Some of the first records of mushroom cultivation dates back to Asia during the 6th century. It wasn’t until the 17th century when a French melon grower discovered mushrooms growing in his fertilizer. He later was able to successfully cultivate and for the first time in Europe mushroom commercial farming began. Shortly afterwards it was discovered that caves provided the right combination of moisture and temperature. French mushroom farms began popping up and soon the process and farming knowledge spread to other areas of the world.
It wasn’t until the 1900’s when true commercial mushroom farms began to grow. A group in the Netherlands led the way with the first scientific study of mushroom farming and some of the techniques developed during this time are still used today. Currently China is the largest grower of mushrooms followed by the USA and the Netherlands. In the United States, Pennsylvania is the leading producer of mushrooms followed by California.
Urban Gourmet Farms is the first mushroom farm in Charlotte, NC and one of only a couple in the state.
Mushrooms are very different than plants in many ways, one being that they do not use photosynthesis. Plants need the sunlight to carry out a series of chemical reactions and to synthesize food from carbon dioxide and water. On the other hand, mushrooms use Mycelium to decompose matter to create carbon dioxide.
Mycelium is the “root” portion of the mushroom. When two spores join the mycelium process begins. It grows like a web spreading slowly, in fact when you see a mushroom in your yard the mycelium has been in the ground for months absorbing nutrients and decomposing carbon. Once the perfect combination of humidity and temperature are achieved, the mushroom fruiting body pops out. When matured the mushroom will release it’s spores so that the process can start again.
At Urban Gourmet Farms our mycelium is grown on agar dishes in a sterile lab prior to inoculcating the spawn grain. It is a delicate process and is controlled to prevent contamination.
GREEN SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE
There are different techniques in mushroom cultivation but from the largest automated farm in China to the individual D.I.Y. hobbyist in their basement, the fundamental steps in growing a mushroom are the same. Spores connect to form mycelium which then grows and begins to decompose matter. Once the conditions in the environment become optimal the fruiting body (mushroom) forms. Depending on the varietal this process could take a couple of months to a year.
In nature mycelium has to battle with bacteria and other invasive organisms which can devastate its growth. With pasteurization of substrate and sterilization of equipment these contaminates can be combated. Although on occasion contamination does happen but with steps in place the spread of contaminants can be contained.
Our mushrooms are grown in bags which fruit in humility and temperature controlled enviroment. Mycelium from the lab inoculcates pasteurized grain in jars until fully colonized. Additionally all of the mushrooms grown on our farm are grown on organic mediums (substrate) which are sourced locally when available. Shiitake are grown on hardwood sawdust while most of the other varietals are grown on a wheat straw mix. We are actively researching other types of substrates to grow our mushrooms like using spent wheat from a brewery or spent coffee grounds. Once the mushroom bags come to the end of their fruiting cycle they are then converted to nutrient rich compost.
Urban Gourmet Farms is a local mushroom farm which takes an organic and self sustained approach to urban farming.
All of the mushrooms that we produce are grown in a climate controlled space without the use of pesticides or chemicals.