Austen Brinker, a professional stand-up comedian, did a major pivot in early 2021 after the pandemic shut down entertainment venues.
“That March I started getting serious about growing edible gourmet mushrooms,” he said. “It was a hobby I had started in college.”
That was 2015 when he was a student at University of Colorado in Boulder, where he majored in finance and operations management. Fast-forward to 2022 and he is back to doing stand-up gigs — bringing along the mushrooms from his successful business to sell after the show.
What started in his garage has become an urban farm called Fungus Farm Colorado, located in a 1,600-square-foot office building on Fillmore Street.
“It doesn’t take much space to grow mushrooms since the plants are placed on rolling vertical shelves,” Brinker said. “In the off season, I produce about 100 pounds a week. In the peak summer season, I can get about 200 pounds in this new space.”
That’s a lot of product for something that weighs hardly anything when harvested. If the mushrooms are dried, they weigh even less.
He began selling them at farmers markets — and he ramps up production in spring and summer in order to sell his products there. Now his customers range from vegans and chefs to small grocery stores.
“I sell pounds of them to vegans,” he said. “They have umami, the meat-like flavor.”
He recommends the king trumpet and lion’s mane for meat substitutes.
“King trumpets have the flavor and texture of meat,” Brinker said. “They are great grilled. The lion’s mane is great to use in crab cake-like recipes. Those two are my best sellers.”
He also cultivates oyster, black pearl king, shiitake and pioppini mushrooms, his personal favorite.
“I leave them whole and sauté them in butter, and just pick them up and eat them like asparagus,” he said.
You can find Fungus Farm Colorado mushrooms at Ranch Foods Direct, and in Woodland Park at Mountain Naturals and Butcher Block. You can also make an appointment to buy them at his retail outlet, and Brinker will give you a tour of the facility too. He makes city deliveries on Tuesdays for customers in the north and Wednesdays for customers in the south. For more info: 719-492-0547, fungusfarmcolorado.com.
Contact the writer: 636-0271.