Our mushrooms are sourced from Nammex, a company that has been providing superior quality mushrooms since 1989. This video talks about how the mushrooms are grown and harvested.


 Video Transcript

Hello everybody I'm Jeff Chilton I'm the president of Nammex and I'd like to take you on a tour of some mushroom farms today just so you get an idea of how mushrooms are grown. Mushrooms are fungal organisms in there consumed as healthy food nutritional supplements and nutriceuticals and they have been around forever and we've been eating them as long as we've been out there foraging they could be considered one of the original paleo foods and they have been systematically cultivated for 800 years starting in China back when they were learning how to grow shiitake mushrooms. Today approximately two dozen mushrooms are cultivated for food in Asia and they eat them daily. They are in almost all dishes and traditional Chinese medicine uses mushrooms as a medicinal herb and this is something that's relatively new to us in the West but they're a very common and potent medicinal herb. Mushrooms today are sold worldwide as nutritional supplements.

Why Mushrooms Are Healthy Foods

One of the reasons why mushrooms are healthy foods is they have a moderate amount of protein 15 to 40% - some of the important amino acids. They're high in fiber 7 to 25 percent and part of this is due to the presence of chitin and this lowers overall digestibility of mushrooms. But primarily they're high in carbohydrates 35 to 80 percent. These percentages are very wide simply because every mushroom is different so different mushrooms will have different amounts of proteins and carbohydrates and so on so forth. But high in carbohydrates those would be mannitol, trehalose, beta-glucan and different forms of hemicellulose. The beta glucan is a very important it makes a 50% of the cell walls in mushrooms. We'll talk a little bit more about beta glucan later.

Mushrooms are low in fat 1 to 8% percent. Seventy percent of which is polyunsaturated so they these are our good fats. Linoleic acid is one of the common ones. They're low in calories - this is interesting because that's why traditional Western nutritionists have always considered mushrooms to be non foods just because they were very low cal. Vitamins that thymine riboflavin and niacin are vitamins where there are reasonable amounts. And minerals will generally reflect what mushrooms are growing from and we call that the substrate. However there's there's two minerals that are always quite high in mushrooms that would be potassium and phosphorus.

Worldwide Mushroom Production

Now in terms of worldwide mushroom production China produces more than 85% of the world's mushrooms and mushrooms generally speaking grow on agricultural wastes. In China they have a lot of agricultural waste because it's a agrarian society to a large degree and also it has got many many decentralized small growers. The other thing why China is that it’s got very supportive agricultural research institutes. Many of these institutes, many mushroom scientists. Highly organized an efficient work force and there is ongoing scientific research in China. One of the one of the factors about this is that just recently they've brought a couple of new mushrooms into cultivation over there which is always a special event. They now are able to cultivate cordyceps militaries.

Lifecycle of Mushrooms

One of the important things that we need to understand is just what the lifecycle of these organisms is. It all starts with spore germination because mushrooms have spores not seeds. The spores germinate into what are called hyphy. These hyphy - come together and form a network and that network is called mycelium. When conditions are right that network of mycelium which is amassing nutrients will form or is considered to be a hyphal knot and a primordium. And this is just the very initial stages of a mushroom. But that primordium is very small it becomes a pinhead, then a button and it goes through the different stages to ultimately reach a mature fruit body which we call a mushroom. That mushroom will then produce spores and the cycle will be complete.

So how are mushrooms cultivated?

Again they've been cultivated systematically for 800 years. In cultivation you really are trying to mimic natural growing conditions so you're observing what they grow on, what time of year they grow so you can get the right temperature parameters correct. In the case of wood decomposers, they are grown on wood logs or sawdust whereas pasture or grass decomposing mushrooms are grown on composted or whole cereal straw. Now for seed which is, of course, the most important thing to grow mushrooms, spores or pieces of tissue are utilized to make what we call a mushroom spawn.

So what do we use as seed to grow mushrooms?

What exactly and how does this work well mushroom growing seed is a live culture of pure mycelium. So the live mycelium is what we are culturing and ultimately that is what we use to start the whole mushroom growing process. And why mycelium comes from the germination of spores it also comes from the tissue of a fresh mushroom. You can actually take a piece of fresh tissue put it in a petri plate, grow it out and you'll have an exact clone of that mushroom. So live mycelium culture is grown on various carrier materials. In this case those carrier materials are commonly grain, sawdust or in some cases wooden dowels. So the fully mycelium colonized sterile carrion carrier material is called mushroom spawn.

Billions of Spores Are Dropped From A Single Mushroom

So a single bunch of the billions of spores drop from a single mushroom - I mean it is amazing! But there are billions of spores. So what one would do is collect clean spores from a mature mushroom, germinate the spores in a sterile petri plate, select specific growth sectors or further testing and ultimately that allows one to develop a new culture. And at that point a new, what we would call cultivar, is born. So you're trying to develop a culture that would would produce a reasonably high yield of mushrooms and do it in a way where they are similar to what you see growing in nature.

