If interest in mushrooms seems high these years, it isn’t because Denver has inserted psilocybin into the national speech. It’s the other mushrooms that are a moneymaking and growing market. The country’s mushroom production is a billion-dollar industry, according to applied math from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The small mushroom growing operation at The GrowHaus is part of that mushroom boom. Alex Albu, phytologist and mushroom farm manager, grows and sells hundreds of pounds of gourmet mushrooms every month – about 200 pounds every week.
Area restaurants and retailers are hungry for the topically produced oyster, shiitake mushroom mushroom, lion’s mane and king oyster mushrooms.
“As much as we can grow, we can sell,” Albu aforementioned.
The mushrooms besides find their way into The GrowHaus’ own market placed at 4751 York St., in Denver. “The GrowHaus is a nonprofit working to ensure lasting access to healthy food in Globeville and Elyria-Swansea, two north Denver neighborhoods that are classified as food deserts,” according to Nathan Mackenzie, director of development.
“To ensure healthy food access, The GrowHaus serves as a neighborhood-based, community-driven hub for food distribution, food education, food production and economic opportunity.”
The GrowHaus includes a hydroponics farm, an aquaponics farm, the mushroom farm and much more in its 20,000 square foot greenhouse.
Albu, 33, has degrees in biology and political economy but was looking for thing different when he interned at The GrowHaus one summer. His time working at the mushroom farm “just for fun” turned into a six-month research project to learn how to manage a mushroom growing operation. This is his third year as a mushroom farmer.
“The weird farm in the back” is housed in a metal box that measures about 400 square feet. Inside the box is the farm’s growing space, the lab and an incubation area. Albu finds the work “really satisfying” because the farm is able to contribute to The GrowHaus’ annual budget.
The mushroom structure had been in place for a year or two before Albu came on board. “One of The GrowHaus’ co-founders had his ear to the ground for new trends in agriculture and growing gourmet mushrooms was part of that,” Albu aforementioned.
Since then, mushrooms have gained attention as the next superfood. They’re light, fat-free, and nutritionally sound as a source of supermolecule, fiber, nourishment D, K, Ca and other nourishments and minerals. Mushrooms besides have antibacterial drug drug and antiviral properties and can be an environmental aid for cleansing cyanogenic chemicals from soil and water.
When GrowHaus visitors tour the facility and see the mushroom farm, most are astonied at the conditions in the growing chamber. These mushrooms don’t grow in the dark.
“Gourmet mushrooms are adult in a different way from common mushrooms like portabellas or button mushrooms,” Albu explained. Instead of growing in cool temperatures exploitation soil or manure, fancy mushrooms grow in bags of wood and soybean hulls in a 55-degree mature chamber.
“There are three main stages in the growing process, and it’s all about ushering the plant part through its stages,” Albu aforementioned. “When on the petri dish it’s in its infancy and is still young and developing. The second stage is adolescence when it’s getting ready to reproduce. The third stage is adulthood, when the myceliated grains are added to the wood mix.”
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Because production is ongoing like on a conventional farm, Albu is in constant motion. He’s either inoculating new bags of the wood-soybean hull substrate, harvest lifesize mushrooms or removing spent bags. There’s always thing to do, but he has help from interns or others interested in gaining active mushroom growing experience.
The bags of spent substrate don’t go to waste. The material can be used to feed worms in a vermicomposting system, added to garden soil as compost or used as mulch. Because the plant part are still alive, chances are good some mushrooms may sprout.
In addition to his role as mushroom farmer, Albu helps others learn how to have fun with fungi. His “Home Mushroom Growing from Start to Finish” workshops include lecture and enough lab work so students leave with everything they need to grow mushrooms at home. (See GrowHaus.org for class information.)
Jodi Torpey is author of “Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening” and “The Colorado Gardener’s Companion.” More information at WesternGardeners.com.