A FAMILY MUSHROOM FARM HITS ITS STRIDE IN NISKU
This article was originally published in Eat Local Magazine Issue #1 | Winter 2018 | Subscribe Here
WORDS & PHOTOS HEATHER MUSE
What comes to mind when you think of mushrooms? Born too late to remember the hippie movement of the 60s and 70s, my association goes straight to the Smurfs. Remember them? Those cute little blue creatures, each with a different personality, smurfing all day long and living in cute little red and white-spotted mushroom villages. Imagine a magnificent Smurf castle, but instead of red and white, it’s the most gorgeous hue of pink. Now you’re getting closer to the beautiful gourmet oyster mushrooms cultivated in Nisku by Gruger Family Fungi. Well, minus the smurfs living inside them, of course.
I recently had the opportunity to tour the Gruger Family Fungi facility in Nisku to see where they grow these magical mushrooms. Started in 2015 in a humble sea can by husband and wife team Carleton and Rachel Gruger, Gruger Family Fungi has developed into an impressive operation with about a dozen temperature and humidity-controlled rooms each filled with hundreds of growing mushrooms. The mushrooms grow from long hanging plastic “tubes” packed with hemp fibre and hurd (the woody inner portion of the hemp stalk), spent grain from Rig Hand Distillery, and mycelium (the vegetative part of the fungus). The original sea can is still part of the farm, but it has been moved into the warehouse and converted into a giant refrigerator where they keep harvested mushrooms fresh before going to market or the restaurants they supply.
Gruger Family Fungi grows over half a dozen mushroom varieties both for culinary purposes – lion’s mane and four kinds of oyster mushrooms (pink, blue, gold, and king), and for health and medicinal benefits – lion’s mane, reishi, and cordyceps. You can buy their mushrooms fresh for culinary use, or in powdered form or in tinctures and creams for their health properties.
Carleton and Rachel are passionate about growing mushrooms. But they are just as passionate about educating people. They have filled their facility with informative displays on the health benefits of consuming mushrooms. Did you know that many mushrooms have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and that among numerous other benefits they can contribute to brain health, treat asthma, and increase energy and stamina?
During the tour I asked Rachel and Carleton about their plans for their farm. Rather than expanding their own operation further to ship across Canada, they would love to teach their methods to other potential mushroom farmers to help them in setting up local mushroom farms in other cities. Gruger Family Fungi mushrooms are delicate and best enjoyed fresh. They wouldn’t survive shipping very well, and besides, Carleton and Rachel greatly value the personal relationships they have with the people that buy their products.
If you’d like to get your hands on some of these beautiful mushrooms, you can find Gruger Family Fungi at select places in and around Edmonton. While always available at their farm in Nisku, you can also visit Meuwly’s on Sundays, Edmonton City Market on Saturdays, Salisbury Greenhouse on Wednesdays, and Local Meats in Leduc on Fridays.
I left the tour with some pink and blue oyster mushrooms and a giant lion’s mane. I promptly cooked up the gorgeous pink oyster to eat with our dinner. I have always been a mushroom lover, but I can’t stop dreaming about the smoky bacon taste of that perfectly sautéed pink oyster mushroom. I think now that I’ve experienced the beautiful pink mushroom palace, I’m no longer content with the humble white mushroom cottages I used to buy at the grocery store.
The Gruger Family Fungi farm can be found at 2002 8 St #7, Nisku, AB, or visit them online at www.familyfungi.ca
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