San Marcos, CA, February 21–As specialty food trends have swept across the country in waves in recent years, American’s desires for both more exotic and healthful fresh food alternatives have helped specialty, “cultivated wild” mushrooms emerge as a burgeoning category. In a fusion of East-meets-West, Golden Gourmet Mushrooms Inc. (“GGM”) in San Diego County has forged a U.S. partnership with Japan’s Hokto Kinoko Corporation (“Hokto”) to meet the public’s mushrooming appetite for certified organic, cultivated wild mushrooms in North America. Using Golden Gourmet’s marketing and distribution expertise, along with cultivation techniques perfected by Hokto as Japan’s largest grower of specialty mushrooms for more than three decades, the partnership’s United States base of operations is expanding to bring specialty gourmet mushrooms to mainstream America.
Golden Gourmet was established in 1987 and soon emerged as an innovative force in introducing new species of mushrooms to expand the culinary horizons of the North American palette. Once hard-to-find (and often hand-gathered) species such as White and Brown Beech, King Trumpet and Maitake are now commercially available at fine grocers, major health food stores and now even chain grocery stores as a result of Golden Gourmet’s expertise in marketing and distribution.
Golden Gourmet and Hokto forged an alliance in 1990 when GGM first utilized Hokto’s state of the art cultivation technologies. Their long-term partnership is now undergoing a major expansion as Hokto is currently constructing a state-of-the-art cultivation facility outside San Diego set to open this fall. It will be the largest facility of its kind outside Asia with the capacity to produce an astounding six million pounds of specialty mushrooms each year.
Through its patented production technologies, high quality specialty mushrooms are produced in computer-controlled growing environments. This is a far cry from the more traditional methods used for manure-cultivated button varieties with which Americans may be most familiar. Mushrooms are cultivated indoors in hygienic methods specific to each specialty mushroom in the company’s product line. Several of the mushrooms go from growth medium to grocer’s shelf untouched by human hands. The Maitake, for example, is cultivated in re-usable, polypropylene bottles indoors using an organic mixture of hardwood sawdust supplemented with bran, minerals and other nutritious ingredients. Most byproducts from the cultivation process are recycled within the agricultural community.
These mushrooms or “kinoko” (meaning “children of the woods”) are equal parts nutritious and delicious—a source of the rarer-known fifth taste sensation, umami. The taste of umami is multidimensional, and foods with umami tend to taste rich, robust and satisfying. Umami is often the “secret ingredient” that partners, layers, balances and acts as a flavor catalyst to synergistically make a dish more interesting or desirable.
Maitake, the “hen of the woods,” is a versatile mushroom with a robust, earthy flavor and fragrance. Maitake is considered to be a powerful medicinal mushroom. Research has shown maitake extracts strengthen the immune system and can be an aid in modulating glucose levels in diabetics. The flavorful Brown Beech mushroom is regarded as one of the most “gourmet” of all mushrooms, possessing a film texture and mildly sweet, nutty taste. The firm, meaty King Trumpet is considered to be the best tasting and best textured mushroom. Both Brown Beech and King Trumpet mushrooms produce a natural form of the drug Lovastatin®–which in pharmaceutical form is used for treating high blood cholesterol—and Pleuran, whose anti-oxidant effects may be useful in preventing some cancers from metastasizing.
Hailed as “one of the top 20 hot items for 2007” in a National Restaurant Association Survey specialty mushrooms are finding their way onto menus at some of the country’s most innovative and elegant dining establishments. Chef Gene Kato of New York’s Japonais makes a steamed Chilean Sea bass with maitakes and bamboo shoots. Chef Monique King at Nine-Thirty at the W Hotel Westwood features a shrimp, mashed potato and braised mushroom appetizer. Carneros Bistro features a brown beech, white beech, maitake and shitake mushroom tart. Food and Wine called the Bay Area’s Chez TJ’s Maitake Mushroom Consommé one 2007’s top ten restaurant dishes.
The two companies’ websites, www.hokto-kinoko.com and www.goldengourmetmushrooms.com, offer a downloadable recipe book, extensive information about the medicinal properties and nutritional value of its products and a wealth of information about natural biology, habitats and origins of its quality mushrooms. High in fiber, low in fat and most of all delicious, it is easy to see why demand for these “Children of the Woods” have grown each year since the vision and partnership of Hokto and GGM was founded.
About Hokto Kinoko and Golden Gourmet Mushrooms
Hokto Kinoko Corporation (“Hokto,” Tokyo Stock Exchange-1379) the world’s largest producer of specialty mushrooms, has long dominated the technologically advanced production methodology of a variety of exotic fresh mushrooms known in Japan as “kinoko” or “children of the trees”. Golden Gourmet Mushrooms (“GGM”), founded in 1987, is known as an innovator in introducing new mushrooms popular in Europe and Asia to the North American market. GGM and Hokto have been partners since 1990, when GGM first utilized Hokto’s technology to build the first bottle growing facility in North America. Since then, their partnership has been recognized for introducing new mushroom species to the U.S. consumer which are predominant in Asia and Europe. Utilizing GGM’s knowledge of the marketplace and distribution coupled with Hokto’s state of the art production capabilities, the team expects these cultivated wild mushrooms to tackle the market.