It all started 12 years ago, just fifty feet away from 10 Winthrop Street. “I walked over to 2Vine with a box of mushrooms, and the Chef just loved them,” John Morelli tells us on a balmy day in early June. Morelli is the owner of Flower City Mushrooms based in Rush, New York, just a stone’s throw away from Honeoye Falls.
Rewind two years, to the turn of the century. John was at a sustainability expo in Havover, Germany, where he heard from the ZERI Foundation on its work developing strategies for using commercial byproducts like spent grain and coffee grounds to grow mushrooms.
“I was just fascinated by it and came home that summer and got some spent grain from CB Craft Brewers in Rochester and played around with it,” John says.
And Flower City Mushrooms was born.
How long did it take to get from the Hanover conference to supplying mushrooms to one of Rochester’s most upscale restaurants? “Well, there are relics all around my property of past cookers and equipment,” John laughs. “In reality, it took about three or four years to get it close to what it is now.” Though Flower City Mushrooms harvests every week, it’s a process spanning several months for each harvest. To sum it all up in a nutshell:
- Sawdust is trucked in from a log mill in nearby Caledonia and essentially compacted into bags, where it rests for three months in a C02 rich environment.
- Bags are taken to the “tricking room,” where at 100% humidity, “the mycilia think winter is coming and it’s time for them to reproduce.”
- Within 5 days, little pins form, and the bags are moved to the fruiting room.
… OK. If this all sounds like a scene out of Willy Wonka, you’re right. It does to us, too!
- After five days in the fruiting room, the mushrooms are harvested and delivered within hours to restaurants across the Rochester area, including 2Vine, Good Luck, Lento, and Max.
John and his farm manager, Luke Luft, harvest around 100 pounds of mushrooms each week, year-round. “It’s a mixed variety of shiitakes, maitakes, and king oysters,” Luke says, “but the local calling seems to be for the maitakes.”
“Our philosophy is to grow good, healthy, certified organic mushrooms, but also to introduce people to the aesthetics of mushrooms,” John says proudly. “It’s also important for me to like what I grow.”
Look for Flower City Mushrooms in our Produce department this summer!