Founder Max Harris and Andrew Lloyd of Booms Mushrooms in Denver, describe themselves as mushroom enthusiasts. (After you read this article, you will be too!) Lloyd has been a hobbyist with mushrooms for years but Harris found his passion more recently. “I’ve been enthralled by urban agriculture for the past decade or so,” says Harris. “The quality of food you eat really impacts your wellbeing and happiness. A lot of that has to do with where and how the food is grown. That is when I realized how much room for improvement there is with mushrooms that can taste so amazing and be so good for you if grown properly.”
There are about 40 intricate, scientifically calibrated steps to growing mushrooms. There must be high humidity to simulate rainfall for the mushroom to bud, it has to be dark enough during its root growth phase to simulate being underground, and there must be adequate oxygen levels so the mushrooms do not suffocate one another. Mushrooms, unlike plants, but like humans, breathe oxygen and emit carbon dioxide. This also means that like humans, they absorb vitamin D, (from the sun, or in Booms’ case from full spectrum grow lights) making it one of the only foods you can get this nutrient from in any meaningful quantity.
Medicine or Magic?
The result of these 40 steps is nowhere short of magic. Lion’s Mane, one of Harris and Lloyd’s favorite types of mushrooms, improves your nerve growth factor. Doctors are beginning to recommend these as a treatment for serious brain injuries and to aid and prevent Alzheimer’s. Clinical trials have also shown Lion’s Mane might offer treatment for depression.
Cooked Pink Oyster Mushrooms, another variety grown at Booms Mushrooms, have more protein than the equivalent amount of chicken. They also help improve and prevent diabetes and modulate your immune system. They are also natural decomposers that can easily break down plastic and oil. Because of this, they are used in landfills and oil spills as bioremediates (organisms that consume and break down contaminated waste).
Reishi, a medicinal rather than culinary mushroom, lowers blood pressure and helps with sleep and stress management. These mushrooms are made into supplements at Booms instead of cooked. Harris also shares that Adidas, in partnership with Bolt Threads, will be making their Stan Smith sneakers out of Mylo, a mushroom-based material.
Getting Better Groceries
Booms Mushroom is spreading the word about these magical (not magic) mushrooms at the seasonal Union Station farmers market, in locally supplied restaurants, through their subscription services, and on Instagram. Wynkoop is their first restaurant partnership using Booms Mushrooms to make crispy, deep-fried oyster mushroom sliders and a roasted mushroom medley bowl. If you are looking to cook up the shrooms yourself, their three-month subscription service is a great way to try out their whole selection and develop recipes right for you. All mushrooms should be cooked as the process breaks down the cell wall and releases the nutrients. Booms recommends using Lion’s Mane as a seafood substitute in recipes like lobster rolls or crab cakes. Pink Oyster Mushrooms as great fried or shredded in tacos.
More of a snacker, less of a cook? “Our mushroom jerky is, I swear and I am not even a vegetarian, better than any other jerky I’ve ever had. It has all of the flavor and tenderness but none of the cartilage you can get with beef,” said Harris.
Mycelium, mushrooms’ underground, fungal roots, grow practically everywhere on Earth. But the world is not one big mushroom patch because the recipe for this superfood is so complex. Mushrooms sold in the grocery store are planted in China in manure, an inferior soil compared to Booms’ process. (Booms Mushrooms tries to mimic mushrooms natural growing environment with their “Master Mix” composed of hardwood pellets, soybean hulls, and water all are sourced from Colorado suppliers, all of which essentially constitute decaying trees in the wild.) Mass-produced mushrooms seen in grocery stores are then grown on the boat ride over from China so no one is monitoring the mushroom’s vitals and environment like Booms operations do. Additionally, mushrooms aggregate elements from which they are growing. So, if there are heavy metals in the growing substrate, they can become very dangerous for humans. On top of that, grocery story mushrooms are often weeks old.
“Portobello and white button mushrooms are all the same ‘agaricus bisporus’ mushroom. They are grown because they transport easily and can store for several weeks but in terms of nutritional quality and taste they don’t stack up to the gourmet mushrooms that are increasingly becoming available. In our facility, we’ll be offering educational classes surrounding how to grow and cook gourmet mushrooms as well as their health benefits.”
At Booms, you can harvest your mushrooms straight from the soil to the sauté pan while also reversing brain damage, improving your mood, regulating your immune system, and oh and if that wasn’t enough, saving the planet.