How to meet year-round demand for functional mushrooms

Mushrooms can be hard to source out-of-season. How can companies incorporate fresh mushrooms in winter? 

North American winters hardly provide the conditions for mushrooms to thrive. 

The intense cold, harsh precipitation, and snow accumulation common in Canada and parts of the US send mushroom life into dormancy. So what’s a mushroom lover to do when craving the taste and benefits of mushrooms?

They experiment with mushroom powder.

The Trouble with Mushrooms: Seasonality

Mushroom foraging in the wild is entirely dependent on the weather. An overly cold and rainy spring, or an overly hot and dry spring, challenge the mycological kingdom. 

For gourmands eager to work with mushrooms, wild harvesting can be a real source of anticipation – and frustration. Dedicated foragers are eager weather watchers. 

Wild mushrooms depend entirely on their environment. Morels, for instance, thrive in early spring, especially after a wildfire or a clear cut. 

City-bound mycophiles are dependent on the entrepreneurial souls who traipse across the countryside looking for the sweet nectar of the forest (Those entrepreneurs deservedly hawk their wares at a premium. My go-to mushroom shop in Montreal was selling wild morels from BC for around $35/kg this spring. They are that rare and that dang good.)

Mossy forest floor with a pinecone

Mushroom Cultivation: More Than Good Scheduling

While Myzel’s focus is on functional mushroom production, we’re also experimenting with growing some of the most sought-after culinary mushrooms. We’re thinking about fulfilling demand from chefs, the sustainability of wild harvesting mushrooms, and quality.

Meeting Culinary Demands

We’re curious about how chefs can incorporate the flavour profile of mushrooms in the off-season. 

Admittedly, they’ll be working with mushroom powder that incorporates the fruiting body and the mycelium. Most culinary applications only use the fruiting body. Working with a mushroom powder may change the texture, shape, and profile of a food. 

Selection of culinary mushrooms
Organic mushroom powder in a bowl

Yet mushroom powders in culinary applications create new opportunities for creativity and  innovation. 

By producing mushroom powders indoors in highly controlled conditions, we can grow whatever mushrooms a chef is looking for at any time of the year. For larger restaurants or companies, knowing that a desired product can be made available in a relatively short time frame can be a game changer for planning. 

Natural landscape in 3D forms

Ensuring Sustainability

We can’t overlook the sustainability angle. In an era when natural environments are suffering from heat, fire, and species loss – could cultivated mushrooms present a good alternative for the sustainability minded company?

Since I started working with Myzel in September 2022, the amount of interest in mushrooms has skyrocketed. People are actively out and about looking for mushrooms to harvest. A week doesn’t go by without a friend messaging me a photo of a mushroom from practically every corner of the world.

Wild mushrooms are wonderful in almost every way: flavour, beauty, resilience!

With more interest in wild mushrooms comes greater risk of over harvesting. Part of our goal at Myzel is to provide mushrooms that don’t compromise wild populations. They are, after all, so much more than a food and nutrient source for humans. Wild mushrooms are critical components of the ecosystem.

If the world depended entirely on wild harvested mushrooms, or mushrooms grown outdoors, then we would quickly run out of supply. Growing mushrooms indoors provides buyers with consistent access to mushrooms without compromising the wild supply

Green biohazard symbol

Quality Concerns

When working with wild mushrooms, or even mushrooms grown on compost, the issue of bioaccumulation is considerable.

Bioaccumulation occurs when plants, animals, and fungi absorb substances from their growth environment. Substances like heavy metals and toxins may be introduced to an organism via their food chain. These substances remain in living tissues because they are stored more quickly than they are metabolized or excreted. Even when growing mushrooms, substances may be introduced inadvertently via the substrate.

Wild harvested mushrooms are amazing. The hunt is satisfying. Cooking the bounty of the hunt is satisfying. Yet, wild harvesting also carries a ‘harvester beware’ less-than satisfying prospect. If an individual chooses to pick and eat mushrooms: so be it. If a business chooses to pick and sell contaminated mushrooms to a buyer: litigation beware.

That can all be avoided. 

Indoor cultivation facilities provide a completely controlled growth environment. Take Myzel, for example. We run a GMP-compliant facility, ensuring our mushrooms are always produced in the same way under controlled standard operating procedures. We also follow a variety of food safety controls, to prevent biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production. 

For companies producing consumer products containing mushrooms: cultivation presents the safest and most controlled option for mushroom procurement.

All About Mushroom Powder

In most cases, buying mushrooms from a GMP-grade facility may change the delivery format. 

As a rule, mushrooms require a food source to grow. They like sugar. Some mushrooms like some sugars more than others. Take Wild Morels: they like the sugar from Ash and Elm trees (two species at risk of extinction in North America). 

When mushrooms aren’t grown on compost or other decaying matter, they require another nutritious food source. Some indoor facilities rely on rice or oats. We use organic white sorghum. As the mushrooms grow, their root-like system consumes the nutrient in the sorghum – fuelling growth of the mycelium and the fruiting bodies. 

By the time the mushrooms are ready to harvest, they’re fully colonized and they’ve secreted secondary metabolites into the now-fermented substrate. That’s why we decided to produce full-spectrum mushroom powders: to ensure that all the goodness of the entire mushroom life cycle is included in the mushroom powder we deliver to buyers. 

Benefits of Culinary Mushroom Powder

Mushroom powder is exactly what it sounds like — dried mushrooms that are pulverized into powder. (In our case, you get the fermented myceliated substrate included in your powder too). While this is a process most commonly used with functional mushrooms, it works equally well for culinary mushrooms. We’ve seen interest in the most sought after culinary mushrooms including Chanterelles and Morels. 

When incorporating mushroom powder in place of fresh mushrooms the texture of the dish may change. This can present opportunities for experimentation and innovation for use in lots of dishes, from bakery goods to oatmeals to prepared meals.

Mushroom powder as a popcorn topping

When incorporating mushroom powder in place of fresh mushrooms the texture of the dish may change. This can present opportunities for experimentation and innovation for use in lots of dishes, from bakery goods to oatmeals to prepared meals.

Culinary mushroom powders have long been available in the spice aisle at the grocery store. Now, we’re increasingly seeing functional mushroom powder with notable taste profiles showing up in popcorn topping, powdered soup mixes, and baby foods. That’s in addition to an ever expanding list of coffees, hot chocolate blends, drink mixes, and smoothies powders available online and in stores.

We currently cultivate 15 unique species of mushrooms at our facility in Wainfleet, Ontario. Many of these mushrooms are used both in culinary and functional applications. All of our mushrooms are grown, processed, and packed in a single facility in Canada. Plus, we regularly test our mushroom powders for heavy metals, pesticides, mycotoxins, polysaccharides, and various active compounds. 

Those active compounds provide a range of nutrients, along with antioxidants, prebiotic fibers, amino acids and micronutrients not available in fruiting body only products that are wild harvested or grown on compost. 

Full-spectrum mushroom lifecycle diagram

Meeting Year-Round Demand for Mushrooms

Working with a mushroom cultivator dedicated to quality controls ensures mushrooms are produced safely and consistently time-after time. Admittedly, using mushroom powders doesn’t replicate cooking with fresh mushrooms. The texture can’t be compared!

For companies creating mushroom-enhanced products for mass market consumption, mushroom powders offer a great alternative to their wild harvested counterparts. Not just for the promise of safety and quality – but for the promise to protect mushrooms growing in the wild.

For companies creating mushroom-enhanced products for mass market consumption, mushroom powders offer a great alternative to their wild harvested counterparts. Not just for the promise of safety and quality – but for the promise to protect mushrooms growing in the wild.