A cross-section of forest floor in every jar

 White mycelium, the "root system" of a mushroom, begins to work its way through the oak sawdust and other organic materials we use to grow our mushrooms

White mycelium, the "root system" of a mushroom, begins to work its way through the oak sawdust and other organic materials we use to grow our mushrooms

Gourmet Mushrooms' CEO David Law was giving a tour of our farm to some guests recently when he said, "What we have here is the most productive part of the forest floor contained in thousands of bottles."

Here's the math: 650,000 bottles are packed with substrate. Substrate is our growing medium -- a reproduction of the forest "duff." In nature it is twigs, leaves, rotten wood and other organic matter. At our farm it is oak sawdust and other plant materials. Each jar has an area about 65 millimeters in diameter which is the surface of the jar's "forest floor." It extends about eight inches deep, the height of the jar. In each jar as they grow you can see both the oak shavings and the mushroom primordia. The primordia are sometimes called pinheads, the beginning stages of development.

The surface area of each jar is a little over five square inches. With up to 650,000 bottles growing at one time, this comes to over 300,000 square inches, or 23,000 square feet, about half an acre. Not a lot of ground, but the most productive half-acre a mushroom forager could ever hope to find. You might have to hike across dozens of acres of forest to find these perfect little eco-systems where mushrooms find the right conditions to flourish. Our harvesters are very glad that we brought the forest to them!