Spore to Table: a Tale of the Humble Fungi


A mushroom farmer in Aztec grow several kinds — from Shitake to the Elm Oyster, and he has to patience to nurture the long, tedious process that leads to a meaty, earthy, mouth-watering local product. By Donna K. Hewett. Sponsored by Ace Hardware in Farmington and Three Rivers Brewery

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Nathan Brenner, farmer at Humble Fungi in Aztec grows mushrooms. No, not the magical kind but a delicious, colorful culinary assortment, such as the toasty, tasty Shiitake, the meaty blue and pink Oyster and the tumbling bulbous, snow white Lion's Mane. You're watching the local news network brought to you by ACE Hardware in Farmington and Three Rivers Brewery. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. While mushroom farming isn't arduous like growing and harvesting larger crops, it's a process. For Brenner, a 32 year old Farmington native it all begins in the nursery of the spawn. What is essentially the root structure of the fungus.

So this is what we call the lab, it's kind of a clean room where we do all the inoculation. So we have spawn here is just some grain. And then the white stuff here is called mycelium and it's growing onto the grain. And then what we'll do is break this up and put it into sterilized blocks like we have here and then we'll put them on these shelves and let them grow.

Different varieties, colonize at different rates. Some like the Oyster take less than two weeks. Others, Shiitake, for instance, can take two to three months from there, it's off to the grow room around the corner.

There's not too much growing right now. I have harvested most of it, but there's a lot of newer blocks in there that are just kind of starting to grow. So this is where it's very high humidity. And I have a lot of air flow coming in.

What are these?

Those are Pink Oyster there usual kind of strong mushroom flavor Some people will say they taste a little like bacon or ham, but I've never really gotten that flavor. You can kind of crisp them up for that texture, though.

Again, depending on the type of mushroom and farmer, the mushrooms grow on different media.

But I grow on the hardwood like this, and then we have some straw logs too, where you can see some mushrooms fruiting here too. On the straw I only do Oyster and Chestnut on these. I´ll lift it up here So you can see that pins coming up there.


Besides their size How does he know exactly when it's time to harvest them?

Like this one here is getting pretty close. Some of these caps start curling up like this and that means it's already started to release some spores but it'll start releasing a lot more spores once that cap curls up and so you want to do it before then. But sometimes they move really quick. So it's hard to catch them but kind of the same thing with the Shiitake like some of these are about ready. Like this ones, these ones are good. I would let these ones grow a little bit longer, but I try to kind of harvest them at the same time.

Once picked the fungi are stored in airtight containers and refrigerated or for a longer shelf life they're dried in a brown bag in the hot New Mexican sun.

So with these Oysters, you kind of just pluck them off. And sometimes they'll come off in parts, but I try to get the whole thing off as best as I can. There you go. That one came off nice and easy, so

After commercially producing mushrooms for more than two years, Brenner plans on growing them year around, he sells his mushrooms to restaurants, at several Farmer's Markets and the new harvest food hub in Farmington, a retail marketplace that sells fresh local produce and meats. But are the profits enough to keep his small family above troubled waters?

Yeah. This year, we're doing pretty good. It's not like we're getting rich or anything, but yeah, we're making a living for ourselves, so.

Remember the business is called Humble Fungi, which translates into the simple life we all crave. Thanks for watching this edition of the local news network. I'm Wendy Graham Settle.


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