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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 13, 2002

Korea native cultivates market for mushrooms

By Ericka Pizzillo
Bellingham Herald

Fred Park of Yung Hoon Corp. looks at his latest crop of enoki mushroooms grown at his plant in Ferndale, Wash. The delicate mushrooms will be sold at grocery stores and Asian markets under the name Royal Enoki.

Associated Press

FERNDALE, Wash. — Fred Park pulls a jar from the several thousand that line the carts in a temperature-controlled room at a warehouse on Portal Way.

Tall strands with rounded, creamy white caps shoot out from the tops of plastic containers. It's just days before the delicate enoki mushrooms will be harvested and sold at grocery stores and Asian markets throughout Western Washington and Canada, under the name Royal Enoki.

Some of Park's mushrooms also are distributed under the Ostrom Mushroom Farm name to larger grocery stores such as Haggen and Fred Meyer.

Raising one batch of enoki mushrooms takes around 60 days as ever-cooling temperatures in the refrigerated rooms spark the growing process.

Park, a native of Korea and now a Canadian citizen, grew button mushrooms in the Aldergrove, British Columbia, area for 17 years. But he wanted to take advantage of new markets for specialized mushrooms, where there is little competition.

British Columbia already has an enoki mushroom grower, so Park decided to set up shop in the United States and market his mushrooms here. For now, though,

60 percent of his crop is sold in Canada. Park is working on marketing plans to sell more of his crop in the United States.

Growing enoki mushrooms starts with a delicate process of removing "spawn" — tiny spores that eventually grow into mushrooms, from the healthiest mushrooms in previous crops.

The microscopic spores are removed from under the mushroom caps in a laboratory on the site and reproduced.

The spawn are then put into jars containing a mixture of sawdust and wheat bran that's been sanitized in a high-temperature autoclave to remove any bacteria that could overtake the mushrooms during the growing process. No soil, compost or chemicals are used. The wheat bran, commonly known as a health additive to food, is essentially the fertilizer that helps the mushrooms grow.

The spawn create mycelium, web-like strands that grow down into the sawdust and wheat bran mixture.

The fleshy part of the mushroom doesn't start its growth until after the jars are sprayed with water and put into a room, which employees will make colder during the following several weeks.

Anywhere from 300 to 500 individual mushrooms are grown inside one of the jars.

And with up to 2,400 jars per room, up to 1.2 million mushrooms can be grown in each of the batches started every few days at Park's company, Yung Hoon Corp.

The growing process can be interrupted at any time if bacteria take over. That proved to be a definite problem when Park first started his growing operation — the first batches were overwhelmed by other fungi and bacteria that fed on the fledgling mushrooms.

After making a number of changes to the process, including finding just the right temperature in the autoclave, Park has gotten just the right fungi to grow.

Park said he hopes the American public will get to know enoki, instead of passing by the cute, but mysterious mushroom on the grocery store shelves.

The mushrooms are best used fresh in salads, but can also be sauteed with meat or used in soups. They are high in vitamin C and niacin.