The Garrone family has been growing specialty mushrooms for more than 25 years. They chose the cool, fog-dampened central California coast to locate the massive mushroom lab for their company Far West Fungi. The 60,000 square foot facility at Moss Landing (Monterey County) uses a variety of modern and traditional techniques to grow a prized collection of organic shrooms, including Shitake, Oyster, Lion’s Mane, Maitake, and King Oyster, year round.
The FruitGuys (FG) spoke with Ian and Kyle Garrone (FWF) about their mycological pursuits.
FG: Tell us about the varieties of mushrooms you sent us.
FWF: Lion’s Mane is a mild-flavored mushroom. It’s a polyspore—produces gills and has a crabmeat texture. I like it cooked in quarter-inch slices, pan-fried with carrots and onions. It’s supposed to be good for your brain—maybe because it looks like a brain. Fresh Shiitake have a sort of a chewy stem, which can be used in stock too. The caps are fluffy, and I like those mixed in with eggs or risotto. Oyster mushrooms have a light fluffy texture to them. A lot of people like to put them in stir-fry, and also in soups, but right at the end when you’ve turned off the flame. All our mushrooms have medicinal value, the oysters probably least of all, but they’re still an immune booster.
FG: Why do you grow the mushrooms in plastic bags?
FWF: To keep them sterile. They grow in a red oak sawdust and rice bran medium—with a little variation to the “recipe” of more or less water for each mushroom variety.
FG: Do you start with spores?
FWF: Spores are harder to control. The spore is the seed, and the spawn is what runs through the material. We take a little cut of the mushroom, the spawn, culture it and put it on the material. The mycelium then runs through it.
FG: Do you call your farm a farm or a lab?
FWF: The heart of the farm is a lab. We have a huge autoclave, and workers need to take showers and wear lab coats so there are no contaminates introduced. It’s a very controlled environment. The incubation room is the biggest; the mushroom kits are in there for 4–13 weeks. These rooms are fairly dark, and we check on the babies once in the morning and night. Then they go to the fruiting side (that only takes about week) and Boom!—they grow and are ready to go.
Mushroom storage and preparation tips: Fresh organic mushrooms need not be washed; they are very clean. They will keep for up to four days in a paper bag in the fridge. Enjoy sautéd with olive oil, garlic, and parsley, with a little red pepper for heat.