When Ken and Ashleigh Harris, owners of Michigan Mushroom Market, introduced their hand-picked mushrooms to area farmers markets, they knew they found their niche.
"You don't typically see mushrooms at farmers markets," said Ashleigh. Because of this, demand for their mushrooms and products are high.
Year round, Michigan Mushroom Market sets up shop at Charlevoix, Petoskey and Harbor Springs farmers markets. Depending on supply and the season, it's occasionally available at the Boyne City and Traverse City farmers markets.
The Harrises founded Michigan Mushroom Market about two and a half years ago. "It evolved over a few years," said Ashleigh. Ken had hunted wild mushrooms for 20 years before founding their business, learning all he could from books, online and fellow mushroom-hunters.
Ashleigh keeps the business organized and up to code, which is no easy feat considering the paperwork involved.
Upon contacting the Department of Agriculture and fulfilling certain requirements (including a class), Ken became one of a few certified sellers of wild mushrooms in the state of Michigan. The Harrises' kitchen is also fully licensed to dehydrate, process and provide mushroom-based products for public consumption.
The majority of their work occurs outside of the home and market.
Mushroom season ranges from April to early November. Ken and Ashleigh forage for wild mushrooms five to six days every week during the prime season; some days, they hunt for 12-14 hours.
"It's a tough business, that's for sure," said Ashleigh.
When it comes to the quantity and quality of mushrooms, "we're at Mother Nature's mercy," Ashleigh said. "You never know what's going to happen."
However, Ken's background and knowledge of the mushroom varieties, their preferences and the territory gives them an edge in finding them.
In addition to fresh wild mushrooms, Michigan Mushroom Market also produces mushroom-based products. These include wild mushroom-herb garlic butter, oyster mushroom and herb chowder, lobster mushroom-tomato/herb bisque, cream of wild mushroom soup and dried mushroom stock.
Their products are currently available at local farmers markets or online. "Year by year we plan to expand," said Ashleigh, with the ultimate goal of opening a cafe-type storefront business for specialty and gourmet mushroom products. Ashleigh is also in the process of compiling a mushroom recipe book.
For more information on Michigan Mushroom Market, call Ashleigh Harris at (231) 838-0858 or visit www.michiganmushroommarket.weebly.com.
Asparagus and Morels
2-3 tablespoons butter (olive oil may be used if preferred)
1/2 pound fresh morels, sliced lengthwise
1-2 bunches chopped fresh asparagus
2 medium tomatoes, sliced or chopped (optional)
2 cloves minced garlic
Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, morels and asparagus; add tomatoes last. Cook until morels are browned and asparagus is tender, usually 8 to 10 minutes.