called lentinan. That’s something that you can only get from shiitake. Oyster mushrooms produce a compound called lovastatin which naturally reduces blood pressure. Lion’s mane produces hericenones and erinacines, which is able to stimulate nerve growth factor in the brain. Here’s our lion’s mane also called hericenones erinacines. It is a wonderful teeth fungi. The mushroom is a medicinal mushroom as well as a culinary delight, known for the fact that it can enhance cognitive function, boost your memory. Basically enabling people to recover from traumatic brain injuries, helping people deal with Alzheimer’s, dementia. We’ve got some regulars out there that love our lion’s mane powder and all of our products, really. It just started with the farmer’s markets and everybody just being really amazed by our quality of mushrooms. And from there, chefs started asking us about mushrooms, so we started dealing chefs, and then now our mushrooms are making it to grocery stores and restaurants all over the state. The reishi is definitely an intensive harvest. So we’ll just cut each antler off at the base of the block. It’s kind of like a forest or reishi down there. But patience and time. And there we have the cut right there, and we have a little bit of sawdust attached, so I’ll just trim this off. It shows that it really breaks down the substrate into almost a pulp-like matter ready to begin composting into soil. Yeah, this is the most aggressive reishi that we have. Cultivating fungi and mushrooms is like a balance between science and art. One, you’ve got to understand the science of it, and two, the art of it is basically being able to execute your crop the right way. If you have a passion and you wanna turn it into a business then don’t let anything stop you. (light music)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.