Middle Tennessee's mushroom evangelist
WHITES CREEK, Tenn. (OSBORNE) -- David Wells is something of a mushroom evangelist. He’s on a mission to get mid-state residents to move beyond the bright-white button mushrooms typically sold in most groceries and try one of the dozen or so varieties he cultivates at his Henosis farm located in Whites Creek.
Stepping into the “fruiting room” at Henosis (Greek for unity) is like landing on another planet. Otherworldly looking mushrooms sprout by the hundreds from sawdust-filled bags lining the shelves.
“They’re King Oyster mushrooms,” Wells said. “I like to call them land scallops because if you quarter them they taste like scallops. There’s probably thirty pounds of mushrooms growing right now that need to be harvested.”
Wells sells the mushrooms to several Nashville area restaurants and grocers. He also provides product to individual customers through a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group. In addition, Henosis sells mushroom kits that allow customers to grow their own mushrooms at home.
The fruiting room is actually the end of the mushroom growing process. The next stop on the Henosis tour is where the cycle begins. Wells operates a clean room he calls his “mushroom lab.” Petri dishes stored here contain cultures for each of the mushroom varieties he grows. An industrial grade air filter ensures the product stays squeaky clean.
“We work in front of a HEPA filter,” he explained, yelling to be heard over the roar of the fan. “We drop that tissue into a bag of grain, shake it around, and make sure it gets colonized fully.”
The grain is then placed in the sawdust bags seen in the fruiting room. Add moisture and mushrooms quickly sprout.
“We have 17 different varieties of mushrooms that are eaten worldwide that Americans just aren’t accustomed to yet. So I think deepening American’s palettes to learn to eat other mushrooms is instrumental to our health as well as this industry.”
Wells latest venture is a short walk away under a small stand of cedar trees. Resting in the shade there is a stack of three to five inch diameter logs cut into four-foot lengths. Wells recently impregnated the logs with mushroom culture.
“So approximately nine months from now the logs will be fully colonized and then will produce mushrooms for three years after the first flush; on average about twice a year and about a pound per year (per log),” he said.
Would you like to visit the Henosis website?