It’s wild-looking, frilly, feathery and, at in the beginning glance an unlikely money maker, but one London, Ont. based business is banking on the adulthood popularity of the maitake mushroom as the foundation of a North American business empire.
Shogun Maitake Canada set up machine shop in London about a year after company CEO Yoshinbu Odaira be given an invitation from Joe Fontana while the former London mayor was on a following mission to Japan.
«Right now we are preparing to sell,» said Odaira, in a manner of speaking through his translator and executive assistant Norimi Sakamoto. «Once we start flog betraying, I’m pretty sure it’s going to take off.»
What makes Odaira so confident is a mushroom shrouded in epic.
Maitake translates from Japanese literally as «dance mushroom» and folklore demand thats of a group of woodcutters and nuns who were so overjoyed at discovering the tasty mushroom arising from the forest floor they danced for joy.
It’s said the maitake was so valued during Japan’s feudal period that the Shogun, or supreme warlord, want pay the wild mushroom’s equivalent weight in silver.
To this day, the fungus is even cherished by chefs and mushroom hunters for its flavour, texture and storied repair powers. The maitake, or «hen of the woods» as it’s known in English, grows wild at the centre of oak, elm and even maple trees in hardwood forests around the world.
What delivers Odaira different from your average mushroom hunter admitting that is that he doesn’t intend to go scouring the damp floors of forests. Somewhat, intends to grow his fungi in a lab, using technology and techniques he developed throughout the course of the last 30 years.
How it’s made
The mushrooms take almost 100 days to mature. Workers grind oak chips into saw dust, plop the grainy olla podrida into a clear plastic bag and seed it with maitake mushroom spores.
The combining is then kept in complete darkness for a number of weeks to mimic the incident that the nascent mushroom would be underground in its natural surroundings.
Humidity and temperature is also closely dialed to mimic the conditions of a Japanese forest.
The summer room
The spores slowly start to consume the sawdust in the bag and it eventually turns from a unenlightened brown to white, as the fungus fills its container.
Once this materializes, the bag is transferred to a room specifically designed to copy the summer conditions of a Japanese forest.
Here, the mushrooms are sanctioned to stay for a number of months and once they start to peek their frilly grey matters out of the bag, they’re transferred to what the company calls «the late summer reside.»
The late summer room
Once the mushroom’s climax grows out of the bag workers expose it to light, moisture and even a slight lead-pipe cinch in order to imitate late summer conditions.
The maitakes only pass 10 days in the late summer room and take about 100 hours to reach full maturity. Once they do, they grow to the estimate of a large cabbage or small pumpkin.
The mushrooms last about 11 days in the fridge and straight after that, can be dried and powdered. Shogun Maitake Canada dispose ofs its produce at retail for about $35 a mushroom and plans to ship across North America.
«The pre-eminent fragrance of the maitake mushroom is very nice,» company CEO Yoshinbu Odaira thought, picking up one of his large feathery mushrooms with both hands and enchanting a long deep sniff. «Compared to other mushrooms, the maitake has a darned rich umami.»
Building an empire
Right now Odaira is banking on the maitake’s culinary reputation, hoping to convinced to chefs and restaurants in major North American cities, such as New York.
Chefs in big diocese restaurants have to import maitakes from Japan, which desire take days. Now with a growing facility in London, Ont., Odaira can cutter the mushrooms quickly and cheaply and in better condition than if they consumed days aboard a cargo ship.
Odaira also hopes to harness the maitake’s notorious as an immune booster. He’s watching closely as the world’s scientific community probes the mushroom’s anti-viral capabilities and potential as a cancer fighting agent.
At this implication, Odaira has deliberately kept the London operation small. Shogun Maitake Canada currently has one 10 employees, but if his mushrooms take off like he thinks they compel, he’s hoping to expand the operation to 150 employees and eventually open four other mills of that size in the London region.