The harvest that Underground Forest displays on its stand at the Tuscaloosa River Market is colorful, with soft blues, golden yellows, bright pinks, bony whites, dusky grays, and mottled browns.
But food from the urban farm is neither vegetable nor animal. Business partners Martin Blair and Jose Izaguirre grow mushrooms on their subterranean farm inside a historic building in the heart of downtown Tuscaloosa.
Underground Forest has been producing exotic fungi for a year. Most are culinary varieties like oyster, beech, chestnut, king trumpet, and enoki that are sold to chefs at high-end restaurants in Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties.
One restaurant client even buys Underground Forest mushrooms to eat at home and share with family, Blair says. The farm also produces varieties like reishi that customers consume for health purposes. Some, like the distinctive white lion’s mane mushroom, have both culinary and medicinal uses.
Izaguirre grows the mushrooms in the basement of a 200-year-old building across University Boulevard from Tuscaloosa City Hall. Now yielding more than 150 pounds per week, the partners plan to quadruple the output this year by bringing on more growing chambers, says Blair, who handles sales and other public-facing roles.
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