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Sumano Mushroom Tour

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Edhi and his brother Luis have not been farming mushrooms for very long, but their fast-growing business reveals their dedication to the craft. Formerly operating under the name Ortiz Mushrooms, Edhi left the trucking business to join his brother and rebrand the farm Sumano Mushrooms, after their family bakery in Wastonsville. The property already had some basic buildings they could use, but it took a twenty-thousand-dollar investment to create the properly insulated environment to grow mushrooms. They now have 9 year-round employees and plan to continue expanding upon their success.

While your crimini and portabella have easily accessible and industry-wide growing practices, oysters, shiitakes, and lion’s mane require a little creativity. Edhi shared that many growers are somewhat secretive with their operations, leaving the pair with the difficult task of figuring out much of their operation on their own… And it’s quite the operation!

Lions Mane Mushrooms
Oysters Mushrooms

Essentially, the task at hand is to simulate the cool, wet forest environment where mushrooms usually grow on trees, on logs, and from the soil. (Mind you, they do this in the middle of very warm San Juan Bautista). Lots of growers buy prepared mushroom-growing logs, but Edhi and Luis decided to cut costs by learning to make their own.

Starting with organic inputs, they use a machine to compress local sawdust, nutrients such as rye or wheat bran, and calcium into logs. These are then put into bags with filters, and steam-sterilized for 4 hours through a giant high-pressure autoclave. Each day, over 1900 of these bags pass into a controlled lab environment to protect from bacteria, where each is inoculated with mushroom mycelium (Edhi also grows his own inoculation spores from the best-looking mushrooms of each batch).  

Sumano makes their own mushroom logs

From there, it’s essentially a game of rotation and waiting. While each mushroom is different, the long-incubating shiitake takes 12 weeks for the mycelium to fully saturate the log. Oysters and Lion’s Mane are quicker, at around 5 weeks. This long waiting period explains the higher price, along with the difficulty of controlling potential contamination: small bag punctures, exposure to bacteria, along with fluctuations of humidity and temperature can lead to contamination in the bags, which will spread to other bags if not removed from the racks. Growing mushrooms is a very intricate process, and costly mistakes may not materialize until weeks later, leading to a loss.

The magic happens fairly quickly in the fruiting room. Once the mycelium have populated the entire bag and begun to turn a soil-like shade of brown, the bags are moved into their final rotation. Small cuts in the bag (or entire bag removal for shiitakes) allow the oxygen to penetrate, and overhead mist simulates the wet conditions of a forest ripe with fruit. The mushrooms grow in just a few days, where they are picked to order by Edhi and his crew. The logs become compost for local farms, and the mushrooms go on to feed all of us in the Bay Area.

It was a great visit, we learned a lot, and to cap it all off they fed us a delicious snack: shiitakes and oysters sautéed with loads of garlic, tomato and basil, atop toasted Sumano sourdough! Next time you eat a Sumano mushroom, make sure to think about all the hard work of Edhi and his mastermind crew.

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