I first learned about Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farm almost 2 years ago and I have been buying mushrooms from them at the Pearl Farmers Market in downtown San Antonio for about a year now. I have wanted to go out and see their farm ever since I heard about them… well, that day finally came.
This past Wednesday I organized a tour of Kitchen Pride for the local garden club I belong to. It really isn’t that close, but yet it really isn’t that far either. It took us about 1 hour 40 minutes to get there, but no one complained about the drive out. If they did have some reservations about the distance we traveled, I can tell you those thoughts were far from their mind once we started our tour.
Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farm was started by Darrell McLean in 1988 and has grown (yup, that is a pun!) into an amazing and efficient operation. The 250,000 lbs of mushrooms harvest each week (yes WEEK) are all hand picked by some of the 200 +/- employees.
Our tour guides, Brent and Cade, were great. They were both personable and knowledgeable and they were very patient with all of our many questions.
We started in one of the 65 growing rooms that was in the spawn run stage. The compost had been brought in and pasteurized (at 140F) and then cooled (5 degrees each hour) to to appropriate temperature when the spawn (mushroom spores) could be added. I forgot to mention that each of the 65 growing rooms is individually controlled for proper temperature, CO2 level, humidity and O2 level. It is quite the system.
There are 3 stages to the mushroom growth; spawn run, casing, and pinning. I just mentioned the spawn run. Casing is when they take peat moss (Canadian) and put a layer on top of the spawn run once the mycelium has reached a certain point in its development. Next comes the pinning stage and that is where you start to see the mushrooms developing. At that point it will be another week +/- before they will start their first harvest (also called a break). They will get three breaks before they start all over with fresh compost and fresh spawn.
I was amazed at the amount of mushrooms they are growing. On the first break they will harvest approximately 16,000 lbs. The second break around 10-12,000 lbs and the third and final break will bring in about 6-8,000 lbs. That is from just one room out of the 65 growing rooms they have and there are 6 other rooms producing the same amount on each break. Have I lost you yet? Basically, when it comes down to is… they are harvest A LOT of mushrooms. The numbers are overwhelming to me.
I haven’t even mentioned the part about the compost yet. They make it themselves. All of it! The base of it starts with wheat straw, basically, all the parts that are left over after a field of wheat berries have been harvested. They work with as many local farms and ranches as they can and even then they have to go outside to local area to get as much as they need for their production of compost.
Even with all the electronically controlled rooms keeping things at a specific temperature and humidity level, their growers will check each room several times a day just to make sure. When Brent told us that just 1-2-3 degrees difference changes everything, it reminded me of making hard cheese. Just a 2 degrees difference changes everything. Very interesting.
Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farms can be found at farmers markets in San Antonio and Austin. They are also found in many Wal-Marts in Texas and another Texas grocery store called HEB.
We were all thoroughly impressed! Amazed! and in mushroom heaven! Four of us in our little group pre-ordered over 22 pounds of mushrooms to bring home with us. I am thrilled be able to put fresh local mushrooms on my plate every day for the next week! YUM!
Doesn’t all this talk of fresh mushrooms make you want to run out and find some in your area?
Do you have a local source of mushrooms?