Cultivating Pink Mushrooms In The Altmark
Vasyl Shvedyk grew up in the Carpathian Mountains of western Ukraine, a poor country whose dearth of wealth was matched in richness of flora and fauna. By equal parts necessity and curiosity, it was here that Shvedyk learned to source food from the wild, and mushrooms soon became a prized possession. At 18, he joined the military and with a familiarity of the German language from school, he was soon stationed in East Germany, the former Democratic Republic. There he fell in love with his wife and together they created a life together, on a farm, in the Altmark region of Germany.
Firmly ensconced in his new lifestyle, Shvedyk began reading about the science of mushroom cultivation, and began to reignite his passion for what was once a favorite pastime. In 2010, he took the first steps towards starting his own business around the concept of gathering, including figuring out the supply chain and assessing need at local restaurants. Within a year, he was supplying exotic mushrooms to a chefs in the area.
“Like snowflakes, no two of Shvedyk’s mushrooms are alike, so each harvest affords the grower and his customers new opportunities to be surprised.”
Today, Shvedyk cultivates ten varieties of high grade, organic mushrooms– some of which are deemed potent herbs in the tradition of Chinese medicine. Each variety serves a purpose. His Pom Pom Blanc mushrooms resemble a small white hedgehog, with an intense flavor that aids in digestion. Shiitake mushrooms contain the compound AHCC, which triples the activity of NK cells, in turn bolstering the immune system. (Greifswald University, a research institution founded in 1456, recently purchased five kilograms of Vasilij’s Shiitake stock, which is revered for it’s quality, to be studied by a German pharmaceutical company. Their goal is to isolate the bioactive compound Lentinan, which has been used in Japanese medicine for over 2,000 years and is currently being used to treat cancer.)
Shvedyk also cultivates Pink Oyster mushrooms, which contain amino acids, rare polysaccharides, and folic acid. Named for its bright color, the Pink Oyster Mushroom is commonly grown in the tropics and subtropics of Africa and Asia. When fried, it turns orange and tastes like bacon. The Golden Oyster mushroom is yet another best-seller in Shvedyk’s stock. Yellow like a lemon, it has a fruity taste useful for adding zest to salads, and is believed to contain healing agents that address the musculoskeletal system, reducing the kind of pain and stiffness often associated with arthritis.
While many commercial mushroom growers prefer growing under artificial light (because it permits each shroom to develop evenly in size and shape), Shvedyk sticks with natural sunlight. This may be the less profitable route, but he maintains the integrity of the crop which allows for optimal taste and efficacy while fostering a uniqueness within each mushroom. Like snowflakes, no two of Shvedyk’s mushrooms are alike, so each harvest affords the grower and his customers new opportunities to be surprised.