gourmet mushrooms for local restaurants

Laying the foundation for a bigger business is often called “planting the seed”. But more suited to Devon Gilroy, founder of Tivoli Mushrooms, “inoculating the substrate”.

Operating out of a warehouse that houses other artisans and businesses in Hudson, Gilroy channels his culinary expertise into creating an indoor mushroom house. His goal? Growing sustainably grown gourmet mushrooms for local restaurateurs and foodies.

“Mushrooms are having a moment,” Gilroy said.

It seems true: sales of medicinal mushrooms are on the rise, research into the therapeutic uses of psychedelic mushrooms has exploded, and companies are using the mycelium to create everything from leather to bacon.

But while there are many routes from soil to market for mushrooms, Gilroy’s farm has been ahead with a low-waste, low-energy growing process. Mushrooms can certainly adapt to fluctuations in outdoor climates, but grow rooms like those at Tivoli Mushrooms – with controlled levels of CO2, humidity, light, air and temperature – make growing mushrooms More reliable.

In the 5,000 square foot space of Tivoli Mushrooms, three grow rooms and an incubation lab have proven to be sufficient for the entire growing process, from inoculation to distribution. Rooms are lit with carefully selected UV bulbs, filter bags facilitate air exchange as the mushrooms release CO2 and absorb oxygen, and humidity levels are tailored to meet the needs of each variety of mushrooms.

The process of growing the mushrooms took Gilroy six years to perfect, efforts now rewarded with frequent mushroom puffs used by chefs in the Hudson Valley and New York City. Depending on the season, Gilroy grows three to six varieties of mushrooms. Currently, the black pearl, the blue oyster and the lion’s mane are on the hunt.

Efrén Hernandez, head chef at Rivertown Tavern in Hudson, has worked with Tivoli Mushrooms throughout his time at the restaurant.

“Mushrooms have always been a regular ingredient of mine, but there were never any local mushroom farms,” ​​Hernandez said. “But when there’s a chance to support the local economy, it’s always better. You get a better quality product and relationship with the supplier. And Devon grew beautiful mushrooms all year round, so we started using them more frequently. »

Gilroy’s intention has always been to source and distribute locally, keeping the effort focused on the environment and the community. “You can buy mushrooms from big distributors, but that’s totally different,” he said. “If you think about these companies that grow huge and ship it to a wholesaler, there’s so much energy wasted in that process. Generally, when we grow our product, it goes directly to the restaurant.

Less transport means less energy expenditure. And mushrooms are often grown on what’s called a by-product, a side product made in the making of something else. By-products are often turned into waste, but mushrooms require materials that are common industry by-products, and so these can be re-sourced.

Growing mushrooms requires the presence of moisture, oxygen, nitrogen and carbohydrates in one form or another. Nitrogen is the food source for the mycelium, and Tivoli Mushrooms uses harvested soybean shells – the discarded leftovers from soybean production – to feed its mushrooms. Otherwise, soy hulls are an almost worthless commodity, but for Gilroy it’s a low-cost growing medium that contains all the nutrition his mushrooms need to thrive. The shells are sourced from a Midwestern organic grain by-product manufacturer. This is the furthest location Gilroy sources from, trading extra distance for better quality.

The carbohydrates needed by the fungus come from another by-product: milling or wood processing. Fungi break down the carbon-hydrogen bonds in wood and turn them into carbohydrates in the form of fuel pellets.

This combination of fuel pellets, soybean by-products and alder wood chips is the mushroom’s growing medium – its substrate. Contained in a bag that appears to be plastic but is actually a corn-sugar composite, these bags are the only non-biodegradable by-product of the Tivoli Mushroom production process. But due to their organic makeup, they’re sure to break down in three to five years in a landfill, unlike the hundreds of years that plastics can take.

Once the growing medium is established, the fungus spores are injected into the substrate in a process called inoculation, and growth begins. Sometime between two and three weeks later, the mushrooms will fruit. Once fruited, they will double in size every day, making harvesting timely.

When harvested, the mushrooms are packed in compostable boxes and distributed locally, many to restaurants within a few blocks of the warehouse.

“We usually deliver the same day of harvest, so the quality of what we sell is really high,” Gilroy said. “We only grow what we are going to sell. We therefore do not overproduce, which helps to create a particularly low-polluting process. »

Almost all of Tivoli Mushroom’s by-products are biodegradable and have been used as compost by some local farms including Whistle Down Farm and Plane Meadow.

“Initially, we weren’t focusing on sustainable agriculture; it was always about learning the growing process and the gastronomic value of mushrooms,” Gilroy said. “But it happened naturally and now I don’t really see any part of the process that isn’t sustainable.”

Gladys T. Hensley