June 9, 2014 6:53 pm

Rare mushrooms turning a big profit for Burlington farm

When you walk inside the Enviro Mushroom Farm in Burlington, it looks like a massive science experiment.

In one room, a staff member is dressed in a white lab coat with his hair and face covered. He is working inside an enclosure transferring liquid from a petri dish to a flask.

He is growing mushrooms but not the average white button mushroom. Instead he is growing King Oyster, Enoki and Cinnamon Caps among others.

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“King Oysters are very tasty,” Anna Sung, an employee at Enviro Mushroom Farm said. “Even kids like these mushrooms. They think it is not mushroom.”

It’s fungus. But it’s been a gold mine for producers.

“When we started in 2001, the revenue was about $500-thousand. But it has grown to almost $8-million now,” Sung said.

But the rare mushrooms are expensive: they can cost up to 30 times more than a basic mushroom.

But foodies and new Canadians are buying them.

“The specialty mushroom have become sort of a gourmet thing right now,” Maureen Atkinson, a global retail advisor with JC Williams Group, said.

“All of the retailers are looking for those kinds of products because the margins in food is very low, and so it’s those unique products that are not as competitive,” says Atkinson

So why do the mushrooms cost more? Producers say a lot of it has to do with production. Global News got to tour the Burlington farm. The entire farm, from the incubating room to the germination room, the growing room and the packing room is controlled and clean. The air, water and temperatures are all controlled so the mushrooms can grow in ideal conditions and stay fresh.

“It’s an environment, that we have to grow this King Oyster, which is very special and therefore requires a lot of cost,” Sung said.

I am not a mushroom fan. I don’t like the texture and I’m not really fond of the taste. But Sung tells me the taste will help explain the cost too.

The last stop in our tour is a kitchen. A staff member is frying up the different varieties of mushrooms. I try all of them – After all I have to see what all the fuss is about. I have to admit, I wasn’t a fan of all the varieties. But I did go back for seconds.

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