Foraging for wild mushrooms evolves into growing business

Karen Lovett Adam and Astrid DeLeo stand in their climate controlled culture building growing lion mane mushrooms at their home near Key Center. Photo by Karen Lovett, KP News

Adam and Astrid DeLeo enjoy walking through the woods harvesting wild plants and mushrooms.

The Key Center couple has taken their love of living off the land to a higher level.

Adam DeLeo grew up near Key Center. He was home-schooled until he continued his education at Key Peninsula High School. He attended the University of Washington and Western Washington University then spent time in Alaska on a fishing boat.

He met a Danish woman, Astrid, in Scotland where he was working as a cook at the Findhorn Foundation, a sustainable living eco-village. Renowned mycologist Paul Stamets, discoverer of immunological and bioremedial properties of mushrooms came to Scotland to talk about fungi and their importance in the world. Adam and Astrid purchased an oyster mushroom kit.

After his visa and temporary work permit ran out, the couple traveled to Carson City, Nevada to Aloha Medicinals the world’s largest producer of medicinal mushrooms. They spent a month learning about the thousands of medicinal cultures grown there.

They spent time on the Key Peninsula foraging and culturing mushrooms before taking time off to Hawaii to get married Nov. 12, 2013. Two weeks later they took shitake and oyster mushrooms to the farmer’s market in Gig Harbor.

“I brought a bunch, then started going to restaurants,”Adam said. “We were doing six farmer’s markets a week.”

“Six-days-a-week was too much,”Astrid said. “Now we’re doing four a week and approximately 12 restaurants and grocery stores.”

Food Market in Key Center carries their mushrooms.

They are living in the front of a home built by his parents utilizing a portion of the space for the budding business. His parents still live in the back. The home, overlooking Glencove and Mount Rainier, is nestled in forest land prolific with wild mushrooms and edible plants.

A commercial stainless steel refrigerator set against a wall in their living room was purchased to keep mushrooms fresh before sale. A sterile scientific ventilation hood for tissue culture has space in the bedroom.

Adam DeLeo designed a climate controlled building he and his father Bill built together. The 8 by 16 foot building contains specialized metal racks Deleo constructed to support the bags of growing fungi.

A large commercial local mushroom grower mentored the young entrepreneurs and sells sterile plastic bags for their mushroom cultivation, and shitake and oyster mushrooms for resale. The DeLeos have a good working partnership with the company and are only interested in cultivating species not in competition with their partners.

They have tried several species, but have settled on one, the tasty lion’s mane as their specialty for now. They also forage and sell a number of others, whatever nature provides seasonally.

The DeLeos have commercial foraging permits and routinely harvest chanterelles, matsutakes, hedgehogs, cauliflower, morels and lobster mushrooms.

A lion’s mane, Hericium erinaceus, found at Penrose Point Park was the tissue donor for their culture operation. All of their home grown mushrooms of that prized epicurean species come from that original single fungus, they said.

The couple are saving their money to move into their own place. They hope to find a couple of suitable acres with a house on the Key Peninsula with room to expand their mushrooming business.

For information, contact Adam’s Mushrooms at (253) 278-2822 or visit