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Mushroom magic: Llano couple’s fungi farm is a blooming business

Ricky and Lisa Grant

Ricky and Lisa Grant show off the varieties of exotic mushrooms they grow at their home, just a few blocks from downtown Llano. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Ricky and Lisa Grant, the husband-and-wife team behind Enchanted Mushrooms, are on a mission to feed their community, promote healthy living, and grow the best darn mushrooms in the Texas Hill Country. Their homegrown fungi farm specializes in exotic mushrooms cultivated just a few blocks from downtown Llano. 

What started as a backyard passion project and third job for Ricky in 2019 has since matured into a fruitful operation capable of producing hundreds of pounds of gourmet mushrooms a week, many of which end up in swanky restaurants across the region. They are also available at the farmers markets in Llano, Spicewood, and Fredericksburg. 

Growing these rare delicacies is a serious business, but at its heart is a desire to make the world a better place, one mushroom at a time.

“It’s really rewarding,” Ricky said. “Our slogan is ‘A taste of well-being.’ This was really big for me. In my mind, one of the biggest worries to everyone is their mental health, and I feel like the best way to make an impact through that is a healthy body.”

Snow oyster mushroom
The snow oyster mushroom, a delicious, highly sought-after variety grown in Llano County. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Grants produce varieties of mushrooms rarely seen anywhere but the best restaurants, such as chestnut, lion’s mane, and a handful of exotic oysters. 

The oyster varieties — snows, black kings, blues, Italians, and goldens — are all highly desired in the culinary world and known for growing quickly with proper care. 

Lion’s mane mushrooms are said to have powerful healing properties and might even help prevent or treat dementia, an added incentive for the Grants to grow and market them. 

“It’s mainly to improve human health and contribute to our community by growing good food,” Ricky said of why he chose mushrooms.

Blue oyster mushroom
The blue oyster mushroom is a delicious, highly sought-after variety favored at classy restaurants across the Hill Country. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

They also make several wellness tinctures, mushroom broths, and probiotic fertilizers for organic gardening. Their products are a reflection of both strategic and organic choices that came about as the business grew. 

Lisa and Ricky met when she was a third-grade teacher in San Saba and he worked maintenance for the Llano Independent School District. 

In the early days of their relationship, Ricky was looking for a new path forward that combined his love of food, mechanical know-how, and strong desire to improve his community. He landed on mushrooms after researching local restaurants, analyzing their menus, and investigating the possible competition. 

“As we dated, he told me, ‘Hey, I want to grow mushrooms,’” Lisa said with a laugh. “I looked at him like he was crazy. ‘OK. Whatever you want to do, I’ll support you no matter what.’”

Once Ricky discovered a market for mushrooms, he built a small greenhouse in his backyard to experiment.

Lion's mane mushroom
The lion’s mane mushroom is medicinal and can be eaten or taken through a tincture that is said to improve cognitive function and even prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

“We ended up with all these mushrooms, like a ton of them,” he said. “We had so many that I got on the phone and started calling restaurants and giving them out to friends.”

From the initial harvest, Ricky realized he was on to something. Restaurant chefs were clamoring for more, so he kept growing.

“I knew it had potential in the beginning,” Ricky said. “It wasn’t just a hobby.”

It took toil, time, and lots of late nights, but the operation sprouted and grew exponentially. Lisa stepped away from her teaching job to join Ricky full time as the workload increased. The Grants now produce over 500 pounds of mushrooms a week, all grown in handcrafted facilities on their property. 

“We’re married, with mushrooms,” Lisa joked.

The mushrooms are grown and harvested by hand in a somewhat secret process. A quick internet search reveals the how-to, but Ricky has developed his own methodologies, recipes, and techniques.

Ricky Grant with lion's mane mushroom
Ricky Grant shows off a large lion’s mane mushroom that has emerged in his fruiting room. These mushrooms are highly sought after for their health benefits and healing properties. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Without revealing classified details, it goes something like this:

  • Mix a literal ton of growing medium, such as oak sawdust and soybean hulls, with secret sauce.
  • Pasteurize that mixture at high heat to sterilize it.
  • Cool it down and introduce your fungus of choice using spawn (fungal spore-covered grain).
  • Seal the spawn-filled mixture in air-tight bags and let it “sleep” in a cool dark place for a while.
  • Move the bags into a well-lit space with high humidity and cut open the bags to let the mixture breathe.
  • The fresh air and humidity trigger the fungus, and after a few days, the mushrooms pop out!

Mushrooms are the “fruit” of a fungus, which is actually a network of tendrils called mycelium that usually live in dark, moist places like soil or rotting logs or leaves. They have a completely different life cycle from plants and animals and require unique attention to flourish.

“One of the things that inspired me was the connection and continuity,” said Ricky, when enumerating the reasons for going with growing mushrooms. “It’s a network. There is so much room for discovery with these mushrooms.”

Lisa wasn’t immune to the charms of fruitful fungus either.

“I thought it was really neat,” she said. “I didn’t really understand his fascination at first, but I grew to love it alongside him.”

WHERE TO FIND ENCHANTED MUSHROOMS

dakota@thepicayune.com