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Related links:
Hunt of a different sort when it involves mushrooms (StarTribune, Sept. 10, 2015)
Forest Mushrooms now offers online orders (St. Cloud Times, July 10, 2015) 
Fungal love: Mushrooms fuel man's passion, business (MPR, Feb. 24, 2015)
          Dried mushrooms from Forest Mushrooms.
Forest Mushrooms ready when you are

From shiitake to oyster and much more, Forest Mushrooms of St. Joseph runs biggest fungi operation in state. 

Much as I like wild mushrooms, I leave the foraging to Kevin Doyle, founder and owner of Forest Mushrooms in St. Joseph, Minn.

Doyle and his crew of 12 employees gather chanterelle, morels and trumpet mushrooms on the area’s rolling forested hills. They also grow 3,000 pounds of shiitake and oyster mushrooms each week on their indoor farm, former home to the hogs of nearby St. John’s Abbey. In addition, Doyle sources 20-some varieties of dried mushrooms from around the world to make his Forest Mushrooms Inc. the state’s largest fungi operation with sales nationwide.

His career grew out of a lifelong passion for the woods.

“Growing up, we didn’t have a TV, so I found entertainment exploring nature, and I became a botanist as a kid,” Doyle said.

In his mid-20s, he and several college friends began growing mushrooms in a basement to sell to Twin Cities restaurants. His interest in the business mushroomed while his friends moved on.

On Forest Mushrooms’ indoor farm, the “fruiting rooms” are kept at a controlled temperature and humidity. Here, shiitake and oyster fungi sprout from pasteurized rounds of straw or sawdust that have been inoculated with organic nutrients. The fresh mushrooms are available packaged and in bulk in grocery stores and co-ops throughout the region.

He also packages mushroom combinations, which include a Stir-fry Blend, Forest Blend and Woodland Blend. Each full 1-ounce package provides basic information about the variety (country of origin, history and cooking suggestions). Prices range from $2 for a package of oyster mushrooms to $17.50 for morels.

“Eight to 10 pounds of fresh mushrooms will yield a pound of dried,” Doyle said. So while those dried morels may seem pricey, consider that a pound of fresh morels picked in high season can run close to $50 per pound.

“We screen the dried mushrooms before they’re packaged so you’re not paying for powder or shreds, just the whole mushroom,” said Doyle.

To prepare dried mushrooms, give them a good soak in enough hot water to cover (and save that water because it’s a delicious stock). Treat reconstituted mushrooms just like fresh — in soups, stews, stir-fries and pasta.

Packaged dried mushrooms maintain their quality for years on the shelf, ready for last-minute dinners and unexpected guests.

Find Forest Mushrooms at local food co-ops and grocery stores. For recipes and online availability, see



Hunt of a different sort when it involves mushrooms

Many go mushrooming in spring, but late summer and fall are rewarding, too.
Kevin Doyle of Forest Mushrooms scouts a dead tree for fungi such as chicken of the woods. A basket was filled at the end of the day. Lisa Meyers McClintick / Special to the Star Tribune


Twigs crackled and snapped, green burrs tugged clothing, and the tail of a black Labrador named Clarence tick-tocked as he followed his owner, Kevin Doyle, through the dappled woods of St. Joseph, Minn.

“There,” said Doyle, pointing to a spot of orange-yellow peeking through fallen leaves. “Can you see the chanterelles?”

Hunkering down, he gently examined the bright clusters, looking for fresh caps with rounded edges and the promise of a tasty sauté.

Doyle spends his days cultivating oyster and shitake mushrooms in humid sections of a historic barn. He also sells wholesale and sources edible fungi from across the country for grocers through his business Forest Mushrooms. But as the day winds down, the allure of wild mushrooms coaxes him into the neighboring woods.

“This is more of a sport for me,” he said.

Minnesota mushrooms tend to get the most love in the spring when morels become the annual obsession for foragers hungry for the first score after a long winter. But late summer and fall are when the woods yield the biggest array of Minnesota mushrooms ripening and ready for frying pans and appetites.

Doyle, 59, has been hunting his property and a neighbor’s rolling acres for 15 years. He knows when and where to look among the earthy, leaf-littered slopes, specific trees and rotting stumps for varieties such as black trumpets, maitake (also known as hen of the woods, not to be confused with chicken of the woods), hedgehog, lobster and porcini mushrooms. In mid-August he found himself scrambling home at dusk with a motherlode: close to 26 pounds of orange-and-red-striated chicken of the woods that sprouted like a ruffled multi-tiered shelf on an oak tree.

“I get kind of fanatical when the pickings are really good,” he said. “I can’t stop.”

