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The Williamses grow white oyster mush­rooms.
Courtesy | Annette Williams

“Magic mush­rooms” has a whole new meaning for Pittsford couple Brent and Annette Williams. They’re the owners of Mushroom Curiosity, a local business that sells select mush­rooms. 

The Williamses are newbies to the world of fungi. After looking for other avenues to make money, the couple found a way to utilize their 35-acre property. The two began learning how to grow various species of mush­rooms from Youtube videos, internet gurus, and books. When they sold out of their stock one Sat­urday at the Hillsdale Farmers Market, they decided to take their fungi passion to the entre­preneur level, they said.

“When my first attempt at growing didn’t work, I wanted to know why,” Brent Williams said. “Why isn’t it growing? The curiosity part is what got me intrigued instead of the physical work. It’s like a release.”

When he’s not caught up in mushroom trial-and-error, he’s for­aging. Every spring, Williams heads into the Michigan woods to hunt for the coveted morel mush­rooms. Morels are prized mush­rooms among fungi enthu­siasts because they can’t be bought in a con­ven­tional grocery store.

“No one has been able to suc­cess­fully and con­sis­tently grow morels on their own, so they pretty much only exist in the wild,” Assistant Pro­fessor of Biology Christopher Heckel said. “Mush­rooms have a lot of dif­ferent ben­e­ficial com­pounds. It seems like con­sumers are coming around to under­standing them.”

What sets apart Mushroom Curiosity from Kroger or other vendors is the home­grown element. Not often do you imagine your dinner com­po­nents being grown in tem­per­ature-con­trolled rooms. 

“You don’t know how long the mush­rooms have been sitting in the cel­lo­phane,” Brent Williams said. “The cel­lo­phane pre­vents them from spoiling, but you’re trapping them. They’ve got to breathe.”

And breathe they do in the Williams’ growth facility. This past winter, the Williams family built an addition to the back of their barn with a second grow room and an inoc­u­lation room. The mushroom “grow bags” are inoc­u­lated with grain spawn, which is mushroom mycelium grown into grain. The bags sit in the inoc­u­lation room for 15 – 20 days. They then are moved to the grow room where the growth cycle com­pletes and the mush­rooms reach full size. 

Mushroom Curiosity cur­rently sells Lion’s mane mush­rooms, shi­itake mush­rooms, and white, blue, and pink oyster mush­rooms.  Studies have shown that all three types aid the body in brain health, nervous system function, and immune strength. The Williamses encourage all of their cus­tomers to do their own research and find which mushroom might best help them and how they can incor­porate it into their diet. 

“Mush­rooms are special because they’re present in life, death, and rebirth,” freshman biology student Stephen Berntson said. “Also, the forrest knows you’re there — because of under­ground mycelia that connect to the roots.”

While mush­rooms might be sci­en­tif­i­cally clas­sified as decom­posers, they bring to life a world of pos­si­bil­ities. Some people might reach for blue­berries or other familiar produce before grabbing a shi­itake mushroom, but the fungi pose a promising future in health research. The mystery that once sur­rounded the fungi are dis­ap­pearing as people like the Williams grow and educate their areas about the potential benefits.