by Steven Doyle photos by Robert Bostick
It would almost be a sure bet that if you are eating a mushroom today at a local restaurant, or perhaps even purchased one at your local grocer, that mushroom was delivered courtesy of Thomas Mushrooms headquartered here in Dallas. Eager to find out more on this unique industry, we trekked across the street from the Dallas Farmers Market to find out more how these fungi make their way to our table.
Walking into the warehouse located at 905 South Harwood we were met by one of the family members, Andrew Thomas. He was able to guide us through and show us all the varieties of mushrooms.
“We really only work with the basics like your crimini’s, shitakes, oyster, portabella, and the white mushrooms. We really don’t mess with the more exotic mushrooms like the blue hens or trumpets. There simply isn’t enough movement to justify those,” said Thomas.
The mushroom business is fast paced and delicate due to the nature of the product itself. A mushroom will have a shelf life of 6 or 7 days. They are a just in time type of product, so the mushrooms you have today were grown just a few days ago. Certainly the case for most restaurants who receive daily shipments.
“Once they are cut they are sent out across the country, but from here to the farm it’s approximately a 27 hour drive. If they are picked today they will be at the distributors like Fresh Point here in Dallas the same day we receive the shipment and on your table that night,” said Thomas.
Thomas has their own mushroom farm facilities, and also work with other farmers across the country. This elicited the need for a trucking company to ensure a reliable and safe transport. Enter Thomas Trucking based in Keller.
The Thomas family has been in the Dallas market for 20 years. They work with companies like FreshPoint, Sysco and US Food Service as well as any vendor selling mushrooms at the Farmer’s Market. It is up to those vendors to place the product in grocery stores and restaurants. Some smaller restaurants will actually pick up cases directly at the Harwood facility.
Thomas walked us through the growing cycle of a mushroom and that is pretty interesting. Basically a grain of rice is germinated with a spore and mechanically planted into fresh mixture of top soil and mulch. The beds are about 100 yards long and four feet wide.
From there the mushroom requires a dark and damp environment where just a few days later the mushrooms are ready to pick by hand. They are graded, separated and packaged before shipping back to Dallas.
In addition to mushrooms, the Thomas family also brings in a good amount of fresh herbs, garlic and small vegetables that are brokered out locally.