It’s not where you’d expect to find gourmet mushrooms growing.
Deep inside the industrial park in Summerside, P.E.I., is a row of shipping containers. At any given time, one of the containers is full of fungi — king oyster, cinnamon cap, lion’s mane and blue oyster mushrooms among them.
Darren Tran and his family came to P.E.I. from Vietnam about a year ago. He’s the owner of 2B Green Farm, a business which is looking to make the market for gourmet mushrooms bloom on the Island.
Tran says he wanted to begin the farm in shipping containers, and then continue growing the business as demand for the product expands.
“Like any kind of new business, we are starting small. Then we see the customer demand and the feedback from them,” Tran said.
You can find the mushrooms on sale at the farmer’s markets in Charlottetown and Summerside, as well as a couple of small grocery stores.
Gourmet mushrooms are a staple in many Asian recipes, Tran said. But when the family arrived on P.E.I., he couldn’t easily find them.
“We love the benefits of these mushrooms and that’s why we would like to grow the high-quality, gourmet mushroom, which we haven’t had in the market yet,” he said.
Tran said mushrooms are packed with vitamins and nutrients, and have been shown to be good for your brain and digestion.
He said many of the ones he grows are great for stir-fries or to put in soups, salads, and hot pots.
More dense mushrooms can be used on pizza or sliced and fried, like a piece of meat in butter.
The shipping containers where the company grows the mushrooms are kept clean to protect the product.
To go inside and see the mushrooms, you have to put on a lab coat, mask, and clean boots.
Perfect mushroom conditions
Once you’re inside one of the containers, it feels like you’re in a forest just after a rain: The humidity is around 83 per cent, and the temperature is between 15 to 18 C.
There’s a bit of diffused light reflecting off the green, plastic-covered walls.
The mushrooms spend one month in one container, and are harvested regularly when they’re ready.
After a month, the company starts a new crop of mushrooms in a second container, and sanitize the first one.
The shelves are lined with plastic containers full of substrate, which is where the mushrooms grow in.
Tran said the substrate contains things like sawdust, bran, soybean and corn. It’s sterilized and inoculated with different types of mushrooms.
Tran said he’s been harvesting about once a week on Fridays.
Our community love the U-pick culture here, and I love it too.– Darren Tran
As for the future, he’s hoping to find some agricultural land so they can expand.
“Our community love the U-pick culture here, and I love it too. So our vision to have land with trees around, and have U-pick areas in the summer time. For winter time, I’m sure we have to go inside,” he said.
Tran had some experience growing mushrooms before he arrived on the Island.
“My uncle have a big farm in Vietnam, and I had a passion to learn from him,” Tran said.
“I learned from his business. And that’s why when we are here, we would like to bring the concept and the business plan here.”
Tran said they moved to the Island through the provincial nominee program’s work permit stream — and that he’s happy to have settled in the area.
“They allow us to run our business here in Summerside and we are thankful for their support and for welcoming us here,” he said.
Tran said they’re already getting calls from seasonal restaurants for the upcoming season.
“Some of the tourism area they are starting contacting us, and our Island is the tourist Island … I hope they will come with great demand and we pick up more and more,” he said.