Episode 203: Mike Stephan

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Episode 203 Mike Stephan Quote

There’s no doubt about it… mushrooms are one of the hottest items in the produce department right now and if anyone knows mushrooms like the back of their hand, it’s Mike Stephan, Director of Sales for Monterey Mushrooms. Mike has been with the family-owned company (celebrating their 50th anniversary this year) for almost two decades and loves how extraordinary this plant is.

Monterey Mushrooms sells a variety of mushroom types to grocery retailers, restaurants, national pizza chains and other food service providers. Even though mushrooms don’t have a flashy color or potent flavor, they make any ordinary meal extraordinary by bringing a hearty, healthy addition to any meal. The three main types of mushrooms Monterey Mushrooms grows are whites, baby bellas (also known as crimini), and portabella (which are what baby bellas grow into).

Mushrooms really started to shine at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when everyone was looking for ways to boost their immune system. Mushrooms have a high Vitamin C content and, in part thanks to Monterey Mushrooms, a high Vitamin D content too. Mushrooms are the only produce item and non-animal source of Vitamin D.

“If you’re not aware of mushrooms, saddle up! Mushrooms are hot. They are the hottest item in the produce department right now.” – Lori Taylor (2:07-2:20)

Interestingly enough, mushroom tissue acts like the skin by taking in UV light and converting it to Vitamin D. Mushrooms are an important addition to any American’s diet because 80% of the United States are Vitamin D deficient. Monterey Mushrooms was a bit of a pioneer in increasing the Vitamin D content in mushrooms because they started to expose mushrooms post-harvest to an accurate amount of UV light for the mushrooms to convert it into natural Vitamin D.

This all started when the FDA called attention to the USDA that there was a huge need for Vitamin D in our food supply. The USDA partnered with the mushroom industry and found, through research, that the mushroom crop didn’t contain Vitamin D in it because it isn’t exposed to natural sunlight, mushrooms are grown indoors to become available year round. To change this, mushroom growers have started to bring UV light to the crop post-harvest and the mushroom does the rest of the work!

Even though you might see mushrooms growing in your yard during the fall or in compost piles, the majority of the mushrooms you’ll find at the grocery store are “gregarious by spores mushrooms” and are grown on wheat straw. The wheat straw comes from the straw of the grain, and Monterey Mushrooms uses other byproducts in the agricultural industry as well such as cottonseed and gypsum hulls to create a nutritious mushroom compost. They plant new crops of mushrooms every other day. That makes for 180 crops per year!

With the rising cost of food, mushrooms are a great way to stretch out meat-based dishes and get your kids to eat healthy, nutritious produce even if they are picky eaters. Mushrooms are a great addition to chopped salads (check out our recipe at www.theproducemoms.com), pizza toppings, veggie trays, marinated as an appetizer, blended, sauteed… the options are endless.

One of Lori’s favorite ways to include mushrooms is with turkey tacos. Since turkey can be a bit dry, but it’s healthier, adding ground mushrooms to the ground turkey makes them more meaty and flavorful. It’s a great way to sneak in mushrooms for kids that don’t want to eat them – Lori’s have no idea! She also adds them to a traditional bolognese sauce made with beef by adding the mushrooms to her food processor and then mixing them into the ground beef in the skillet.

Episode 203 Mike Stephan Quote

The great thing about mushrooms is their versatility in how you can cook them and the flavors they’ll add to any dish. Plus, they’re basically a superfood with how much nutrition is packed in them and how much they boost the immune system! Have you ever heard of mushroom chips? If you slow roast sliced mushrooms in the oven and add any seasoning that you want, you’ll have delicious mushroom chips that you can eat alone, sprinkle on salads or baked potatoes.

Don’t be surprised if you see the area mushrooms are sold in your local grocery store grow and expand, especially because of the focus on plant-based meals and how easily mushrooms can play a role as a protein substitute!

How to get involved

  • Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week!
  • Reach out to us – we’d love to hear more about where you are in life and business! Find out more here.

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About Lori

Lori Taylor is the Founder & CEO of The Produce Moms. For ten years she sold fresh produce to over 300 grocery stores throughout the United States, and today she is fully focused on working with the produce supply chain, media, and government to increase fresh produce access & consumption in the US and around the globe. Connect with Lori on LinkedIn.

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