Plenty of people picked up new hobbies during the COVID-19 shutdown — some tried their hands at bread-baking, while others dusted off their golf clubs or started a home renovation project. Lowcountry Fungi co-owners Jonathan Cox and Benny Mosiman started an indoor mushroom farm.
"Many years ago, I was part of the Charleston Permaculture Guild and loved making mushroom logs and just did it casually," said Cox, who also owns a local kombucha company, One Love. "When COVID happened, production from One Love kind of slowed down. So mushrooms came up, and I saw that there wasn't really a good gourmet mushroom farm in Charleston."
An idea started to form, and Cox hit the road in summer 2020, learning the ins and outs of indoor mushroom farming from Myers Mushrooms owner Eric Myers in Wichita, Kan. Cox and Mosiman then built their own 1,000-foot facility in the same Johns Island warehouse as One Love, where they grow five mushroom varieties: blue oysters, lion's mane, king trumpet, pioppini and black pearls. According to Cox, growing indoors allows for more quality control.
Cox's substrate is placed in a plastic bag where the mushrooms grow made of oak sawdust and soybean hulls. After the bags are run through a steam sterilizer to kill competitive micro-organisms, they are inoculated with the mycelium. The bags are then sealed for 4-6 weeks, allowing the mycelium to colonize the substrate. Still with us?
Once the bags are fully colonized, Cox takes them into his 200-square-foot "Grow Room" — which mimics a forest with 95% humidity and a temperature in the high 50s — and cuts open the bags. Exposure to oxygen, cool temperatures, and high humidity stimulates the mushroom's growth. Once harvested and packaged, the mushrooms are ready to be sold to trendy downtown spots like 167 Raw, Babas on Cannon, Basic Kitchen, and Daps Breakfast, and Imbibe.
"People like our mushrooms because our grow room is top-notch," Cox said. "Growing them in cold temperatures and harvesting them young are definitely reasons why chefs love our mushrooms over most others."
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