Friends and urban farmers Micheal Shea and Howard Schmidt are major mycophiles—aka mushroom lovers. They love the smell of mushrooms. The textures. The tastes. How quickly they grow.
So, to share their passion for fungi, Shea and Schmidt created Petrichor Mushrooms to provide gourmet organic mushrooms to the Suncoast.
The idea for building a small crop community first took root while the pair was working on an organic farm in Hawaii. Wanting to bring their new understanding of sustainable farming back home, they were drawn to cultivating mushrooms. Beyond being super fun to watch grow, mushrooms are considered a superfood with ample culinary potential.
“Gourmet mushrooms take on a whole new flavor and texture while offering tons of health benefits," Shea explains.
After spending 2020 researching best practices and building an ideal habitat, Petrichor Mushrooms launched to the public in March of this year. (Fun fact: "petrichor" is the word for the rich, earthy smell that comes when rain meets dry soil.)
Inside its growing space—a converted room measuring only five by nine feet—the humidity, temperature and carbon dioxide levels are carefully controlled. A filtration system also monitors the intake and exhaust so that the delicate fungi get just the right amount of fresh air. Though compact, the urban farm can yield a whopping 500 to 600 lbs. of fresh produce each month.
Currently, Petrichor offers four types of gourmet mushrooms, though the company is looking to expand.
There’s the classic shiitake, a hearty mushroom that Schmidt enjoys frying up with just a little olive oil, salt and pepper. With a rich, flaky texture, the lion’s mane is excellent for vegetarian crab cakes, though Schmidt and Shea report it’s often dried to make health supplements. The black pearl oyster is an engineered variety, cultivated to mimic the popular yet hard-to-grow king trumpet. Its thick stalk can be cut into disks and pan-fried like a shallot. Smoke a cluster of the blue oyster mushrooms for a steak-like treat.
Shea and Schmidt have a lot to say when it comes to the health benefits of eating mushrooms. For starters, mushrooms are low in calories but high in protein and fiber. Though it fluctuates by variety, they all carry important vitamins and trace minerals such as potassium, copper and selenium. They also contain antioxidants, which help fight free radicals in the body, folate that aids in prenatal health and recent studies have explored how mushrooms protect brain cells. If you’re interested in learning more about the complexities of mushrooms, the duo highly recommends watching the film Fantastic Fungi, directed by Louie Schwartzberg.
Also passionate about the potential of small crops, the pair say that the primary allure of urban farming is getting to produce a significant amount of food in a small space. Fewer resources go into making the product when you give it directly to the community. That means there's no need to spend money, time and fuel shipping a product when the local market is just 15 minutes away. Plus, consumers have the comfort of knowing right where their food came from, and that it’s fresh.
Want to try a mushroom recipe at home? Here’s Schmidt’s recipe for his household’s favorite bacon substitute.
Black Pearl Oyster Mushroom “Bacon”
Four servings, 45 minute cook time
4 oz. Petrichor black pearl oyster mushrooms
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1.5 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. of smoked paprika
Splash of liquid smoke
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the pearl oyster mushrooms lengthwise into ¼-inch slices. In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil, maple syrup, smoked paprika, liquid smoke, salt and pepper. Toss mushrooms gently in rub until thoroughly coated. Place flat and spaced apart on a lined baking sheet or a baking rack. Bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through. Devour.
You can find Petrichor Mushrooms by visiting the Bradenton Farmers Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. or at the Coquina Beach Market on Wednesdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. To connect or place orders through social media, follow Petrichor on its Facebook or Instagram pages.