Two Morgantown mushroom enthusiasts open a fungi business—and it flourishes.
Lucas Sieber will never forget the first time he stumbled into his future business partner, Jamie Brown. She was leaving the wooded area of Chestnut Ridge Park, just outside Morgantown, with her arms full of freshly foraged chanterelles—orangish, edible, funnel-shaped mushrooms with forked folds along their gills.
Brown was with her significant other, who was friends with Sieber. “We learned that we shared a love of foraging, gardening, and horticulture,” says Brown. Sieber had once grown mushrooms as a hobby and turned it into a small side hustle but, with the arrival of his second child, his venture had gone to the back burner.
Their friendship grew—Brown nannied for Sieber’s kids while he went back to school, and they worked several landscaping jobs together. “We were trying to figure out what we wanted to be when we grew up,” Sieber says. Then, in 2022, they decided to make a serious endeavor of the mushroom-growing business.
“I’ve always loved gardening and plants in general, especially things with medicinal purposes,” Brown says. “Paying attention to the native plants around us, we can learn what’s growing when and heal ourselves with what’s out there.” The two invested in some equipment and put their green thumbs to work, using a converted three-bay garage outside Morgantown as their growing space. The gourmet mushroom industry, they learned with a bit of research, was nonexistent in the Morgantown area. “We thought, ‘Why not us?’” Brown says. And so, Mon Valley Mushrooms was born. Their growing space is more laboratory than farm, with a four-stage system to properly grow and harvest their colorful, wood-loving mushroom varieties—including pioppino and lion’s mane, shiitake and reishi, and pink, blue, golden, black king, and Italian oysters.
They read books, watched videos, brainstormed with other growers, and used trial and error to perfect their Krabby Patty Secret Formula for growing. “We could spend all day every day researching growing methods, because there are a lot of rabbit holes to go down—but you have to eventually bite off a chunk and try to digest it,” Brown says.
Brown and Sieber learn more about the medicinal and culinary aspects of their products each day. For example, lion’s mane, native to West Virginia, grows on oak trees and has properties that help improve cognition. Texture and flavor comparable to crab or lobster make it a favorite among gourmet mushroom–lovers. “Mushrooms are so versatile,” Brown says. “The greatest perk is getting to cook and eat mushrooms every day. Plus, when we have four pounds of mushrooms not selling, it forces you to get creative.”
The duo obtained vending and business licenses and now set up at local markets with fresh mushrooms for sale by the pound along with dried and powdered mushrooms, tinctures, and at-home grow kits. Brown recommends any oyster variety for a first-time grow kit, as they are very user-friendly. Each kit includes instructions and a spray bottle, and the mushrooms can be grown any time of year—ideally in a humid, room-temperature environment outside of direct sunlight. “There’s nothing like having them out on the kitchen counter, where you can pluck your mushrooms fresh from the harvest,” Sieber says.
If you’d like to taste the mushrooms in dishes prepared by local chefs before trying your own hand with them, Mon Valley Mushrooms regularly supplies Bourbon Prime, Eureka Cafe, River Birch Cafe, Sargasso, Terra Cafe, and Vanessa’s Kitchen.
Pulled Mushroom BBQ
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 tablespoons cooking oil or butter divided
- 1 large yellow onion julienned
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar divided
- 2 pounds Mon Valley mushrooms—oyster lion’s mane, or a mix—shredded or sliced thinly into strips.
- 1/2 cup water or vegetable broth
- 3/4 cup BBQ sauce of choice
- 4 to 6 buns optional
- Coleslaw or other condiments optional
- Combine herbs and spices in a small bowl; set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil or butter in large frying pan over medium heat. Saute onion until tender and golden; transfer to large bowl and set aside.
- Raise heat to medium high and add 2 tablespoons oil or butter and 1/3 of shredded mushrooms to pan, stirring to coat. Add 1/3 of spice mixture and stir occasionally, at least 5 minutes. Deglaze with a splash of vinegar and transfer to bowl with onions.
- Repeat step 3 in two more batches.
- Return mushrooms and onions to pan; add water or broth and BBQ sauce. Stir to combine and simmer until thickened.
- To serve, toast or warm buns and top with condiments of your choice.