Last summer, Clinton’s Ryan Munko began selling his local mushrooms and mushroom grow kits at the Washington Main Street and Cecil Farmers’ Markets. Still in his first year in business, the 26-year-old entrepreneur said the enthusiasm and feedback he received from people was incredible.
“They come to me at the market and tell me what we are doing is great and they hope to see us back every week,” Munko said.
Now that the farmer’s market season is over, he hopes to continue his business by selling online and to restaurants, especially those offering a farm-to-table model, as well as specialty grocery stores in the area.
“It will take a lot of knocking on doors,” he said.
Already, you can find his harvested mushrooms and grow kits at Farmers and Friends Marketplace, a store specializing in meats and cheeses as well as fresh produce, dairy and other local produce, at 145 S. Main Street in Washington. .
In the future, he plans to talk to buyers from the East End Food Co-op in Pittsburgh, Janoski’s Market in Clinton and others about the possibility of retailing his mushrooms and grow kits.
With its growing facility and business office located in Moon Township, Munko and partner Mark Myers named their business Moonshrooms. They have an inventory of up to 10 varieties of mushrooms on the site. Of these, they bring three to five types to each farmers market, but change them up weekly to add more interest.
New varieties now available include Lion’s Mane, Blue Oyster and Pink Oyster to accompany their Chestnut, Pioppino and Yellow Oyster varieties.
“Not only is lion’s mane a culinary mushroom, but peer-reviewed research has shown it to have medicinal properties,” Munko said. “The mushroom is said to repair neurons, improve mental clarity and benefit people with Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.”
Munko said the taste and texture of lion’s mane is similar to crab, and some buyers shred it and turn it into a crab cake alternative. While yellow, pink, and blue oysters taste the same, others have completely different taste profiles.
An easy way to prepare mushrooms is to sauté them in olive oil, then add butter to enhance their flavor.
Munko said he is always experimenting with different mushroom recipes and recently added mushroom jerky to his product list.
When setting up a shop in a farmers market, Munko provided all kinds of information to their customers, including recipe documents. Not all mushrooms in his inventory are usually found in markets and grocery stores. The asking price for a pound of his mushrooms is $20, with grow kits selling for $30.
“If you grow them according to the instructions, you can end up with up to three crops, each weighing between 1 1/2 and 3 pounds per crop,” he said.
Fresh mushrooms will keep for 5-10 days, depending on how you store them. The best option is to store them in the fridge in a damp brown paper bag with a damp paper towel.
Munko and Myers began their mushroom research in July 2021, primarily by watching YouTube videos and studying what Munko calls the “Mushroom Bible,” a text by Paul Stamets titled “Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms.”
“Stamets is probably the leading mushroom expert right now,” Munko said.
Partners began acquiring equipment in November 2021 and saw their first growth in February.
Munko fell in love with mushrooms in 2017 after hiking the Appalachian Trail for several months from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Along the way, he was fascinated by the number of mushrooms he saw growing along the trail.
“I’ve always been interested in the outdoors, mushrooms and cooking,” he said. “Mark and I had run a candle business, but we decided we weren’t into it. We then thought of growing mushrooms because it is something that interests us both.
Hopefully the business will grow as more people order a grow kit online from moonshrooms.com. To grow them, leave them in the box and cut an X or U-shaped slot in the plastic shield in front. Spray or mist the slit 3-5 times a day with water and keep it at a temperature of 60-80 degrees.
More specific instructions can be found with the kit and online.
“You should see the first growth three to 10 days later,” he said. After seeing small pinheads, three to five days later you should be able to harvest adult mushrooms.
So far, Munko said the success rate reported by customers is 100%. Even so, all kits are guaranteed or customers get their money back.
“Mushrooms aren’t quite vegetables and aren’t quite meat, but seem to fall somewhere in between,” Munko said. “They add so much value to the culinary world. On top of that, they have promising medicinal effects, as well as solutions for creating a more sustainable world. We hope to help lead the way by exploring each application of mushrooms and its mushrooms.
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