Fungi fascinations

It’s an addiction that strikes many, a seasonal urge to forage and revel in the finds.

Kathy Yerich, co-author of “Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest: A Simple Guide to Common Mushrooms” with Teresa Marrone, remembers seeing chicken of the woods growing on one of her grandma’s trees in Forest Lake.

“People used to drive by and ask if they could have it,” she said. When she finally tried it herself, she also won over her husband — who’s not always eager to eat new foods — by serving pasta and meaty bits of mushroom.

“It really does look like chicken meat,” she said.

Chicken of the woods sparked her interest and led her to join the Minnesota Mycological Society, which has close to 330 members with a core group of experts who host weekly forays into the forest throughout the summer and fall.

“It’s scary to go by yourself for the first time,” Yerich said.

A typical foray, usually on public lands or in state and regional parks, includes breaking into small groups for a morning hunt, she said. Everyone brings back their finds, and the more expert members can help examine gills and pores, caps and stems and other fungi details needed for the right identification. Then, there is an afternoon hunt for anyone hungry for more.

Some society members focus on visual finds, collecting photos of bizarre fungi such as aptly named “dead man’s fingers” and delicate coral mushrooms. Amanita muscaria mushrooms look fairy tale-like with orange or reddish caps and white speckles. As citizen scientists, society members log what grows in Minnesota and add to mycological databases.

For other members, it’s about edible finds, such as hen of the woods (also known as sheep’s head), which is starting to show up with cooler late-summer nights. Yerich especially enjoys its firm, meaty texture and its earthy, classic mushroom taste. Often growing at the base of trees, it’s a little like chicken of the woods in that it can be a sizable score, weighing 5 to 10 pounds.

Mycological Society members Sarah Foltz Jordan and her husband, Nick Jordan, also love spending a day searching the woods for tasty finds such as black trumpets, and sometimes take along their 5-year-old son. They offer a few mushroom workshops each year, usually including a guided foray and cooking demonstrations with mushrooms.

“I think there’s a growing interest in local food in general,” Foltz Jordan said. “Trying wild foods is a great way to go. It’s kind of like a lost knowledge.”

Forage carefully

Even certified experts such as Doyle don’t know every one of the approximately 5,000 varieties of fungi that grow in Minnesota. There are plenty of non-descript “LBM’s” — little brown mushrooms — he simply passes by on the hunt for something more appetizing.

Coming across a deceptively innocent-looking solo mushroom, conversation turns ominous.

“That’s called a destroying angel,” he said. “A third of that will kill a person. It looks nice and white, but you’d need a liver transplant. That’s the only way to survive it.”

The bottom line: Don’t mess with mushrooms. Stick with what you know — or enjoy for that matter. One person’s favorite mushroom may be too chewy, stringy or tough for someone else.

“Just because something’s not toxic doesn’t mean it is edible,” Doyle said. And while it’s crucial to safely identify the tastiest mushrooms, it takes more experience to watch the weather for rain that can trigger growth, and to be able to harvest mushrooms at just the right stage when they’re still young and moist but not soggy, overripe and musty or dried out by wind.

Doyle carefully sliced stems of brilliantly colored chanterelles, examined them, and cast off those with too many tunnels up the stem, which signals bug infestation — a problem for many hunters this season.

The Jordans are often asked if harvesting wild mushrooms will hurt the plant, but it shouldn’t if you take a good knife for cleanly cutting the mushroom stem rather than pulling it from the soil or a tree.

“The bulk of the mushroom is underground,” said Foltz Jordan, and it should fruit annually. “Picking a mushroom is like picking an apple off a tree.”

Good mushroom etiquette also requires using a mesh bag or a ventilated basket for collecting them. It keeps air circulating and lets mushroom spores drop and scatter into the woods, planting more mushrooms and ensuring a fresh treasure hunt for future foragers.

“[Collecting mushrooms] opens up a whole new world of wild edibles,” Foltz Jordan said. “They’re tastes and textures you can’t get in the grocery store.”

Lisa Meyers McClintick, St. Cloud-based author of “Day Trips From the Twin Cities,” writes about travel and the outdoors.

Link to the story on the Star Tribune site here.



