Growing mushrooms at Kennesaw State

Published in FSD Update

During a university tour, I saw the simple and fascinating process of growing shiitakes.

I’ve long believed in the adage, “You should learn something new every day.” One of the joys of this job is that it frequently puts me in touch with operators who, through their innovation, talent or simple desire to always improve, show me things I hadn’t known.

I had several of those moments during my visits in the Atlanta area earlier this month. But few were as fascinating as the mushroom “plot” I saw at Kennesaw State University (KSU).

I love mushrooms. I’ve seen them grow in the wild and I’ve been to a mushroom farm in Pennsylvania where they grow the white button mushrooms that are so prevalent in supermarkets and on chain restaurant menus.

But I’d never really given any thought to the commercial growing of exotic mushrooms such as shiitake, morel and portobello. So when I took a tour of the farm operated by Culinary and Hospitality Services (C&HS) at Kennesaw State University, I was intrigued to see the sign, heading a path that led off into the woods, advertising mushrooms.

I followed Gary Coltek, director of C&HS, Robin Taylor, Farm to Campus to Farm Manager, and Michael Blackwell, assistant farm manager, down the path to a row of logs, stacked against the horizontal trunk of a giant red oak. Popping out of the logs were shiitake mushrooms. Most were small, but there was one the size of a large portobello cap. Mike Blackwell explained the simple growing process:

“After letting the logs sit for a few weeks to make sure there are no fungicides left, you inoculate the logs [drilling holes and injecting spores into the holes using oak dowels] and wait.”

It takes several months for the spores to take hold, but once they do the mushrooms sprout rather quickly. Blackwell says that usually within two or three days the mushrooms are large enough to be harvested and used in KSU’s Dining Commons.

So now I know.

Keywords: 
sustainability

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
ranch dressing chicken fingers

While salad bars are often the first place K-12 operators look to incorporate more fresh produce, few go as far as making their own salad dressings. But last fall, in a continuing effort to transition from prepackaged meals to an all-scratch menu, Mark Augustine, executive chef of culinary and nutrition services for Minneapolis Public Schools, switched to concocting four varieties in-house—ranch, Caesar, Italian and Asian vinaigrette. The move, designed to eliminate artificial ingredients and lower fat and sodium, presented the biggest challenge when it came to ranch dressing, the school-...

Ideas and Innovation
business card

We get the new folks abridged business cards saying, “Hi, my name is so-and-so and I work in nutrition department.” We thought it would give them more ownership of the program and elevate their status and position in the organization. It also gives our team more self-confidence and self-worth as an employee, which can be a challenge with foodservice workers.

Ideas and Innovation
tug hospital robot

Automation has opened up in recent years as foodservice operators across the country grapple with labor shortages. Robots deliver food trays to patients in hospitals, and they make sushi on college campuses. For some operators, they’re worthwhile to reduce strain on human employees and increase productivity.

Robots roamed the hallways when the University of California San Francisco Medical Center’s new Mission Bay campus opened last year. Though these robots have nicknames like Wall-E and Tuggie McFresh, they’re not a novelty. They’re a solution to a problem that administrators...

Ideas and Innovation
sandwich sub

At our corporate operation in the Kohl’s headquarters, two kinds of sandwiches are available daily—an artisan version and a more straightforward sub. While planning out a business model for the space, Kohl’s wanted something that was quality driven, but very sensitive to pricing for associates. Diners are comfortable spending about $6 to $7 for lunch.

FSD Resources