After months of working to convert his late grandfather’s home into his own mushroom mycology lab, Jeremiah Johnson is officially open for business. It’s only been a week so far, but he said he’s already impressed to see just how positive the response has been from the community.
“I’m starting out small but I have the capacity to expand easily,” said Johnson, who’s selling the mushrooms through his Facebook page Mohawk Mushrooms. It’s already gained 250 followers since appearing on the web earlier this month.
Johnson had long operated his own carpet-cleaning business, but he was forced to quit after a hernia. Unable to work with his surgery delayed due to the pandemic, Johnson found himself returning to his love of mycology – he’s worked in laboratory settings preparing mushroom cultures before. He started purchasing home kits to grow them himself, and it all, well, grew from there.
He purchases the mushroom cultures online, he said, but the grains and sawdust he uses to inoculate them are all local. He’s been growing varieties like lion’s mane, chestnut, and gold, blue, and pink oyster. Each bag of inoculated culture can produce four to five pounds of mushrooms once it’s cut open and placed into his growing chamber, which is airtight, humid and sterile, he said.
He put together the entire setup while on social assistance. “I wanted to show the community that there are other ways that we can support ourselves and grow our own food,” Johnson said.
“The reasons our grandparents and great-grandparents knew how to garden and knew how to save their bacon fat is because they lived in a time where they had to do that. And it looks like that time is coming round again,” he said, saying the prices at grocers have become intolerable.
For him, it’s all about providing for his family and doing some good for the community.
He’s also working on building connections with local restaurants in the hope of securing some long-term contracts.
Ryland Diome, the chef behind Screaming Chef Cuisine, has already incorporated some of Johnson’s yellow oyster mushrooms into the salads he sells to local distributors around town. Diome’s catering company will soon be transformed into a restaurant on Diabo Road, off of Old Chateauguay Road, come the new year.
“I’m definitely going to be using some of his shiitake mushrooms and chestnut mushrooms in the soups that I’ll be making in the restaurant,” said Diome.
“One of the main goals of my business is to work with as many local producers, hunters, and farmers as possible.”
He said he’s actively experimenting with different uses of the mushrooms, all part of the work he’s putting in for his restaurant’s menu.
“There are definitely more uses than just throwing it into a soup, throwing it into a salad,” he said. “It’s very versatile, the mushroom. That’s also why I want to get into the business with him. He’s teaching me a lot as we’re going, just in the last few weeks.”
Mushrooms so versatile Johnson said he’s even fooled some people into thinking he’s feeding them meat.
“My first grow of lion’s mane, I was slicing it up and I coated it like fried chicken. Then I fried it in olive oil,” he said. “My wife and son woke up, they all came and started eating it. She was like ‘Where did you get the chicken? I didn’t buy any chicken!’ I’m like, ‘You think it’s chicken? No honey, that’s mushroom. That’s lion’s mane.’”
This article was originally published in print on Friday, October 20, in issue 32.42 of The Eastern Door.