A Single Piece of Clean Mushroom Tissue Can Create a New Cultivar

Now the other way we can do that, we can take a single piece of clean mushroom tissue and we would start by collecting mature mushroom we would open it up in a clean area, a sterile area for the most part, and select a clean piece and place that into a Petri plate. Then we would watch it grow over the Petri plate to add see of the the growth looks normal and in that way we can develop a new culture. And again a new cultivar and, in this case, that will be a clone of the mushroom that we have taken the piece of tissue from.

These next slides give you a very good idea of what pure mycelium in sterile culture looks like and mycelium normally grows out radially from a central point.

Grain Spawn

So when we want to produce spawn and in this case grain spawn. The First thing we'll do is soak the grain with water, sterilize it, and inoculate it with a live mycelium culture like we just saw, review it for proper growth characteristics, and incubate it until the grain is fully colonized. Grain spawn provides thousands of an inoculation points - each single grain in a mushroom growing substrate.

So this shows the grain and the plastic bags going into an autoclave to be sterilized. Here it’s being inoculated and here we can see this same grain being checked for its growth characteristics and here is the final package of grain spawn ready to go out to the grower.

Grain spawn is normally used with agaricus  culture. Here shows the composting process and you can look in the background and see that the light colored straw and then the darker straw as it is being consumed by the microorganisms. Here's an agaricus farm and that grain spawn has been mixed into the compost. It grows out in the compost. There is a layer of peat moss put on the compost and then the mushrooms begin to form in that peat moss. This shows you when you when you pull up the mushrooms from those beds you can see the mycelium that has grown from the substrate into the peat moss and are producing the mushrooms.

Wooden Dowel Spawn

The other type of spawn we have that is very common is wooden dowel spawn and this spawn is used primarily for growing shiitake. First thing is to soak and sterilize the wooden dowels, inoculate it with a live mycelium culture, review it for proper growth characteristics and incubate the dowels until they are fully colonized and ready for use.

This is a shiitake log operation. Somebody is drilling the holes in a set and very regular pattern on the log other people are then taking one of those dowels and hammering it into those holes.

Once that is complete they'll be put into a greenhouse for incubation and then after about approximately 12 to 18 months the shiitake mushrooms will start to grow off those logs.

Other mushrooms that are grown in log cultivation are Reishi. Reishi in China is grown primarily in shade houses. In this case here you can see there are very neat rows of Reishi and the reason is that again we have a single piece of wood log underneath and each one of those wood logs is growing a mushroom.

Here's another Reishi house in China - a very simple house made of shade cloth and in this case the Reishi is growing off a much larger log. The previous one would be log that produced one mushroom once and then be recycled. Whereas this log here will actually produce for two seasons so it will produce one mushroom this year and one mushroom next year.

These are also examples of the wood log that has been covered with soil and a Reish mushroom growing out of each one.

Here again is the wood log with Reishi mushroom growing off of it.

As mushroom cultivation progresses in China one of the things that happens is the farms keep getting higher and higher quality, especially as producers get larger.

This shows you one of the newer generation of mushroom houses and this shows the inside of the house. We've got metal uprights now, standard greenhouse type technologies with the shade cloth and again we have individual wood logs that have been covered with soil.

Sawdust Spawn

Another type of spawn is sawdust spawn and sawdust spawn is very common and used for inoculating sawdust logs that will grow many different mushrooms. With sawdust spawn you mix nutrient with sawdust, mostly rice bran, you add water, you sterilize, you inoculate with a live mycelium culture and then again reviewing for proper growth characteristics and you will incubate until the sawdust is fully colonized. This shows you just a small operation of filling these plastic bags with the sawdust, getting ready for sterilization.

Here's the autoclave that will sterilize these and here is the room that is full of completely colonized sawdust spawn ready to go to the grower.

Sawdust Log Substrate

This same type of sawdust mixing will also produce the sawdust log substrate that is used to actually grow the mushrooms. So again mix the nutrients with the sawdust, add water, fill the bag and sterilize.  Inoculate the bag with a live mycelium culture and then incubate until the sawdust is fully colonized

This is a again a small operation that is filling production bags of sawdust. These bags will then be moved into a sterilizer. After the bags and the sawdust are sterilized, they will be spawned.

Here you can see three different places where sawdust spawn has been pushed into these bags. That's where they will inoculate these. In this case, again a lot of manual labor. In this case they are taking the spawned logs down to the growing house. Again just shade cloth with shelves, and placing them all on the shelves. You can see the spawn that is beginning to grow out in these. The spawn will grow out in these for another couple of months and at that point they'll start to crop the mushrooms.

