A lot of the mushrooms sold at Los Angeles farmers markets come from big coastal commercial growers. These mushrooms are often sold in the non-certified section of the markets, or with a different certification, and they may not exactly comply with what some folks would consider “local.”
There is, however, a truly local, small farm source of mushrooms available to Angelenos: F & F Farms up in Moorpark, about 50 miles north of the city, where part-time grower Fred Ellrott cultivates exquisitely delicious shiitake and oyster mushrooms.
The magic happens inside a 40-foot-long defunct Safeway trailer for which Ellrott—who also runs a refrigeration and air conditioning business—designed a temperature control and misting system, in order to create the ideal climate.
The trailer is equipped with metal racks (mushroom spores would eventually eat through wood). The oyster mushrooms are grown in suspended bags filled with pasteurized straw, while the shiitakes are grown from blocks made of oak sawdust mixed with mushroom spawn and millet. By the time the mushrooms have completed their 6-week growing cycle the blocks are much lighter; Ellrott throws them into a nearby field where they quickly (and safely) break down and decompose.
F & F Farms’ oyster and shiitake mushrooms, at $12 and $16 a pound, respectively, can be found on Thursday at the Thousand Oaks farmers market, on Saturday at the Ventura farmers market, and on Sunday at the Encino and Santa Clarita farmers markets.