Tucker Pforzheimer and Truman French, Managing Partners
Martha's Vineyard Mycological
Topic: Back to the Logs: Mycocultural Appropriation on Martha's Vineyard
Shiitake mushrooms, Lentinula edodes, are one of the most cultivated species of fungus in the world, and since the 1970’s the U.S. market has grown to over forty million dollars annually. Originating in Japan, China, and Korea, cultivation began on freshly felled oak logs under natural forest canopy; as market demand has increased, growers have adopted more efficient means of production, including climate control, substrate sterilization, and feed additives. Nonetheless, traditionally produced shiitake continue to command a premium throughout East Asia, and for good reason. Provided with their wild, raw food source and exposed to sunlight and temperature and humidity fluctuation, resulting shiitake have proven to be higher in fiber, protein, and Potassium. This category of mushroom, called Genboku in Japan, also contains higher concentrations of Lentinan, a beta-glucan polysaccharide valued both by traditional medicine and contemporary cancer treatments. Due to the traditional cultivation technique’s relatively low start-up costs and its reliance on ambient humidity, mild temperature, and raw oak logs, we set out to build such a Shiitake Ranch on Martha’s Vineyard, an island that shares a surprising amount climatically and ecologically with top cultivating regions in Japan and Korea. We will discuss aspects of growing this business over the past six years, including market creation, production methods, and general observations about the Humboldtian irony of running a commercial Shiitake operation in the Atlantic Ocean.
Host Lab: Pfister