This interview is part of the ARK Crystal Wellness Week Series from February 2022. During the Wellness Week Series in held every February and Late Summer ARK Crystal brings together thought leaders and inspirational wellness speakers to share their knowledge and experience.
You are what you eat. And today, we're going organic. Organic mushroom farming that is.
Today's guest is Roberto Ramirez, an organic mushroom farmer from Southern California. His organic mushroom farm, Mountain Meadow Mushroom, has been around since 1952, and he has been there for over 25 years.
Roberto and his fungi even made an appearance on the Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. Extolling the virtue of getting dirty in order to bring the rest of us clean food.
Organic Isn't Always What You Think It Is
For years Mountain Meadow Mushroom used only organic methods and techniques to grow their mushrooms, but they could not officially be labeled as "Organic" produce. That is, until, Roberto and his team at MMM filed the correct paperwork to the USDA and were inspected.
In addition to the paperwork and the inspection, the farm also had to pay a fee in the thousands of dollars range.
Was it worth it? It may depend on the day you ask. They had already been organic growing for years, but could not legal label their products that way. But now, the farm is able to have the coveted USDA ORGANIC label on all of their mushrooms.
But, Organic does not automatically mean pesticide-free. What?! Don't panic.
As Roberto explains in our interview together, pesticides are not always a "bad" thing. Organic growers can still use pesticides including alcohol and hydrogen peroxide on their produce. His farm chooses not to use any pesticides, even the organic options. So why don't their products have this listed on the containers? It's another very large fee to be able to say that they are "pesticide-free" on all of their packaging.
His advice is that if you are able to speak with your farmer, for instance at a farmers market, as them about what they use on their produce.
- Are you organic?
- If so, do you still use pesticides?
- Which pesticides do you use?
It's all about being proactive with what is important to you and what you are eating.
For some, going meatless seems next to impossible. Others find being meat-free fun and delicious. If you are wanting to add more fiber and maybe a little less meat in your daily diet, mushrooms are a great place to start.
"Swapability" - The Mushroom Council, of which Roberto is a board member, has for years touted the "swapability" of mushrooms for meat. A few years ago they worked with the fast-food chain Sonic to develop a burger patty that was a large percentage of mushroom in place of meat, and it was a hit! If you are exploring the idea of eating less meat try working in mushrooms in addition to whatever meat you enjoy. Adding mushrooms will increase fiber and will add in Vitamin D.
Mushrooms Instead of Meat - There is more to the world of mushrooms than the white buttons. And these varieties of mushrooms can have complex taste makeups as well. You can easily exchange certain mushrooms for your favorite meat.
- Blue Oyster - Pork
- Lion's Main - Crabs
- Pink Oyster - Bacon
- King Trumpet - Scallops
- Golden oyster - Chestnuts (not meat, but we wanted to share since it was interesting)
THE FUTURE OF FUNGI
Mushrooms are having a moment, but no one is talking about it. More and more businesses and entrepreneurial-minded people are finding new and exciting uses for mushrooms.
Health Benefits - Research is finding what some have understood for generations. Certain mushrooms, used as tinctures, eaten fresh, in teas, or powders, can be beneficial in health. Reishi mushrooms have been shown to help boost the immune system, may have anti-cancer properties, can fight fatigue and depression, helps heart health, control blood sugar control, and is antioxidant-rich. (always talk with your doctor about health treatment)
"Leather" - In our interview, Roberto showed us a box filled with mushroom mycelium that is being grown with the intention of becoming a leather substitute.
Eco-Friendly Burials - People have started looking for traditional burial and cremation alternatives. One of these that has started gaining popularity, and is now being researched at UCSD, is the possibility of using mushrooms as an eco-friendly addition to burying a loved one. The concept is that once someone has passed, the body would be filled with mushroom mycelium, and then the body would be buried. As time goes on, the mushrooms would grow out of the ground marking where your loved one was buried.
Cleaning Toxic Spills - Mushrooms are the cleaning crew of the produce world. Oyster mushrooms, in particular, are used to clean up toxic spills from oil and other chemicals. Mushroom mycelia have also been used to clean up and remove heavy metals from water.
"Foam" Packaging - Reishi mushroom mycelium is being used to create a new kind of "foam" packaging that is created to be thrown away or integrated into your compost pile. This alternative is already being used by furniture giant IKEA.
Thank you again to Roberto Ramirez from Mountain Meadow Mushrooms for such a fun, and informative, interview. To find out more about his Organic Mushroom Farm and to purchase tinctures and powders please visit -