Mushrooms are having their moment. (Functional ones that is, although Colorado voters just legalized psilocybin, the psychedelic component of the magic kind.) From tinctures by Free People and leather bags by Hermes, tiny but mighty fungi are making their way into all aspects of our lives. And we don’t even have to go far to find them. In fact, mushrooms are literally everywhere around us, the most common species on Earth. As you walk through the forest, there are about 300 miles of fungi under every single footstep you take. They’re everywhere—and they should be in your wellness regimen, too.
Used in Eastern and indigenous medicine for centuries, Colorado is now quickly catching on. Functional mushrooms provide antioxidants, act as an anti-inflammatory agent, boost your immune system, help with weight management, increase your energy and stamina, act as an aphrodisiac and support your mental health by decreasing anxiety. Using nutrient-rich strains, Umbo, a Colorado-based company providing functional mushroom products, makes extracts, tinctures and bars to fuel your focus, sleep deeper and endure more.
UMBO (n): noun /ˈəmbō/: The word “umbo” is a geometric term used to describe both the raised center of a mushroom cap and the boss of a shield. Equal parts natural and protective, fortifying you so that you can run at any problem with the strength to succeed and conquer the unknown.
“There is the basic thought that cordyceps are known for respiratory health, turkey tail for gut health, reishi for the central nervous system and lion’s mane for the brain,” explains Del Jolly, the president and cofounder of Umbo. “But really, mushrooms are adaptogens. This means they restore your body’s balance to where you are not too energetic or too tired, too stressed or too checked out,” explains Jolly. Along with his cofounders, retired Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer and former UFC champion Rashad Evans, Jolly is working to educate people about why their 2023 New Year’s resolution should be to incorporate mushrooms into their health and wellness routines.
“Functional mushrooms have given me peace of mind regarding my longevity and vitality,” says Plummer. “They have also helped my mental clarity, focus, energy levels and mobility and put me in a place of harmony with my well-being. I feel that mushrooms are one of the strongest anti-inflammatories on Earth and therefore all athletes that put their bodies through intense workouts, subject themselves to bodily harm during competition and endure stress at high levels, should use them.” From better sleep, to faster recovery, improved mental focus, enhanced dream states, a stronger immune system, less fatigue and more energy, the benefits are not limited to just athletes.
In the morning, Plummer takes MycoRise, which contains cordyceps, and in the evening he takes MycoRest which includes reishi and lion’s mane. “Rise gives me sustained energy and focus during the day and Rest helps me drift into peaceful sleep filled with awesome dreams. I also carry Umbo bars with me for those snack moments. And last but not least, I take turkey tail for its immune system boost. I am also a big fan of cooking with mushrooms and I try to eat them with every meal.” The products have properties and additives that provide other benefits as well. One example is the reishi tincture includes ganoderic acid, a compound already found in mushrooms, which relieved Plummer’s allergies enough that he was able to get a cat for the first time ever. And the MycoRise is boosted with Bio-NMN, which is great for enhanced energy during a workout, and how UFC fighter Evans fueled up for his big comeback fight for Khabib in Eagle FC44 this past January.
Plummer also has a farm called My CO Love where he grows functional mushrooms and teaches courses on cultivation. “I love the process of growing mushrooms, from mixing substrate to harvesting them off the substrate blocks. It’s a fascinating cycle to witness and every day these beautiful organisms fill me with wonder and awe.”
Most recently, Plummer partnered with Stem Ciders on a new mushroom-infused release. The Neural Nectar, part of Stem’s botanical series, is a lemongrass cherry limeade made with lion’s made extract. With a prominent cherry lime flavor profile, the lemongrass and mushroom extract add notes of complexity and earthiness to the drink. And while the cidery cannot claim direct health benefits from the drink, the team’s original inspiration came from the ingredient’s wellness potential.
And I am left asking myself: Alcohol dulls your senses and lion’s mane heightens your neurological functioning, so what does this concoction leave us feeling? Do the two enhance one another or cancel each other out? You will just have to pick up a pack to find out yourself.
Speaking of unanswered questions, part of Umbo’s proceeds goes towards research on the potential healing powers of psilocybin mushrooms through its partnership with unlimitedsciences.org. “We are in a mental health crisis right now and nothing is working for the western world. Through scientific studies with Johns Hopkins, we hope to learn more,” explains Jolly. With the recent legalization in Colorado, it seems voters are eager to learn more as well. This June in Denver, MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies) will hold its largest summit ever where Umbo will host a miniature summit on functional mushrooms within the larger conference.
The entire fungal field still has a lot left to be discovered, not just the psychedelic strains. Scientist estimate that we have only identified about 8% of the fungal kingdom. The Colorado Rockies is one of the most diverse fungal ranges in the nation. “Morels, porcinis and chanterelles are the varieties we look for in Colorado most often,” says Michael Nail, co-founder of Mile High Fungi and a certified expert at identifying wild mushrooms. He explains that wild-crafted mushrooms have extremely complex relationships with their environment—they may depend on a nearby tree or other species to fruit or have very nuanced needs to grow in terms of water and light. Because of this, wild mushrooms are less prolific, and you guessed it, more expensive.
