Mushrooms growing in the foodie world

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- While most New England farms are months away from producing their first crops of the year, the harvest is already in full swing at Bountiful Mushrooms Farm in Portland.

Tucked in a warehouse between a pool hall and the railroad tracks, this little farm may challenge your notion of agriculture.

Bucolic it is not.

"That's Lion's Mane," said farm General Manager pointing to a large mushroom inside one of the indoor farm's climate controlled growing tents.

He explains that mushrooms have vastly different needs than most crops.

For one thing, they don't need natural sunlight.

What fungi need to flower and flourish is low light, high humidity and consistent 60-70 degree temperatures.

And even then, says Payson, they can be temperamental. "It's ways harder than people think and if you think you're gonna get the knowledge from a book, good luck," he said.

But after two years of trial and error, this small crew of mushroom farmers has learned how to coax gorgeous fruits from bags of saw dust and wheat straw.

Bountiful Mushrooms Farm now harvests about 150 lbs. of fungi a week. They cultivate Lion's Mane, Shitake, Blue and Golden Oyster mushrooms.

The small business sells to 25 high end farm-to-table restaurants including Vinland, a new Portland restaurant that uses only locally sourced ingredients.

"It is a particularly exciting this time of year to get an abundant supply of something we weren't getting before," said Vinland's Chef/Owner David Levi.

With more than a foot of snow still on the ground in Maine, Levi welcomes the addition of fresh picked mushrooms to his menu. "We use his mushrooms daily," he said.

While Payson and his business partner haven't quit their day jobs yet, he says that time is fast approaching.

"I see us in a bigger space, producing a ton of mushrooms a week, and being the distributer for Portland, Boston and Portsmouth. said Payson.

A few years ago finding fungus growing in a warehouse would have been cause for concern--now it's a culinary trend foodies can't get enough of.


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