Fungal love: Mushrooms fuel man's passion, business

by Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio, February 24, 2015
Dan Olson reports and produces Minnesota Sounds and Voices for MPR News.
Listen to the story here at and look for the "Listen" link

Kevin Doyle, who founded Forest Mushrooms in 1985, holds a log of shiitake mushrooms nearly ready for harvest on Feb. 4, 2015, at his farm in St. Joseph, Minn. 
Kevin Doyle tells mushroom stories the way anglers talk about landing the big one. Once, during a walkabout on his farm, he came across a giant grifola frondosa, or hen-of-the-woods mushroom. "It looks like a hen with its feathers ruffled up," he recalled excitedly. "The biggest one I've picked is 38 pounds. They're huge." Mushrooms have been very good to Doyle. What began more than 30 years ago as a way to make a living off his natural sciences degree has, well, mushroomed into a huge indoor farming operation growing 3,000 pounds of mushrooms a week, year round, on 20 acres of rolling, forested hills in Stearns County that once housed the St. John's Abbey hog farm.
Kevin Doyle grows his oyster mushrooms in this former hog barn on a farm that once belonged to St. John's University. 
Forest Mushrooms is now the state's largest mushroom grower. Doyle, 58, and his 11 full time employees grow two kinds of mushrooms: the relatively bland tasting oyster and the more distinctive shiitake. And while the product is a fungus, a recent walk through the operation shows it's more like a clean room with the smell of a forest floor. The rooms are washed constantly, well lit and clean, with a temperature of 65 degrees and 93 percent relative humidity.
Shiitake mushrooms 
The mushrooms sprout from pasteurized rounds of straw or sawdust. The rounds run about the size of a big bread loaf and they're laced with organic nutrients. Fresh air to help the oxygen-gulping fungi grow gushes through nozzles from a plastic tube suspended from the ceiling of the growing rooms. The air from the outdoors has been humidified and heated or cooled depending on the season, with water droplets removed. Doyle says the cellulose and lignin digesting mushrooms consume oxygen and emit carbon dioxide.
Oyster mushrooms 
Doyle did not set out to be a mushroom magnate, but he did have a love for all things natural. There was no TV in his house growing up. Instead Doyle's parents supplied him and his seven siblings with lots of books for reading, catering to their interests. He remembers long rambles over hill and dale. "The outdoors was my TV...and it was a big adventure to just go out and walk through the woods." Doyle finished college at St. John's University with a bachelor's degree in natural science, which included botany courses. He landed a job as a University of Minnesota researcher, exploring alternatives to fossil fuels as oil prices spiked. But as oil prices stabilized Doyle guessed the federal funding for alternative fuels research would decline and he'd soon be out of a job.
Kevin Doyle's oyster mushrooms are grown on hanging, straw-filled bags. 
He began exploring other lines of work. He remembers stepping into an office lobby as he waited for a friend to join him for lunch and leafing through a National Research Council journal he found on a nearby table devoted to economies in developing countries. There along with the other articles was a short chapter on mushroom growing.
Oyster mushrooms 
Doyle says his curiosity led him to other publications explaining how to grow mushrooms in mediums made of straw and sawdust, both abundant in Minnesota. He landed a job in a central Minnesota cabinet making business but the mushroom growing idea stayed with him and was fueled over beers with a grad student friend, who needed to create a hypothetical business for a course assignment.
Forest Mushrooms owner Kevin Doyle shows off a pasteurized straw bale on which his oyster mushrooms grow. 
Doyle suggested a mushroom business. This was about 1983, he recalls, and with his friend's input Doyle began amassing a library about growing mushrooms and learned there was no one else he could find in Minnesota who was doing it. He enlisted friends from his college days to join him as partners in a mushroom business. He says some training in drafting helped him create small tables for raising the fungi, and they started their operation in the basement of a home in Ham Lake, where he and the partners harvested mushrooms and sold directly to Twin Cities restaurants. Doyle says he was 27 years old and self taught, never having taken a business course. He eventually bought out his partners and moved on. Minnesota, he says, is a wonderful state for mushrooms — he counts 14 varieties that are edible — but with a very short season. If you want them year 'round you need growing rooms, like the ones on his mushroom farm.
Oyster mushrooms are packaged for delivery at Forest Mushrooms. 
Besides growing the fungi, Forest Mushrooms is also one of the state's largest wholesale distributors of mushrooms grown elsewhere. He says they package and distribute through food wholesalers as many as 20 varieties of mushrooms from Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and other areas. Ever watchful for new opportunities, Doyle has a sideline operation recycling the already recycled sawdust and straw after the mushrooms are harvested. "When we're done with it, it ends up being sold to local gardeners for a mulch for their gardens," he said. "Some of the people who have used it for 20 or 25 years since we've been here, said it's made a tremendous difference in the quality of their soil ... they love it because the fungus has already done a lot of the degradation."
Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table
Kevin Doyle of Forest Mushrooms
by Emily Schnobrich, Heavy Table, 3/1/2012
Chances are if you dig mushrooms, you’ve tasted some of Kevin Doyle’s. He is the hard-working guy behind Forest Mushrooms, the largest commercial mushroom farm in Minnesota.