Detroiters are growing, buying, and eating more food that is grown within our city limits than ever before. In the warm summer months, there are very few limits as to what we can grow here in Michigan.
One crop that is gaining interest across the country is mushrooms. Yes—mushrooms: neither vegetable nor animal, but the (delicious?) fungus that stems from trees and moss.
Michigan Mushrooms is one company with experience in mushrooms, and that started in the region in 2008. Christopher and his wife, who have recently transitioned into mushroom foraging, note that, “it is much easier to get started in mushroom farming than other types of agriculture.” Chris said, “you do not need nearly as much space to make a profit from mushrooms, and you are able to scale up your operation so that you can grow your business without taking on any debt.”
When asked if it would be possible for someone to set up a mushroom operation in their backyard, Chris shared, “that is how we got started on our operation, the farm we were working on gave us a little bit of space to work with and it grew from there.” The only downside to working with mushrooms—like many other crops—is that you won’t be able to grow anything outside in the winter.
One method of growing mushrooms is by using fallen logs to house the mushroom spores. “Using logs is not necessarily the best thing for a business, but it would supplement a community garden nicely.” The best logs for harvesting mushrooms are hardwood species that have been cut down within the last few of weeks, including Maple and Oak.
The Ash tree is also a very good option for mushroom cultivation. Given the unfortunate eprevalence of the Emerald Ash Borer, and Detroit’s rapidly declining Ash tree population, this is one of many potential reuses of fallen ash trees in Detroit. However, the best mushroom logs are transitioned into cultivation as soon as possible, so that after a tree dies, other fungi don’t have a chance to settle in.
When it comes to mushroom species, there is a huge variety, mushrooms come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, along with different growing conditions and preferences.
According to Chris, the top three mushrooms for beginners to grow are shiitakes, reishis and oyster mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms are the undisputed easiest mushroom to grow because the straw that is used for growth only needs to be pasteurized and not sterilized. “Sterilization is a long process that requires more expensive equipment relative to everything else involved in the process of mushroom farming, so in that regard, the oyster is very forgiving.”
If you are interested in finding out more, Michigan Mushrooms is on site at Eastern Market during the Saturday Market in the summer months, and you can access more information about their shop at their website. For curious minds, there are plenty of online resources available that will walk you through the steps to starting up your mushroom growth.