Daniel McClure of Nevada’s Own sat behind packages of dark-capped oyster mushrooms last weekend during opening day of the Fall Farmer’s Market on the heated patio of Bistro7. The market is held Saturdays, 10 a.m.–2 p.m., and the other vendors surrounding McClure featured goods one might expect from Nevada farmers: greens, grassfed beef, free-range eggs. But oyster mushrooms? We thought we’d let McClure explain. (Nevada’s Own is at 264 Artesia Road in Wellington. Learn more at nevadasown.com.)
At Nevada’s Own, you guys grow perennial plants, right?
The nursery has been here since about 1993. We grow perennials that are hardy for our area—the eastern slope of the Sierra.
When did you start growing gourmet mushrooms, and why?
It’s been about two years. Our perennials need to be fertilized, and we have a space in which we do that, that we weren’t utilizing a good nine months out of the year. We were looking for another use for that area, and it turns out mushrooms is what we ended up with. The one we grow has a very short shelf life, so there really isn’t a good way to ship it here from outside of our region, so it was conducive to making a little niche market.
How are these different from what we’d see in the store?
I only know of one store that carries them in town, and that’s Whole Foods, and I don’t know how consistent they are. Those come out of Monterey or Moss Landing area. What we do, we pick in the morning and deliver in the afternoon. So if I’m delivering to the Ritz-Carlton in Tahoe, they get mushrooms that are four hours old. We supply them with something they couldn’t get even in the Bay Area.
Who else carries your mushrooms?
Wolfdales in Tahoe City, Le Bistro in Incline Village, Adele’s in Carson City, Lulou’s in Reno, 4th St. Bistro in Reno, La Strada in Reno, Roxy’s in Reno, and then Bistro7. If people want to go find them, [they’re at] the Great Basin Community Food Coop in Reno. Nothing to It culinary school is interested, and we’ll deliver there next week. In Carson City there’s Hungry Mother Organics on Highway 395. Or people can get them directly from us.
Describe for readers what the mushrooms look like.
Oh wow. They’re a cluster. In nature you’d find them growing on poplars or cottonwoods. Here in Smith Valley, if you talk to the old-timers who grew up in the early 1900s, they grew up picking them. They look like artwork—Mother Nature’s artwork at their best. Most of the chefs that work with them don’t actually do a lot to them. Depending on the maturity, [the caps] go from like a steel blue to a gray depending on the temperatures and light.
What are good culinary uses for them?
They cook extremely fast. They’re often paired with fish. They have a unique flavor—how to describe it?—it comes down to the maturity. The younger they are, the more intense they are. As they gain in size, they kind of mellow a bit. You can tell I’m not very chef-y. For the holidays, we’re pushing a mushroom stuffing. Our family way, our favorite thing is lots of butter, a little bit of garlic, and sauté them up with a little bit of spinach.
You’re the only mushroom farmer I can think of in …
In the state.
The whole state? Why is that?
Nevada’s hot, dry climate is not conducive to mushrooms, and we have a rather unique growing facility. My 7-year-old son refers to it as the bat cave. We just have a unique growing environment. Pretty much everything we do is a little bit different for around here.