Gourmet Mushrooms Extends Organic Line

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Gourmet Mushrooms, Inc. of Sebastopol, California, growers of the MYCOPIA® Brand of organic specialty mushrooms, has concluded agreements with two other Pacific Coast growers and now offers an all-organic program to its customers. Gourmet Mushrooms' five varieties of specialty mushrooms are now complemented by organically grown shiitake and maitake. The company's  own varieties have been certified organic since 2003. Director of Marketing, Bob Engel, believes that this organic certification was key to distribution in the cross-over market of gourmet and natural foods stores. "I don't think we could have developed our current relationship with the Whole Foods stores without the added plus of organic certification."

When the company's newest mushroom, the Nebrodini BiancoTM, begins harvesting in the fall that will bring to eight the number of different organic specialty varieties available. The fastest growing segment of the mushroom market is in the specialty varieties. This demand is spurred by chefs at fine-dining restaurants looking for new ingredients and fed by cross-over purchases from consumers at high-end grocers. 

The types of mushrooms which Gourmet Mushrooms grows are not grown on manure, as are button and portabella mushrooms. The growing medium, or substrate, is composed instead of sawdust. This hardwood sawdust is left over from milling and furniture making. Wood is the most natural food for the mushrooms, since in nature their task would be to break down the cellulose created by vegetative plants. According to Engel, growing mushrooms on wood means these specialty varieties, such as Gourmet Mushrooms' Trumpet RoyaleTM and Velvet PioppiniTM, express the most natural flavors and the highest quality.

Organic is more than a sales tool for Gourmet Mushrooms. The company's philosophy included a commitment to natural methods long before organic certification was sought. Vice President Chris Bailey, who heads the organic compliance program said, "Mostly we had to explain our unique system to the certifiers. Very few practices needed changing."

In addition to growing its own mushrooms organically and sourcing organically grown shiitake and maitake, the company also encourages the foragers from whom it buys wild-harvested mushrooms to use techniques which are sustainable. This effort is typified by the motto of one of its suppliers, Mendocino Mushrooms: "Forest use without abuse."

As has been the case since the beginning, the spent substrate left over from growing the mushrooms is composted and returned to the soil. For the past eight years this means that the compost is trucked across the driveway to the company's neighbor Merry Edwards, where she uses the compost to top-dress the Pinot Noir planted in the Coppersmith Vineyard. Another great way to pair mushrooms and Pinot Noir.

Gourmet Mushrooms, Inc. sells its organically grown varieties to chefs and fine food wholesalers nationwide.  In retail stores, their mushrooms are packed under the Mycopia® brand. For more information, please visit the company's website: