Gourmet mushroom growers, large and small, always end up with harvested mushrooms that are not good enough for fresh sales to consumers. The mushrooms may have cosmetic defects, be smaller than average, or you may have more mushrooms than customers. One of the best ways to turn those extra mushrooms into profits is to make value-added products to market that can be stored until sold.
Here are six of the best value-added mushroom products – all easy to process, and requiring no expensive equipment or packaging:
1. Mushroom jerky.
This is a popular snack for vegetarians and non-vegetarians as well. Oyster mushrooms are best, and easy to prepare. Simply remove the gills, clean and marinate in diluted soy sauce (1 cup water and 2 tablespoons soy sauce) for an hour or so, then drain. The mushrooms can be sliced or left whole. Bake until tender, then place in a food dryer/dehydrator until dry. Package in plastic bags with a well-designed label. These are delicious, so be sure to give out samples to shoppers at the farmer’s market.
2. Pickled mushrooms.
These have been a popular snack in Europe for centuries, and can be customized with other foods, like onions, or seasoned with a variety of herbs or spices, like garlic. Start with a basic recipe – just do an internet search for “pickled mushrooms” – then pick the recipe that works best for your taste buds. If you use your imagination, you can transform plain pickled mushrooms into a gourmet delicacy that brings high prices and profits at the Saturday market. Imaginative packaging, such as a special glass jar, a cute label and a simple raffia bow on the jar, can complete the gourmet image.
3. Mushroom seasonings.
A blend of finely ground dried mushrooms and coarsely-ground sea salt is a popular item at farmer’s markets, as well as blends of mushroom powder and dried herbs, such as an Italian blend, which complements a roasted chicken or a savory soup.
4. Dried mushrooms.
This is a perfect solution for blemished or unsold fresh mushrooms. Most mushroom varieties can be dried whole or dried in slices about 1/4 inch thick. You’ll need a food dehydrator and packaging. Re-sealable glass jars work best, both for eye appeal at the farmer’s market, and for ease of re-use. A customer can just tighten the lid to save any unused mushrooms for later.
5. Mushroom growing kits.
Simple to make and very profitable, these one-use kits allow customers to experience the joy of growing and harvesting their own mushrooms without the work involved in preparing and inoculating the substrate. Most consist of just a plastic grow-bag filled with pre-inoculated substrate, such as sawdust, inside a cardboard box. Because shipping is expensive, you can sell kits locally for a lot less than those sold on the internet, yet still make a solid profit. If at all possible, have a sample growing kit on display, complete with fruiting mushrooms, to help customers visualize what will happen at harvest time.
6. Medicinal mushrooms.
Although many varieties of mushrooms are used for medicinal purposes, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration does not allow anyone to make claims about their healing powers, especially claims that a certain variety of mushroom can cure or treat a specific disease. Medicinal mushrooms can be sold fresh, dried or powdered to individual retail customers. Follow the example of supplement companies, who simply state that mushrooms can be used to “help support immune health.”
Mushroom growers should follow state and federal regulations and any applicable food safety guidelines, including those that may be applicable to prepared mushroom products. Your state regulations may also require that food must be processed in a licensed kitchen. In some states, those selling at farmer’s markets or direct to consumers from the farm may be exempt from this requirement. Your local county health department can tell you what regulations apply in your area.
As more growers produce and market fresh gourmet mushrooms like oyster mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms, those who also offer mushroom products will be better able to compete in the marketplace, as the markups can be substantial on value-added products. As more and more consumers appreciate the flavors of gourmet mushrooms, demand will likely continue to grow. To learn more about growing gourmet oyster and shiitake mushrooms, read Growing Gourmet Mushrooms For Profit.