It started with a YouTube video. Independent local contractor Mike Dia has always had a do-it-yourself mindset, and when he watched an instruction video about cultivating mushrooms at home, he saw opportunity. “I’ve always had an interest in different types of things. I thought I could probably give it a shot,” he says.

Foraging for mushrooms in a dry climate like ours isn’t very productive, but growing them at home is possible by carefully introducing light and humidity at the appropriate points in the cultivation process. So in 2018, Dia bought a starter kit—a block of nutrient-rich substrate colonized by mushroom spores—and followed its instructions.  

It wasn’t very exciting at first. “For a while, nothing was happening,” he remembers. He left the substrate in a warm, dark, humid environment. But then the magic started to happen. “There were mushrooms growing out of it. I got hooked,” he says.

He began repeating the process, experimenting with different substrates—he mostly uses hardwood sawdust and fireplace pellets—and attempting to grow different varieties of mushrooms. Before long, he’d mastered the learning curve. Dia was producing more mushrooms than he and his wife could consume.

So he approached Jessica Higgins at Girasol Cafe & Bakery, knowing that she valued locally grown produce. She said yes, and he sold some to her. Then Dia started visiting other locally owned restaurants. They were interested, too. “When I first started growing, I was doing it for a hobby,” he says. “But no one else was doing it.” Especially not at a commercial level. 

Today, his small enterprise, Majestic Mushrooms, delivers freshly grown mushrooms to nearly a dozen local businesses, from high-end restaurants like Savor, O.H.M.S. and Crush to Dong Phuong Oriental Market on Amarillo Boulevard. 

Dia still works full time as a contractor but dedicates hours to his mushroom business on nights and weekends. At this point, he delivers up to 100 pounds of mushrooms every week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, and is looking into ways to expand further.

He sells a variety of mushrooms, though his most popular and common mushrooms are Blue Oysters—one of the easiest varieties for him to grow. He’s cornered the market.

“If somebody here wants to order fresh mushrooms,” he says, “they have to come through me.”

Dia says every type of edible mushroom has a distinct flavor, though that’s much easier to distinguish when you eat it whole. “You can’t always tell at a restaurant, especially when it’s cut up in small pieces,” he says. “They all cook up a little differently and each one has its own [health] benefits.” 

The most common types of store-bought mushrooms are button mushrooms (sometimes known as white mushrooms). But Dia cultivates other varieties, and shared with Brick & Elm some of his favorites.

While most local restaurants have a standing order for delivery of Blue Oyster mushrooms, Dia lets them know when he has cultivated other varieties like the others previously listed. He is also starting to experiment with growing more medicinal mushrooms—like the Reishi variety. These have a tough, woody texture that makes them unlikely to be used as food. But they have been part of traditional Asian medicine for years, thought to boost the immune system and improve sleep. “It’s a more bitter flavor, but you can use them to make extracts or teas,” he says.

In addition to local restaurants, Dia has sold his products at farmers markets and on Facebook as Majestic Mushrooms.