The question comes up often when we tell people we run a mushroom farm. Although they are initially excited and curious about what is it like, inevitably they want to know what brought us to the decision. The answer is a three parter: For one, mushrooms are friggin delicious! Second, they are one of the most sustainable food sources a farmer can cultivate. And three, they are actually pretty darn healthy for us. So why NOT mushrooms? Hahaha
Mushrooms are Delicious!
The versatility of mushrooms is unmatched by any other farmed food (at least we think so). Many can be eaten raw, they can be sautéed, fried, baked, puréed, blended into soups and sauces, become an appetizer or a main course, or even be used as a tasty and beautiful garnish. The flavor profiles of the thousands of culinary mushrooms offer almost limitless possibilities.
At Starchild Farms, we currently focus on oyster mushrooms. Depending on the variety, they can taste subtly woody, resemble bitter almonds, or even take on a seafood flavor (hence the name oyster mushroom). They have been used in recipes ranging from vegan pulled pork to seafood chowder, and their meaty texture is quite a delight.
A SUSTAINABLE FOOD SOURCE
By farming mushrooms, we are able to produce a large amount of food with very little ecological impact. Since they grow in a medium that is a waste product of other industries (straw and sawdust), farming them is already a contributor to the greater recycling process. The amount of space, water, and energy required to cultivate mushrooms also pales in comparison to the requirements of other food sources. One square mile of growing space can produce over 800 million pounds of mushrooms in a year!
Recycling doesn’t just occur when we purchase waste material from other industries, it also occurs within the process of cultivating mushrooms. Once the growing medium has been used for one kind of mushroom, it can often be used to grow a different kind of mushroom afterwards because of the difference in the nutrients one variety uses versus another. This means a little material can go a long way to produce pounds and pounds of food. That growing medium can then be composted and used for vegetable gardens, etc.
And because cultivated mushrooms are grown in controlled environments, there is no need to use ecologically damaging pesticides to maintain a crop. We love that.
A HEALTHY CHOICE
Oyster mushrooms are low-caloried mushrooms with 100 gram of fresh fungus carrying just 33 calories. Nonetheless, they have relatively high amounts of good quality proteins over other cultivated mushrooms, with an 8oz serving providing about 10g. And they are loaded with natural bioactive compounds, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that promote health.
Oyster mushrooms contain a HMG-CoA reductase enzyme inhibitor substance called statin. They compose β-glucan, which has anti-viral and anti-allergic properties, and certain protein polysaccharides in the oyster mushroom has been found to have anti-hyperglycemic, anti-soft tissue tumor, immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive effects in the experimental animal studies.
In addition, they are an excellent source of folic acid and B-complex vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, etc. Moderate levels of minerals such as copper, iron, and phosphorus are also present.
All in all, they are an excellent choice when considering meatless options for a meal.
SO WHY FUNGI?
We at Starchild Farms are proud of our choice to become mushroom cultivators! We know that we are providing a delicious, healthy food source for our communities, and that we aren’t harming our planet to do it, and that feels pretty awesome.