Heartwood Mushrooms hide a tasty treat beneath the kitchen sink

Naushin Hooda and Bonnie Cook shake their white oyster mushroom medium in preparation for the addition of the mycelium that will start sprouting the delicious culinary treats in about two weeks. photos by Michael Erskine

LITTLE CURRENT—The Island’s dynamic duo of mushroom cultivation, Jamie Rowntree and Shane O’Donnell of Heartwood Mushrooms, hosted a series of tours of their new Cockburn Street facility during the Manitoulin Garden Tour—and best of all, attendees got to bring home their own little white oyster mushroom kit to tuck under the kitchen sink.

The facility tour included a peek into the mycelium lab, a positive pressure room where strains of various mushrooms are spawned in an uncontaminated environment.

Mr. O’Donnell pointed out the development of the mycelium in petri dishes. Mycelium is the organism that develops out of the spores released by mushrooms and is actually the most numerous organism on the planet—and its family includes the world’s largest single organism.

It is the mycelium which sends up the fruit, what we know and enjoy as mushrooms, when it thinks that fall is upon it.

In a room beside the lab is a climate controlled storage facility with racks filled with inoculated growth material.

Outside, Ms. Rowntree took attendees through the process of creating their own mushroom kits, filling plastic bags with pressed wood pellets and water. The bags are kneaded until the pellets have turned to a mush-like consistency and then a millet mixture was added. The millet had been previously inoculated with mycelium from the white oyster mushroom.

The bags are kneaded and mixed thoroughly and then bundled into a bricklike shape, ready to go under the kitchen sink—or some other dark coolish place—for two weeks.

In about two weeks the brick is pulled out from under the sink, by this time the mycelium should have spread throughout the material binding it into a fairly hard lump.

Millet is the prime incubator material for the mycelium from which the mushrooms will grow.

Then a series of six slots are cut up the body of the brick and exposed to indirect light. “You mist it with a spray bottle, several times a day,” advised Ms. Rowntree. “Pretty much every time you go by hit it with the spray bottle.”

Soon tiny little sprouts will begin to make their way up and several days later your first harvest of mushrooms is ready for your plate.

In about a month, Heartwood Mushrooms will be supplying a number of mushroom products to local grocery stores and restaurants and perhaps, sometime in the future, they will consider marketing a do-it-yourself mushroom kit.

“We kind of have our hands full with just the niche mushroom market right now,” laughed Mr. O’Donnell.

The storage room at the mushroom factory is packed with blocks of inoculated growing material that will soon be sprouting a delicious harvest. In the meantime, dozens of Manitoulin Garden Tour attendees now have their own little mushroom farm percolating under their kitchen sinks.

“This has been a great day,” said Manitoulin Garden Tour organizer Kristin Bickell of Noojmowin Teg. “There have been so many people coming out and they all seem to be having a great time.”

Racks of inoculated grow medium sit on shelves awaiting their turn in the light. A drop in temperature and the addition of light will signal to the mycelium that it is time to send up mushrooms.

The Manitoulin Garden Tour was designed to showcase Manitoulin Island’s local food movement where attendees are encouraged to explore the Island through activities and garden tours that showcase the gardens and food production. The Manitoulin Garden Tour runs through to July 28, so there are still a number of events to take part in, including a pumpkin patch extravaganza at Community Living Manitoulin (6266 Highway 542 in Mindemoya) from 10 am to 2 pm, a garden tour and medicine teaching at Noojmowin Teg in Aundeck Omni Kaning July 24 from 1 pm to 2 pm, healthy eating on a budget on Thursday, July 25 from 4 pm to 6 pm at the Sheshegwaning Community Centre, a Friday, July 26 garden tour at the Manitoulin Community Garden from 11 am to 2 pm, and on Sunday, July 28 from 10 am to 2 pm a Green Leaf Family Garden tour at 2456 Kaboni Road in Wiikwemkoong and Bouquet of Herbs from 2 to 4 pm at Raven’s Wing on 144 Meadow Lark Road in Ice Lake.