It's not a fungus farm but a mountain of mushrooms

Published: Apr. 9, 2012 at 10:59 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 10, 2012 at 7:39 AM HST
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LAUPAHOEHOE (HawaiiNewsNow) - This week, all eyes turn to the Big Island for the 49th annual Merrie Monarch festival. The competition portion kicks off at the end of the week in Hilo.

As we wait for that, Hawaii News Now headed up the Hamakua coast -- to find some other stories in Hawaii county. And we found one - with fungus all over it.

With the world's best hula just days away, employees at Hamakua Mushrooms are watching a different kind of dance develop. Nature turns a mixture of raw materials into thriving mushrooms - with a little help from a specialized growing technique.

"Everybody expected to come into a dark cave and the mushrooms are growing on the ground here," says Hamakua Mushrooms President, Bob Stanga. "But our specialty mushrooms all require natural light, so I think that's a big surprise to most people."

You won't find common button mushrooms here. The Hawaii owned-and-operated farm raises wood-decomposing, specialty mushrooms and uses an automated Japanese bottle cultivation method to spur their growth.

When you see something like white, cottony fuzz around your mushroom, don't be alarmed. It's actually a sign that the mushroom is healthy and full of vigor, and you shouldn't throw it away.

Harvester Daniel DeRego says it's amazing to dine at a restaurant and taste the finished product. "It feels good. Because you know all your hard work wasn't for nothing," he says.

The farm grows up to six different species of mushrooms and is working on different strains found only in Hawaii. "That's how we kind of want to separate ourselves from other farms on the mainland - is by growing choice edible Hawaiian mushrooms, as well."

They hope to capitalize on the "buy local" trend and show that, on the Big Island, opportunities abound - whether it's cultivating the sway of a hula - or the swath of a mushroom farm.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.