Mushrooms, I tell ya, they’re everywhere.
No sooner did I finish my story about the Logan Square mushroom farm Full Circle Fungi than the New York Times dropped “The Social Life of Forests,” an engrossing longread about how everything under the green canopy is connected, thanks to the miracle of mycelium.
It underscored everything FCF founder Justin Smurawa says about how humans should look to the cooperative world of fungi for the model on how to get along with one another and get along in the world. Smurawa wanted to make sure everyone knew that he knew that Indigenous cultures have always been centered on maintaining balance between humanity and nature. Western culture is only just now getting the wake-up call.
No sooner did I finish reading the Times piece than I was handed two pounds of pristine chestnut and pioppino mushrooms through a green window at 3125 W. Chicago Avenue in Humboldt Park. It’s the new retail component of Windy City Mushroom, the city’s largest mushroom farm. CEO Guy Furman was trying to start a mussel farming business about a year and half ago when he pivoted to mushrooming, and he was doing pretty good selling mostly to restaurants before the pandemic hit. He took the lull in business to expand, and now his growing area is 1,500 square feet (compared to Smurawa’s 100) and he has the capacity to scale up to 5,000 pounds of mushrooms a week. The company is working on developing a retail business, but for now the window, open Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM, is the easiest way to get ahold of some freshly harvested lion’s mane, chestnut, pioppino, and four varieties of oyster mushrooms, between $7-$10 a pound. I put the long snappy stems and silky caps of my haul of WCM’s mushrooms to work in a mushroom bourguignon.
Full Circle Fungi and Windy City Mushroom couldn’t have more radically different business models, each run by dudes with pretty different ways of talking about our future fungal overlords. But early on, Furman gave Smurawa a tour of the place, and both recognize each other’s rightful place in Chicago’s steadily spawning fungal network, in which it’s all connected. v
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