Blending finely chopped mushrooms and ground beef together is a great way to extend portions and bring another vegetable to the plate. As a dedicated Blenditarian and farm tour enthusiast, Ethan Adeland was happy to visit both a mushroom farm and cattle ranch in Ontario recently, and today he shares his experience with you.
This post is sponsored by Mushrooms Canada.
When I was a kid, I did the strawberry U-pick with my grandfather. I also climbed the ladder to reach the highest apple in the orchard with my parents, and every year I’d go pick out the perfect pumpkin for Halloween. As an adult, I’ve continued those traditions and have had the opportunity to visit a potato farm, a lentil farm and a tomato/pepper greenhouse, but the mushroom farm has always eluded me … until now!
The Fascination of a Mushroom Farm
Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Whitecrest Mushrooms in Putnam, Ontario along with about 20 other curious food bloggers. The theme of the day was Blend & Extend, which is all about adding mushrooms and beef together. By becoming a “Blenditarian,” you're able to stretch your budget, eat more plant-based meals and get all the extra benefits from eating mushrooms.
Other than it being an “inside” farm, I couldn’t picture what a mushroom farm looked like so I kept my expectations mostly in check. By the end of the tour, I was convinced mushroom farming, its practices and technology will play a major role in helping to feed the world.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by Murray and Chantelle, a husband and wife team that own and operate Whitecrest along with their two sons.
Whitecrest is considered a “smaller” farm even though they grow two million pounds of mushrooms annually. They grow crimini and portabella mushrooms for distribution and have even opened up a store-front at the farm where people can stop by to buy mushrooms straight from the farmer.
What struck me most from the visit is that Murray is forever curious and continually looking to innovate, be it from moving Whitecrest into a zero-waste facility to playing around with other projects on the farm.
What is especially fascinating about a mushroom farm is that the growing cycle is every six weeks — year-long — and the mushrooms grow vertically (on shelves). The benefits are plentiful, with it taking only six weeks to learn from your mistakes and adjust on the fly without having to wait an entire year. And in today’s crunch for space, growing vertically is much more economical and doable in a smaller space.
A Cattle Ranch Tour
Since it takes two to tango blend, our other farm visit was to YU Ranch in Tillsonburg, Ontario. We had a glorious morning to walk the ranch as owner Bryan told us about the grass-fed Texas Longhorn cattle he and his wife Cathy raise. The expression "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is how I would best describe YU Ranch. Bryan explained the importance they place on having everything working in harmony on the ranch. To that end, they're very active with the Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program. They help support wildlife diversity, ensure important waterways have the space they need, create a habitat for native pollinators and much more.
Eating, Blend & Extend Style
And of course, what trip is complete without great food, right? We ate fantastic food that was all inspired by Blend & Extend and cooked up by the folks at Borealis Grille. In fact, the beef they serve at their restaurants is from YU Ranch!
Our lunch consisted of a fantasic donair salad made with … you guessed it, a mixture of beef and mushrooms! For dinner, we had the pleasure of eating at Borealis with the star of the show being a beef and mushroom burger topped with red onion jam, brie cheese and all the fixins you’d expect from a classic burger.
It was a long but fun day, made even better by checking off a mushroom farm on my must-visit farm list. Since the trip, I’ve had a greater appreciation for mushrooms when I’m at the grocery store. A lot of care and love goes into those Canadian mushrooms picked by hand, one by one, to eventually end up in your kitchen.
More Farm Tour Recaps
Check out what other food bloggers have to say about their participation in this mushroom and beef farm tour!
- Carole @ The Yum Yum Factor
- Charmaine @ What She Said
- Julie @ Daily Tiramisu
- Libby @ Libby Roach
- Mary @ Mary's Happy Belly
- Shareba @ In Search of Yummyness
And check out the Blend and Extend video recap of our day touring Ontario farms!
For more information about becoming a Blenditarian or taking the pledge yourself, check out Blenditarian.com. For everything mushroom-related, Canada Mushrooms is your go-to site. And for more information about Beef Farmers of Ontario, visit their site here.
Ethan Adeland is a co-founder of Food Bloggers of Canada and its Managing Director of Partnerships.