Hazeldell Mushroom Farms
Watsonville, CA 95706

Location, Location, Location . . .
Jim Hammond the owner of Hazeldell Mushrooms started his current business in 1980 by growing "exotic" mushrooms in his garage. He soon outgrew his garage and moved his operation into a small a warehouse, where he continued to grow exotic mushrooms for the next 10 years. By 1990, consumer appetites for unusual mushrooms were growing at such a rapid pace that Jim finally had to move into larger quarters to keep up with demand. He was fortunate to have located a 75,000 sq. ft. shut-down white button mushroom facility in Watsonville, in northern Monterey County, that now serves as the home of the Hazeldell Mushroom Company.

The greatest advantage of this warehouse is it's location, a ¼ mile from the Pacific Ocean. Steady ocean breezes and the notorious Northern California coastal fog, don't let outside temperatures rise much above 60° throughout the year. Although these aren't ideal conditions for visitors, the mushrooms love it!

Hazeldell's Exotic Varieties
Mushrooms that are grown indoors have no seasonality. So you'll reliably find the four exotic varieties Jim that grows available on a steady year-round basis. He also sells brown and white cap mushrooms, which are grown at the San Martin Mushroom Farm near Gilroy:

(Large - $7.50/lb.)
(Regular - $ 5.00/lb.)
This variety of mushroom takes the longest to reach maturity which is why the price is typically higher than those of other mushrooms. It has a strong beefy, woody flavor.
Tree Oyster
($ 3.50/lb)
These delicate mushrooms grow very quickly. They are mild flavored and soft textured so it's best to use this mushroom in dishes that are not highly seasoned.
King Pleurotus
($ 5.00/lb.)
This is a medium-fast grower which is has a firm texture and nutty flavor.
Bear's Head
($ 5.00/lb.)
The bear's head mushroom looks like a small cauliflower. It has a light "seafood flavor" and is best diced and sautéed.
White Cap
A standard medium-sized white cap mushroom.
Brown Cap
Like the white cap mushroom, but with a "woodsy" flavor.

Exotics Grow in Plastic Bags
In nature, mushrooms typically grow on hardwood trees in relatively humid environments. To simulate that environment in a commercial growing operation, Jim uses red oak sawdust as the growing medium, which he collects from local cabinet shops and saw mills. The sawdust is first mixed with water and steamed to sterilize it. It's then put into gallon-size plastic bags and injected with mushroom fungus. The bags are stored at 75° until the fungus begins to colonize. After the fungus colonizes, the temperature is lowered to 60° to encourage the mushroom colonies to "sprout". Depending on the type of mushroom, it takes from 5 - 15 weeks after sprouting for a mushroom to grow to marketable size. Jim can get 3 - 4 harvests from one colonization. After that, the sawdust is discarded and the process begins again with a fresh batch.

In the warehouse, under dim light conditions, Jim has more than 100,000 plastic bags of mushrooms growing. On average, he harvests about 6,000 lbs. of Shiitakes and Tree Oysters each week and 500 lbs. of the King Pleuortus and Bear's Head.

Let the Mushroom Flavor Come Through
Jim is not a fan of adding a lot of seasonings and flavorings to mushrooms and suggests that the best way to appreciate the full flavor of his "exotic" mushrooms is to simply sauté them with a little olive oil or butter. No elaborate preparations are needed to bring out the flavor of his "exotics".

Where to Find Hazeldell Mushrooms
Opaque plastic tarps, which are draped around Hazeldell's stand at Saturday's Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, create a dark, cave-like atmosphere inside the stand. Although the tarps serve mainly to shield the mushrooms for direct sunlight, the enclosure they create enhances the adventure of entering the Hazeldell stand to forage for exotic mushrooms.

About 1/3 of the Hazeldell's mushrooms find their way to farmers' markets around the Bay Area, including San Francisco's Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market every Saturday throughout the year. The other 2/3's are sold through wholesalers and are shipped as far east as Chicago.

November 1996

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