Healthy Living Through Mushrooms
By Stephanie Giles
A bulbous mushroom grows from a block of sawdust, sprouting what looks like a mane of white hair that seems to lay perfectly straight. Yes, it’s a mushroom, but take a bite and you will taste the salty tenderness of lobster. This is a Lions Mane mushroom and it’s just one that Michael Egan grows.
After Egan graduated from Humboldt State University with a Soils degree, he never thought he would be growing mushrooms. “I was looking for something that wasn’t already being done up here,” Egan said. “I needed to find my niche.”
Egan, born and raised in Huntington Beach, CA, moved to Humboldt when he was 19 to attend College of the Redwoods for Agriculture. After unsuccessfully farming tomatoes and other vegetables, he did a market analysis for the area and, upon finding that there were no mushroom cultivators in Humboldt, he jumped on the opportunity. He has been growing mushrooms in Humboldt for over 10 years now.
Egan’s mushrooms grow on blocks of sawdust and wheat bran. The wheat bran is a nutrient source. The mixture is moistened and then goes through a sterilizing process. The sterilizing process takes four hours and “cooks” the mixture at 250 degrees by pressured steam. It is then placed in spawning bags filled with wheat berries. This is where the mushroom begins to grow.
Each species of mushroom takes a certain amount of time to get to the physiological point in which they are ready to fruit.
After that point is reached, species grow at different rates. It takes anywhere from one month to four months for the mushrooms to be ready to move out of their fruiting bags and in to flowering rooms.
At any given time, there may be 5,000 blocks in the main flowering rooms. “The most volume comes from the first flush,” Egan said. “As the blocks move from second to third flush, we see less mushrooms but bigger sizes.” He cultivates around 500 pounds per week.
Egan sells his mushrooms at the Arcata Farmers Market, The North Coast Co-Op and also distributes them to Corvallis, OR.
James Gibbons has been working at the Eureka Co-Op for 5 years and says Mycality Mushrooms are very popular. “We usually sell out of his mushrooms before his next delivery,” Gibbons said. “We are very lucky to have him as a vendor.”
Egan delivers Shitake, Oyster and Hedgehog mushrooms to the Co-Op. “He’s the only mushroom cultivator in this area that I know of,” Gibbons said. The rest of the mushrooms they sell are from a farmer in southern CA. “There’s a visible difference in size and quality in Mycality Mushrooms versus other farmers,” Gibbons said.
Egan was never a big mushroom eater before starting Mycality Mushrooms. “They’ve grown on me,” he said. “Figuratively, of course.”