“When we go foraging, we usually head to mountain passes. Mushrooms like to grow in wet areas between 10,000 feet to tree line. There is a large temperature fluctuation at that altitude which creates consistent condensation for the mushrooms. The season starts in the front range around May and then you chase the mushrooms up the mountains throughout the summer until about September.” The Mile High Fungi team both forages for wild mushrooms as well as cultivating their own in its indoor fruiting chambers April through December and then works to support other small farms by providing ready-to-fruit mushroom blocks during the off-season.
Oh, off-seasons… how we all dread them. And just when the root vegetables and winter squashes that mushrooms pair so well with are coming back into season, the mushroom season itself falls off. But fear not, below I have rounded up a few ways you can get gourmet, functional mushrooms in Denver right now, or at least sooner than May. And remember, Umbo products are available year-round.
More Mushrooms Around Town
In case you missed my last article about Booms Mushrooms, circle back because it’s definitely worth a read. The article takes a deep dive into the intricate steps necessary for growing mushrooms and how those differ from what you see at the grocery store (that Booms say maybe weeks old…ick). Booms Mushrooms offers subscription services as well as providing Wynkoop Brewery with fresh produce for their vegan po’ boys.
Want to try your hand at growing mushrooms? Denver’s Monster Mushroom is making it possible for you to grow mushrooms at home. With their grow kits and cultivation guides, you will learn the art of making a fruiting chamber, growing mushrooms and harvesting the fungi yourself.
We love when Colorado farmers and chefs come together. At Corinne, the chefs are sourcing gourmet mushrooms from Mystic Mountain Mushrooms in Rocky Mountain National Park for the wild mushroom Bolognese and the roasted mushroom side.
Wonder Mushroom Company provides Denverites with gourmet mushrooms even when farmers markets are out of season. From March to May customers can join the CSA program (community supported agriculture) to receive a weekly or biweekly assortment of black pearls, blue oysters, chestnuts, king trumpets, lion’s mane and phoenix oysters.
Not your typical sloppy slice, Redeemer Pizza’s new pie is driving us mad for mushrooms. From Denver’s well-loved Italian restaurant Dio Mio, chefs Spencer White and Alex Figura bring us the upscale sister restaurant serving New York-inspired sourdough pizza in the artistic RiNo district. The trendy 16 inch All The Mushrooms pizza has roasted oyster mushrooms and pickled pioppino mushrooms sourced from Jacob’s Mushrooms, a local company, slathered in a garlic cream sauce. It is a great and unintimidating introduction to the world of functional mushrooms while still being absolutely delicious.
Jake’s MyCOLove Mushroom Chili Recipe
Make your own mushroom dish using Jake Plummer’s vegan chili recipe.
“I would like to share this recipe with you so you can explore living a life with one less dish containing meat. Your stomach can thank me later.”—Jake Plummer
Start with prepping your beans. This can be done overnight or in a pressure cooker the day of.
1 c Pinto beans
1 c black beans
1 c kidney beans
1 onion diced
6 cloves of garlic diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp of Better Than Bouillon mushroom broth paste
Combine all the above ingredients except the mushroom broth paste. Fill the pressure cooker with water about two inches above the beans and other ingredients. Add two to three tablespoons of olive oil (this helps release the gas buildup from cooking beans in a pressure cooker, do not forget this step). Then, add the mushroom paste and start the cooker on med-high until the cooker starts releasing steam, then reduce the heat a bit and cook for 15-20 minutes more. Remove from heat and let cool.
Next, we cook the mushrooms.
3 tbsp olive oil
5 c of chopped-up mushrooms (recommend using lion’s mane, black kings, chestnuts and/or oyster mushrooms)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
In a skillet on medium-high heat add olive oil and mushrooms. Sauté and cook the mushrooms. Keep in mind they will shrink in size as the water is cooked out of them so continue stirring frequently for four to five minutes. Three to four minutes into this process, add your spices. Sauté and cook another three to five minutes more and when done set aside.
Time to put it all together.
2 tsp olive oil
1 diced onion
7 cloves of diced garlic
2 Anaheim peppers diced
1 jalapeno pepper diced
1 Poblano pepper diced
1 bunch of cilantro
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp smoked or regular paprika
1 tbsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp salt
1 can of beer
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
In a Dutch oven or large pot on med-high heat, add the top seven ingredients (oil, onions, garlic, peppers and cilantro). Sauté for a few minutes then add all your spices. Reduce heat to medium. When the peppers are nicely coated with seasoning and partially cooked, add 1 can of beer. Jake recommends a stout or a seasonal ale. Turn up the heat and stir every couple of minutes. The beer will cook off, then lower the heat and the fire-roasted tomatoes, beans and mushrooms. Stir the contents together. Take note that you may need to add water and more mushroom bouillon if it needs it. Mix and stir contents together and then cook on med-high heat, stirring frequently for three to four minutes or until it starts to boil. Lower the heat to low, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, be sure to check it and stir it so it doesn’t burn on the bottom of your pan. Serve and enjoy!