Successful local mushroom farmer to be featured at Garden Jubilee
Greg Carter – aka The Mushroom Man – operates Deep Woods Mushrooms Farm in Mills River and has been foraging, growing, and selling gourmet mushrooms in Western North Carolina for more than 20 years. As part of the long-running Garden Jubilee event in downtown Hendersonville that happens Memorial Day Weekend, he’ll give a free talk about edible fungi on Saturday, May 28.
How’d you get started in mushrooms?
My dad got me started, and I collected them with him as a kid in Michigan. Then, in 1999, I inoculated a few logs with spores to grow shiitakes to give away at Christmas. Six years later, it became a business, and I haven’t looked back. Now I’m farming mushrooms on more than 2,000 logs. Shiitake is my main crop, and six months of the year I consistently get about 50-75 pounds a week.
What can people expect from your Garden Jubilee presentation?
They’ll learn about the science of mushrooms and which ones are easiest to grow so they can grow [their] own. You need to know how they grow in the wild so you can mimic those conditions. There are many different strains, so you can’t generalize, but most need about 80-percent shade. For shiitakes, once they are seeded it takes about eight months to a year until you get fruiting bodies. For oyster mushrooms you can get them in as quickly as six months. They’re perennial, so with as few as 15 logs you can grow a good supply for years to come to cook, dry, and freeze.
What about the less common gourmet species?
For others, like reishis, morels, chicken of the woods, and chanterelles, you’re better off foraging them than trying to cultivate them at home. Mother Nature does a much better job of growing them in the wild.
Some people are afraid to forage for mushrooms because they might pick a poisonous one.
Well, the joke is that all mushrooms are edible once. And all mushrooms should be cooked before eating. It’s a science. You have to educate yourself and know them the way a bird watcher knows birds. If I was birder, I’d teach species like cardinals and robins and blue jays. So, in my class, I teach you to know species like chanterelles, Lactarious, and lobster mushrooms. If you pick mushrooms and don’t disturb their environment you can return year after year to forage in the same spot.
Is it true that mushrooms share more DNA with humans than with plants?
They built cloning science [similar to mushrooms] to create Dolly the sheep, the first cloned animal. The fungal world is closer related to the animal world than to the plant world.
Greg Carter of Deep Woods Mushrooms Farm will present “Mushrooms 101” at 3pm on Saturday, May 28, at the Henderson County Visitor Center (201 South Main St.). Garden Jubilee runs 9am-5 pm Saturday and Sunday (May 29) in downtown Hendersonville, with plant vendors, speakers and clinics, garden art, and more. For more information, call 828-693-9708 or visit visithendersonvillenc.org/garden-jubilee (also deepwoodsmushrooms.net).