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Talented fungus among us

Special to The Union

When farmer Joel Gutierrez was narrowing his choice for a sustainable crop to grow that addressed issues of climate change and provided a nutrient-dense food, he discovered the magical world of mushrooms.

Now the owner of Foothill Fungi, Gutierrez found his niche growing medicinal mushrooms for BriarPatch Food Co-op, where varieties like Lion’s Mane typically sell out in a day.  

“I think we’re learning that mushrooms have a variety of health and medicinal benefits,” said BriarPatch Produce Manager David Benson.  

Fungi are having a moment, locally and globally.  

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“Mushrooms are miniature pharmaceutical factories, and of the thousands of mushroom species in nature, our ancestors and modern scientists have identified several dozen that have a unique combination of talents that improve our health.”— Paul Stamets

Worldwide, sales of mushrooms in all forms and fashions are expected to reach $50 billion in the coming years fueled by a growing demand for supplements and body products made from medicinal mushrooms.

The purported health benefits are numerous — from immunity and energy booster, to fountain-of-youth elixir with the ability to combat the effects of stress and aging.  It’s a phenomenon that is especially strong in Nevada County.

Last fall, locals swarmed a screening of the documentary “Fantastic Fungi” featuring mycologist Paul Stamets and food writer Michael Pollan and on the San Juan Ridge, the annual event, Fungus Foray organized by the Yuba Watershed Institute was a sold-out affair.  

BriarPatch shoppers are equally entranced. Sales and demand for more mushroom products have nearly doubled at the store in the past three years.

Mushrooms like Reishi, Chaga, Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane and Turkey Tails, honored since ancient times, have found a new audience of modern-day health enthusiasts and adoring fans. People are seeking out fresh culinary varieties like Lion’s Mane and Shiitake, as well as shelf-stable energizing mushroom coffee and a diversity of supplements and superfood power shakes.   

Between 2017-2019, fresh Lion’s Mane sales grew by 56% at BriarPatch and Shiitake grew by 45% compared to the total store sales growth of 7.2%.

BriarPatch stands out regionally, as well. Of Veritable Vegetable’s 25 truck routes in California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, BriarPatch is the third largest customer of mushrooms by boxes sold. BriarPatch purchased over 15 varieties of fresh mushrooms in 2019.   

Around 40% of modern pharmaceuticals already utilize mushrooms, writes Tero Isokauppila in his book, “Healing Mushrooms.” He proposes that perhaps it’s because mushrooms share 50% of human DNA. Isokauppila is the founder of Four Sigmatic, a company that makes mushroom coffees and cocoas that boast the ability to enhance productivity, focus and creativity. These and a number of other products are available in the Co-op’s Wellness Department.  

Host Defense — a collaboration between C. Dusty Yao and Shroom Guru, author and advocate Paul Stamets — offers capsules and sprays purported to help with energy, mental clarity, longevity, relaxation, immune support, detox and digestion.  

“Mushrooms are miniature pharmaceutical factories, and of the thousands of mushroom species in nature, our ancestors and modern scientists have identified several dozen that have a unique combination of talents that improve our health,” said Stamets.  

Learn more: https://www.briarpatch.coop/

Source: BriarPatch Food Co-op


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