About Mushroom Mountain
Mushroom Mountain is an organization committed to preserving the natural world with a particular focus on the vital role of mushrooms within the natural cycle. They provides a wide range of products and services including high quality spawn, fruiting kits, mushroom related gifts and books. Additionally, they conducts workshops and farm tours to educate visitors and growers about fungi. Their ultimate mission is to disseminate spores as widely and frequently as possible, in an effort to enhance our planet’s stewardship. Mushroom Mountain also maintains a comprehensive website where users can find information, make purchases, and seek guidance on their own mushroom-growing journeys. Check out our recent interview below with their founder, Olga Katic.
Interview with Olga Katic
- How did you personally start your journey into the world of mushrooms?
My journey started when I was quite young. One of my earliest memories is when I ate a bunch of poisonous mushrooms, right out of the grass I was playing in. Luckily my mom saw me do it, and she intervened. Back in those days, we grew most of our food, my grandma lived right across the street, and she had a massive garden, cows, chickens, pigs, you name it. My parents were at work, while my sister and I were outdoors all day long under the watch of grandma. We explored, picked wild fruit and mushrooms. We were told not to eat any mushrooms before they were inspected, so we would bring them back, and grandpa would go through them. The good ones, we cooked on the woodburning stove, gills up, salted. While the mushrooms were cooking, all the juices would pool into the mushroom, and that salty water, we drank that. That was the best part.
- Can you please give us a brief history about Mushroom Mountain?
Mushroom Mountain was actually someone else’s dream. But I made it a reality with the financial help of my parents. I was a web designer at the time, I made Mushroom Mountain visible online. I actually built the first two websites myself. In 2007, I moved with my ex partner up to SC, where Mushroom Mountain is located at the moment. These days, I run it on my own, and it is better than ever. My team is growing, and I could not be happier with the people I have surrounded myself with. Coming to work every day is a joy!
- What is your most rewarding aspect when running your mushroom workshops? What drives you, Olga?
I love to see people walk away with all this amazing knowledge about growing mushrooms, and then seeing them continue their own mushroom growing journey. I enjoy getting emails all the time with pictures of mushrooms fruiting in all kinds of ways: logs, on straw, on sawdust, woodchips.
- What is the most unusual mushroom you have ever cultivated? Do you forage too?
I would have to say all mushrooms are so super unusual, the way they grow. They literally break down woody substrate, and use it as food. Doesn’t that sound weird? To me it does, LOL! But it doesn’t end there. They also grow on insects. And they are mycorrhizal, which means they work together with the roots of trees to exchange information and nutrients. They connect trees and other plants, which helps them communicate with one another. There is evidence of healthy trees using mushroom mycelium as a pathway to feed other smaller trees that don’t get enough light, or even trees that have been cut down. Some plants like certain woodland orchids would not even be able to exist without fungi, because they need the fungus to crack open their seed, therefore allowing it to germinate.
But to answer your question, the funnest mushroom I have recently grown is wood ears on logs. 🙂 I do forage very often. Foraging is my life. You should see my yard, it is a foraging haven. I don’t spray any chemicals, and I don’t cut my grass very often. I share my yard with many pollinating insects. In the springtime I mostly forage for plants, and morels of course. Summertime is for chanterelles and other fun fungi, and the fall is for maitake and other fungi friends. Wintertime, I look for turkey tail, lion’s mane etc.
- What has been the biggest challenge for Mushroom Mountain in the mushroom industry? How did you overcome it?
For me, there are no such things as challenges. Those types of events are opportunities to recalculate, grow and change. One of those opportunities for growth and change is when I decided to cease growing fresh mushrooms for the market. We were too small to produce enough mushrooms that the market needed from us, and on top of that being organically certified, our costs were getting too high for production. But we are excelling in other areas, like our spawn production is pretty much perfect now, our contamination rates are almost null. We are expanding our wholesale department, and with that also building a brand new larger lab. The current lab is hopefully going to become a space for something I just started dabbling in, but I can’t give it away yet. It is super exciting though. It does have to do something with mushroom medicine. Keep your fingers crossed.
- From your workshops and classes, what are the most common questions that people ask you?
Is it edible? 🙂
- Where do you see the mushroom foraging industry heading? Or perhaps, the mushroom industry in general?
I see more people every year being interested in mushrooms as food, medicine, and looking at opportunities to use mushrooms to clean up our unfortunately dirty planet. More and more research is coming out about amazing things that mushrooms can do, and it is nowhere close to stopping.
- Your grow kits and medicinal mushroom Mycomatrix product range look fantastic. What is your favourite medicinal mushroom and why?
I have a few and I will tell you why. Reishi is an amazing mushroom. It can help reduce inflammation. And we all know that most diseases start with inflammation of tissues in our bodies. Reishi is also great for allergies, sleep, your heart health, and so many other things. No wonder its nickname is Mushroom of Immortality
Then we have cordyceps. It gives me energy. I am 45 now, and I watch my daughter just bounce around the whole day. She is running all over, and constantly moving. I see that, and I go. Wow. I wish I could have that type of energy. And cordyceps doesn’t make me bounce like my kiddo, but I do go activities with her, like roller blading after working all day.
Last but not least is the Lion’s mane. Have you ever seen what lion’s mane looks like? It is so cool. White, soft, spiny ball of medicinal goodness. Lion’s mane is said to form new neural pathways in your brain. It is said to regenerate new neurons. It is said that it can help people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and depression. But not only can it be beneficial for your brain, it can also make a difference for your gut. Did you know that your gut has its own nervous system, separate from the brain? Did you also know that 95% of your serotonin is produced by your intestines, and not in your brain. This is why we need to take care of our guts. We need to stop eating all this over processed garbage that we chose over healthy fruits and vegetables. And we need to eat more mushrooms like lion’s mane.
- The use of psilocybin to treat depression, PTSD and addiction is growing in popularity, and 10 years ago I personally had a long-lasting positive experience with psilocybin cubensis. What are your thoughts on this within the medicinal mushroom industry?
I believe that therapeutic psilocybin use under the care of a qualified trip sitter, and a therapist is definitely the future for any type of ailments like depression, PTSD, addiction, cluster headaches, etc. Based on research done by the John Hopkins University recently, use of magic mushrooms could also offer peaceful end of life experiences for the dying. How awesome will it be when these mushrooms provided to us by the earth can replace many man made medications, which could and most of the times do have long lasting negative side effects.
- If you could choose one, what is the most interesting discovery or fact of mushrooms that you would like to share?
My favourite and interesting mushroom discovery is that fungi are genetically closer to humans than plants.