Edible mushrooms don’t grow well in the dry, scorching desert. However, access to Tucson-grown oyster mushrooms is easier than ever thanks to Sonoran Mushroom Company.
With a background in Washington state in the Columbia Basin area, operation manager John Jacobs Sr. has experimented with growing mushrooms for years, but recently committed to commercial production with SMC in December 2015. Starting with five acres, he didn’t want to focus on anything massive.
“Mushrooms was the best thing I can grow in a small amount of space,” Jacobs said. “In the desert, they have to be grown indoors in a controlled environment.”
Jacobs researched heavily into the availability of mushrooms throughout Arizona and found out there wasn’t a consistent, reliable source.
“Our first restaurant customer was Daniel Scordato at Vivace,” Jacobs said. “He was originally sourcing from a ‘forager lady,’ but she just stopped showing up.”
Jacobs chatted with a mushroom vendor in Phoenix who was just one person complaining about the volume of work and cleaning. He learned that one person trying to make a business out of growing mushrooms is just too much for one person to handle.
Now it’s a family operation with his wife Kay Jacobs helping with packaging, while his son John Jacobs Jr. and daughter-in-law Danielle Jacobs take care of administration.
“His dad was a farmer, said Jacobs Jr. “I’m in tech, but he wanted to get back in farming and growing.”
Nowadays, Jacobs Sr. harvests mushrooms twice every single day. The mushrooms are delivered 6 or 12 hours from the time they were picked. Absolute worst case scenario, the time frame reaches a maximum of 24 hours.
“Chefs love the freshness and quality of the mushrooms,” Jacobs Sr. said. “The first time I bring it to them, they are just in awe.”
While freshness is a top priority for SMC, they are also committed to keeping the mushrooms pesticide-free and herbicide free.
“Next year we’ll get organic certification,” Jacobs Sr. said. “Right now everything we do meets the qualifications, but we still need to go through the process for the certification.”
With such high standards, demand is thankfully enough for SMC to expand their operations soon. They’ll be pushing 10,000 pounds of mushrooms per month by next summer.
While most of their mushrooms are sold to restaurants, SMC hopes to have their mushrooms on the shelves of Basha’s and Whole Foods Market, Jacobs Jr. said. For customers who want their hands on the fresh mushrooms now, SMC has a stand at the weekly Sunday farmers market at St. Phillip’s Plaza. Rincon Market will also carry the mushrooms soon.
Farm operations are unfortunately not open for tours, as the facilities are climate controlled and must remain sterile to avoid contamination.
Their best seller is the bacon mushroom, which has a meaty and smoky flavor. It’s a type of oyster mushroom, which SMC focuses on.
“Oyster mushrooms will be our primary focus for a while because of the commercial viability,” Jacobs Sr. said. “Button and portobello are most commercial and viable, but oyster would be number three.”
To sample some of Sonoran Mushroom Company’s delicacies, visit the St. Phillips Plaza Farmers Market, or one of the Tucson restaurants below.
Restaurants Serving Sonoran Mushroom Company Mushrooms
- Azul Restaurant and Lounge
- Jonathan’s Cork
- PY Steakhouse at the Casino Del Sol
- Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink
- Wild Garlic Grill
- Canyon Ranch
- Agustin Kitchen
- Maynards Market & Kitchen
- Urban Fresh
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