A mushroom walks into a bar. The bartender says “Hey, we don’t serve your kind here.” The mushroom says “Why not? I’m not only nutritious and delicious, but I was also grown right here in the great state of Minnesota by R&R Cultivation.” The bartender says “Say, you make a fine point. Drinks are on the house!”
This joke doesn’t have quite the same zazz without the mushroom saying “Why not? I’m a fungi,” but maybe it’s time we stop laughing about mushrooms and start appreciating them more.
Nick Robinson was fresh out of business school, MBA in hand and bleary-eyed from all the sales and marketing work he had done for various small companies. He wanted his own small company more than anything – one with which he could do good for the community, and even make something people could cherish.
Nick’s friend Lance Ramm had just finished his own pro bono work for a mushroom farm, and came out of the experience with only good things to say about fungiculture. (What is there that’s bad to say?) So the men joined forces and created a mushroom farm the likes of which had never been seen: R&R Cultivation, headquartered in Roseville.
“It all started with a little three-by-three tent I set up in my house,” said Nick. “I put some grow kits in there, did as well as I could to control its temperature and humidity, and in a few days I had grown ten pounds of beautiful grey oyster mushrooms. I took them to the Saint Paul Farmers’ Market and sold them all in less than an hour.
“Now I was hooked. I talked my wife into surrendering our laundry room to fungiculture, bought an even bigger tent, and kept recruiting more and more mushroom fans at the farmers’ market.”
Tents are great and all, but the ultimate goal of a mushroom man is to own growrooms like R&R Cultivation has now. They beg comparison to the set of a Ridley Scott film, misty chambers glowing with full spectrum LEDs and within which pale and bulbous things pullulate. In only 700 square feet R&R Cultivation can produce roughly 1,500 pounds of mushrooms per week!
“Out of everything that grows, mushrooms are the trickiest,” said Nick, lovingly poking the mahogany cap of a Pioppino with a fingertip. “For something that grows in rotting wood, they demand a surprisingly sterile environment. You’re always fighting off bacteria. And most specialty mushrooms go bad very quickly, losing their zest within a week. I wouldn’t like to tell you how many mushrooms we had to throw away back when we were still learning our science.”
Nick proceeded to tell me just how much science he and his business partner Lance had learned. Words like “substrate,” “inoculation,” and “mycelium” made whistling noises as they rocketed far over my head. Eager not to come across as dense, I asked him which mushroom is his favorite.
“Ha!” Nick answered, not suspecting a thing. “I love all my children equally. Each one has something cool about them. We grow nine species in all: blue oyster, pink oyster, golden oyster, king oyster, black pearl, chestnut, lion’s mane, Pioppino, and shiitake (which you must never, ever mispronounce).
“Most people are only familiar with buttons and portabellas – which, believe it or not, are the same exact mushroom. (When Nick told me this my mind tore in two.) We want people to appreciate how much variety mushrooms really have to offer. Golden oysters with their fresh, light, and airy taste, perfect for cutting up to put on salads. Shiitakes that blend their buttery texture with a one-of-a-kind umami flavor which adds so much depth to dishes. Lion’s mane, a big white ball of a mushroom that you can shred like pulled pork. We have a recipe for vegan lion’s mane crab cakes on our website that will change your life.
“And with every batch we produce, our mushrooms only grow more and more delicious.”
R&R Cultivation is USDA certified organic, locally owned and operated, and they pay their employees remarkably well. It is the kind of operation anyone can get behind whether they’re a dyed in the wool fungivore or only just learning their caps from their stems. Look for their fine mushrooms at Twin Cities grocery stores and farmers’ markets, and visit rrcultivation.com for their inspired mushroom recipes.
By David Scheller