Mycology

The Shroom Boom: How Mushrooms Are Taking Over Culture

The shroom boom is here, and it’s here to stay

It’s late on a sunny Friday in September and a gaggle of Brooklynites are milling in front of a bunch of old warehouses in South Williamsburg. They’re not here for a sneaker drop or a capsule collection; they’ve come to claim a plastic bag containing a big, white block of mush. That mush is a combination of sawdust and mycelium, the mysterious fungal filaments that work like roots — and like a brain.

Each one of these people is a budding fungus farmer. They’ll take their mush block home, cut a few tiny slits in it, and store it somewhere out of direct sunlight. With a few spritzes of water and a little airflow, this weird white block will burst forth with blue oyster mushrooms (which you might find on a rotting log on the forest floor) or spout out lion’s mane mushrooms (a strange, furry-looking mushroom that weirdly tastes like crab cakes).

This Friday fungus block party is thrown by Smallhold, an edible mushroom grower which has undergone explosive growth in recent years. In 2017, they were growing out of a shipping container in an old Williamsburg factory and selling wholesale to in-the-know chefs. But when the pandemic hit and restaurants closed down, they had to get creative, and the resulting at-home growth kits became a surprise hit. Today, they’ve moved into a full-blown warehouse where they maintain five climate-controlled mushroom chambers in an area they have gnomically named “the courtyard.” They have two more farms near Austin, Texas, (one for growing, one for experimenting) and a big one in Los Angeles. They’ve partnered with Whole Foods and raised $25 million in series A funding. Their homepage reads, “Speciality mushrooms: The produce of our times.”

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