Hudders to partner with store

Published 1:37 pm Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A collection of certified organic and certified biodynamic shiitake and oyster mushrooms may soon be available at Twigs & Berries come this spring and summer, according to Twigs & Berries owner Marianne Cicala and Eugene Hudders, who specializes in mycology and mushroom identification.

Cicala said she and Hudders first discussed beginning a partnership in the summer.

“He’s one of the few people in the state that has accomplished all of the mandates for the state to be comfortable with his gathering wild mushrooms for sale,” Cicala said. “He’s brilliant as far as his depth of mushroom (knowledge) go.”

Cicala said he is foraging and gathering wild mushrooms throughout the Crickets Cove Farm property in addition to growing the shiitake and oyster mushrooms.

Cicala said the Crickets Cove property, including fields and forests, is certified organic and certified biodynamic.

“That’s the main reason for the collaboration,” Cicala said. “The mushrooms that Gene is cultivating here are certified organic and certified biodynamic, and he will be cultivating the only certified biodynamic mushrooms available from the state of Virginia.”

“I mean this is huge,” Cicala said.

Hudders, of Broadnax, said the moment he started becoming fascinated by and started studying mushrooms was close to 10 years ago when his friend had cooked him a morel mushroom.

“I was skeptical at first,” Hudders said. “Because I knew nothing about wild mushrooms. Basically he cooked it up, and he gave it to me and I was floored, because it tasted just like a well-seasoned filet mignon.”

“It just jump-started it right there,” Hudders said about his interest in mushrooms.

This introduction to the varied characteristics of mushrooms, both edible and not, inspired him to seek out what wild mushrooms grew in the forests and fields of Virginia.

He researched mycology, the study of mushrooms, and in April had received his 5-year certification for Wild Mushroom Safety from Mushroom Mountain, a privately owned mycology research facility in Easley, South Carolina.

The certification process has been approved by the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Georgia Department of Public Health, according to the certification provided by Hudders.

Hudders said his partnership with Twigs & Berries will be his first attempt to cultivate mushrooms of his own. He said the mushrooms are currently growing at Crickets Cove Farm.

Hudders said the shiitake and oyster mushrooms he is growing will start to form when the weather warms up, he estimates by early spring.

“Mushrooms require very strict environmental conditions,” Hudders said. “Moisture, shade, sun, all of those aspects, and every single mushroom is different.”

He said he has started a 50-log operation, meaning that the mushrooms will grow within and outside logs placed on the Crickets Cove property. The logs, called “bolts” according to Hudders, are approximately 100 pounds each and about 4 feet long. He said he is using oak wood for the shiitake and tulip poplar wood for the oyster mushrooms.

“Oysters require a very soft wood,” Hudders said about the process, “which can be tulip poplar, birch, and a couple of other trees. But shiitake requires a very hard wood, and oak is a very dense wood they love very much.”