This is pretty much the same type of operation in terms of filling bags full of sawdust medium for production. Here again it's a little more mechanized. You'll get a lot greater throughput put here and this again is just a progress of how things work in China and how every type of operation gets slowly upgraded and more mechanized.

When a mushroom substrate has been spawned what we would normally say is the next stage is spawn running. In this case you can see the spawn is beginning to grow out on this particular log and these logs have all been inoculated with the spawn in four different locations. The configuration that they're stacked in is kind of a unique one but a lot of a lot of the farms will stack the logs in different ways.

In this case the spawn running is going on with logs stacked like cordwood.

And in this house the logs are all put right onto the shelves which is where they'll grow the mushrooms and the spawn run is taking place in the house on the on the shelves.

Here's another way that they can stack these logs and in this case the logs are completely colonized and getting pretty close to where they'll put them into the grow room to grow the mushrooms.

Here's a simple shade cloth greenhouse and at this stage they're removing the plastic bags from the sawdust logs and standing them up vertically, which is one of the methods that they use when they're not using shelves. They'll just stand them up vertically in this type of configuration.

The mushrooms are now beginning to emerge and you can see that the overall quality is good and every log seems to be producing some mushrooms. This is a larger shiitake farm and you can see first of all there's the shade cloth up over all the houses and then each particular smaller unit has a plastic roof over it and can actually be completely shrouded in plastic which is helpful for controlling humidity at certain times. You can go in there, you can water a lot, you can keep the humidity high.

That's really important and in these bigger houses being able to actually control the humidity is critical to good mushroom formation

Here you can see the the shiitake mushrooms are coming on strong. They're ready to harvest at this point in time. It's a very solid, high-quality looking flesh of mushrooms.

And here is a happy Harvester who is pulling the mushrooms right off of the logs, going down the rows, taking the ones that are mature and ready to go and leaving the ones that aren't. And those mushrooms are all going to go into these plastic totes for taking away and then ultimately putting into either a dryer or into a cooler for the fresh market.

Be sure to take note here that when mushrooms are harvested you try to take as little substrate as possible. So in this case you can see the Shiitake mushrooms have just a tiny bit on them, and that ultimately will get trimmed before they go into the dryer. So there's never any substrate that actually goes along with the mushroom once you harvested it. Here's a very large shiitake operation. Again they've got all of these sawdust logs on the floor. In this case they will simply open the top of these particular sawdust logs and just grow the mushrooms straight out of the top and that's the that seems to be the method that works for them in this case.

This is a greenhouse growing maitake. Again they're using a sawdust log to grow them on.

Here is an example of a maitake as it first forms and then as you move to the right in these photos you can see the different stages of it as it matures. One thing to always remember is that light is very important for the pigment in mushrooms. So without light you will really not get the true color of mushroom.

Here are the maitake mushrooms really ready to be harvested right now. Each mushroom is growing from two different sawdust logs that have been squeezed together so that each mushroom gets the additional value of both of the logs.

Here is some outdoor cultivation again a sawdust log. In this case it is auricularia and it's all put in very even rows and the key here is utilization of space as well as the ability to harvest beautiful flesh Auricularia mushrooms. In this case, they've actually left the plastic bag on which sometimes they will do and what they'll do is they'll put a lot of small holes in the bag and then the auricularia mushrooms will grow out of those holes.

Here's a good example of mushrooms that are mature and ready to be harvested. He will just pull them off the bag and put them into the plastic tote that he's gotten there and he's picking into.

Here is a tremella house. This slide actually was taken in 1994 so you can see this sawdust log method has been around for a long time - put the logs on shelves, have specific spots where the mushroom is going to grow through. This is a very effective manner of growing mushrooms and you can see by the yield that it's a very effective method.

Here's another more recent photo of a tremella farm and but again it is the same basic method. In this case he's only got three growing from that log so that is a change that he's made in his method.

And here's another mushroom in this case it is Hericium, the lion's mane, growing off sawdust logs. In this case it looks like they've got three mushrooms so there's probably three different spots where they've put holes or where they've spawned and that's where the mushrooms are growing.

And once the mushrooms are harvested, they're dried in different ways. There's still a lot of Sun drying all over China and of course that's an effective and very cost effective method of drying your mushrooms. So when you're traveling around certain parts of China during the harvest season you'll see a lot of mushrooms that are outside being sun dried. As farms get bigger and want to dry things a little faster they will put in actual forced air dryers.

You can see in this case the mushrooms have been harvested at a more immature stage - so the cap is turned down. These are higher quality mushrooms probably meant for the export market.

And here's the natural progression of drying methods where now you have actual stainless steel carts and stainless steel trays and the mushrooms will be dried using a little bit higher level of technology.