The mushroom business is… well… mushrooming for the owners of Maine Cap ‘n Stem in Gardiner. Christopher Campbell, a Portland-area architect, co-started the business with friend Erik Lomen in 2013 after finding a market for the wild mushrooms he and his wife would discover while foraging along Maine’s hiking trails. He said, “Erik started selling the mushrooms to local restaurants and it began to snowball. We thought, what if we grew strains of mushrooms we could sell year-round?”
Their specialized niche is in cultivating the mycelium of different mushroom varieties (similar to seedlings) by adding certain nutrients to spawn-inoculated sawdust to get them going. Then, they sell these “starts” to professional fruiting farms that then grow the full mushrooms and bring them to market. The end customers are supermarkets such as Whole Foods, and finer restaurants across the country.
Christopher said, “There’s a growing appreciation of different mushrooms, not just for flavorful recipes (Shiitakes on meats, Lion’s Mane with morning eggs, Oysters in soups) but also among those interested in natural remedies and health support. The popular varieties change over time. Suddenly Shiitake mushrooms are all the rage. Then something else. Right now, Lion’s Mane is big.”
He added, “The numbers just keep climbing. Restaurants keep climbing. We just happened to be one of the early adopters in Maine as this industry has taken off. And we feel very fortunate.” Christopher noted that the business is happy to offer tours if you’re interested in learning about the mushroom industry.
You can also visit their website to learn more: www.capnstem.com