Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Susan Weth, co-owner of Weth Mushrooms. I was surprised that mushrooms there are not grown in the dark, and they are not grown in horse manure. These mushrooms are grown in a “Natural” mixture that is wood-based, as these farmers try to replicate the forest floor as a growing condition for their mushroom crops. At Weth Mushrooms, a new crop is incubated every 10-12 weeks. They’re planted in plastic bags in that special mixture of soil, grain and sawdust that eventually hardens and colourizes (Incubates), at which stage the bags are removed. Within one week the mushrooms are sprouting in temperature and moisture-controlled sprouting rooms. Once harvested the block-growing material is composted back into the field.
Although there are bio-security issues in certain parts of the plant we were invited inside. There are three brands of mushrooms grown at Weth’s. Susan’s favourite brand grown here is shiitake, so much so that she no longer uses the very popular white button mushroom, and uses Shiitake in “everything”. Shiitake mushrooms are not native to Southwestern Ontario. The second type, maitake, can sometimes be found in Huron County, growing in the wild. It has a nutty flavour. And, the third type, pioppino is a small brown variety that has a bit more texture and remains slightly crunchy even after cooking. Maitake and Pioppino mushrooms grow faster than the Shiitake, but temperature changes can wipe out a crop quickly.
Susan tells me she prefers maitake fried in olive oil and butter until the tips brown. Shiitake are flavourful in omelettes, stuffed with roasted red pepper and goats cheese or marinated and barbecued. Pioppino’s are nice in stews or stir fried dishes. All three have good meaty textures and are an excellent substitute for meats. Mushrooms are loaded with anti-oxidants. And, to my surprise, Susan does not eat or serve mushrooms uncooked as they do have some toxins. In some cultures, mushrooms are used raw for cleanings, but Susan does not recommend using them this way.
Mushrooms are shipped from this site every week and many local restaurants buy direct from the farm. Susan indicated their future would likely include more varieties and increased yield. As Weth Mushrooms are organically grown, their product is popular, especially with growing consumer demand for organic produce. For the most part the Weth’s can’t keep up with that demand as mushroom farming is extremely labour intensive. Picking or harvesting is all done by hand, and although there is no grading system in Ontario Weth’s internally grade and price their product as premium, utility and baby.
Weth Mushrooms is iocated on 89 acres of reforested land in the Township of Central Huron. They’re open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 until 3:30pm or by appointment. Tours are sometimes available so call Susan for more information.
35809 Union Side Road
or on Facebook “Weth Mushrooms Inc.”