Cultivating Mushrooms with Open Minded Organics

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Oyster mushrooms grown by David Falkowski. Photos courtesy of Open Minded Organics

By Rachel Bosworth

As farm stands gradually reopen across the East End and farmers markets gear up a bountiful season, fresh and local produce are stealing the show as the stars on menus both at home and in restaurants. Strawberries are sweetest in June, and corn is a local favorite through August. Few fruits and vegetables however have the ability to transcend the growing season, except for one that spends most of its time in a darker place.

Mushrooms are privy to a unique farming method as they can grow year-round in a climate controlled setting, allowing growers the capability of harvesting a consistent product. Cultivation of these fungi is something that David Falkowski, owner and grower of Open Minded Organics, became interested in 15 years ago when he started mycology courses. After years of expanding his own business, he is eager to share his expertise with people that have a common interest in mushrooms.

“It’s been a while since I’ve done a class like this, and I’m ready to start again,” says Mr. Falkowski, who will offer a half-day mushroom cultivation class at his Bridgehampton farm on Saturday, May 6. “I’m at a level now with additional help and employees that I can take time to do these types of things and share information with people. That’s how I got into this business myself.”

Beginning with a tour of the certified organic farm, the core focus of the class will be a basic layout of mycology and a little biology, and a basic understanding of mushroom cultivation in general. Mr. Falkowski plans to cover everything from entry level to advanced techniques for growing both in and outdoors. “We will go over how we grow our mushrooms, and help others become better gardeners and farmers,” he shares. “I want to touch on propagation in the class, and as the season progresses there are things participants can experiment with on a small scale.”

Following the lecture, a hands-on shiitake log inoculation work session will show students first-hand how this particular mushroom is grown. The logs will be injected with the spores, which participants will be able to take home to start growing their own mushrooms. A common misconception beginners have when cultivating mushrooms? “Mushrooms need light to grow!” Mr. Falkowski says.

Mr. Falkowski will discuss methods of drying and cooking mushrooms, and all of their medicinal benefits. He feels there is plenty to discuss, and is eager to let participants also steer the course of the class. “I’m really excited to do it, there are so many different aspects. I hope I can get other people excited too,” he shares.

Mr. Falkowski, right, at his Bridgehampton farm.

Following the class, participants will enjoy an organic gluten-free lunch made in the farm’s kitchen. Though this is the only scheduled mushroom cultivation class currently, Mr. Falkowski has plans to explore a series of classes and other educational opportunities.

Among this class’s roster is Catherine Creedon, library director of the John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor, who has graciously granted shelf space for Mr. Falkowski and his wife, Ashley, to donate a personal selection of mycology books. “We want to inspire people and give back to the community,” he says. “When I was a kid, you would stumble on a book and think, ‘Wow, that’s cool!’ That’s how I got started.”

Mr. Falkowski’s 2,100 square foot grow house is capable of producing up to 500 pounds of mushrooms a week, including shiitake, blue oyster, yellow oyster, and new this year, maitake, lion’s mane, and king oyster mushrooms. He recalls a locally popular tree that grows an abundance of lion’s mane mushrooms, which he is excitedly growing this year thanks to this specific tree. “I harvested mushrooms from this tree in Hampton Bays, cloned it, and will now grow it here,” he says.

Though Open Minded Organics is able to grow mushrooms year-round, they close in the winter months because of the high seasonality of the area. This year the farm stand will open a few weeks earlier than years past. “To be a small East End grower, it’s hard to tap into the upisland thing and compete with other great growers in the northeast,” Mr. Falkowski says. “My advantage is that being local and having six farmers markets, a farm stand, and wholesale, I have extremely high turnover on my fresh product. I pick fresh that morning and deliver shortly after.”

The farm also grows an assortment of produce, including heirloom tomatoes, varieties of peppers, greens, herbs, and more. Mr. Falkwoski’s three-year-old daughter, Abigail, is the official kale taster. “Any green vegetable she likes, she calls ‘kale,’” he laughs.

Open Minded Organics officially opens for the season on Saturday, May 6, and will be open daily from 9 a.m. Class space is limited and advanced registration is required by calling the farm at (631) 255-0090.

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