Those white plastic buckets found at home improvement stores have all sorts of uses: storing food, mixing paint and — holy shiitake! — growing gourmet mushrooms.
Brothers Kyle and Chase England, along with a friend, Jordan Arnold, are the Biocentric Bros., a small mushroom-growing operation in Davis County that has found a way to grow mushrooms in utilitarian containers.
The business is one of 13 new vendors at this year’s Salt Lake City Downtown Farmers Market, which kicks off its 20th year on Saturday, June 9.
The other new offerings include grass-fed beef, sheep’s milk cheese, knife sharpening service and Korean-inspired guacamole. (See the full list at right.)
“We’ve been customers at the market for the last few years, so it will be fun to be on the other side of the booth,” said 26-year-old Kyle England, a wild-land firefighter, whose view of food changed after watching the documentary “Food, Inc.”
After seeing the film, which showed the grim underbelly of American food production, Kyle and younger brother Chase, 21, a computer repair specialist, started paying more attention to the food they ate. Last summer, they bought produce at the farmers market, planted a garden, and started experimenting with fungi. They read several mushroom-growing books and searched the Internet for information.
When a friend offered to let the England brothers use her 14-acre farm in Layton, the mushroom-growing business became feasible, as a portion of the property is covered in dense scrub oak, perfectly shaded and great for mushroom growing. That’s when they brought on Jordan Arnold, a long-time friend, to help them in the endeavor.
They will be the only locally-grown mushroom vendor at this year’s Downtown Market, said Kim Angeli-Celin, the director of the Downtown Farmers Market. Robert Angelili, who had operated the Gnome Grown Mushroom booth for several years, didn’t reapply, she said, but customers should be happy with the new offering. “I’ve tried some of the oyster mushrooms and they were excellent,” Angeli-Celin said.
The Biocentric Bros. aren’t the first mushroom growers in Utah, as Fillmore’s Mountainview Mushroom has grown white-button mushrooms for commercial purposes for many years.
Because the Biocentric Bros. business is so new and the owners are still experimenting, the Englands say they will have only a minimal amount of mild-tasting grey oyster mushrooms available to sell on the first day of the market. But they will also have fruit, garden vegetables and eggs from their flock of free-range chickens to sell. They’re also experimenting with shiitaki and lion’s mane and hope to have more produce available later in the summer.
Mushrooms “bloom” much like flowers do. The process starts with a tiny spore — something akin to a plant seed — which the Englands germinated in petri dishes. After about a week, the spore forms strands of fluffy white cotton-like mycelium. The mycelium then need a medium in which to grow, and in nature that could be a rich dark soil or a tree stump. But straw and grain in a white plastic bucket works, too.
The Biocentric Bros. heat the straw to kill any microorganism that might compete with the mycelium. Those pasteurized strands, along with grains, are placed in white buckets that have been punctured with several holes and inoculated with the mycelium.
The buckets sit for several weeks in an underground cellar until the mycelium spread and the mushrooms start to push through the bucket holes.
The next step is fruiting, which requires the perfect micro-climate. The buckets are placed outside in a cool, shady area under oak trees. A sprinkling system provides just the right amount of moisture, allowing mushroom to bloom in clusters around the bucket. From start to finish, the whole mushroom-growing process takes 4 to 6 weeks, said Kyle England.
What’s in, what’s out at the Downtown Farmers Market
The Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park opens Saturday, June 9, with several new vendors:
BlueTree Cattle Company, West Haven • Grass-fed beef
Biocentric Bros., Layton • Gourmet mushrooms, fresh produce and free-range chicken eggs
Instant Karma, Park City • Indo-Persian food
Johnson Family Farms, Benson • Produce
Lark’s Meadow Farms, Rexburg, ID • Farmstead sheep’s milk cheese
Laziz, Salt Lake City • Hummus
Lorenz Sharpening, Salt Lake City • Sharpening service for knives, scissors, axes and garden tools
Mololo Greenhouse and Nursery, West Bountiful • Garden starts for vegetables, annuals, perennials, ornamental grasses, bedding crops
Noona’s Kitchen, Salt Lake City • Korean-inspired guacamole
Ramblin Rose, Park City • Fresh-made foods served from a 1967 Cardinal trailer.
Oxbow Jail, Salt Lake County • The return of produce grown on a three-acre garden plot adjacent to the Salt Lake County Jail. (Budget cuts forced the termination of this program in 2009.)
Shove’s Saffron West Valley • Utah-grown saffron products
Tyler Montague, Salt Lake City • Vegetables and fruits from small suburban gardens in the Salt Lake valley
Also • These three long time vendors will not be at the 2012 market: Gnome Grown Mushrooms, Morgan Valley Lamb and Sun River farms.