A 'Shroom Grows In Brooklyn: Q&A With Smallhold

Everyone has a favorite fall flavor—apple, pumpkin, sweet potato—but we think one of the biggest stars of the season has to be mushrooms. In all reality, mushrooms are an every-season ingredient, but those warm, earthy notes found in even the humblest button mushroom are hard not to crave when the temperatures start dropping. Whether it’s a warming mushroom soup, shiitake mushrooms tossed into a stir fry with plenty of umami, or oyster mushrooms sliced neatly into a hearty, garlicky pasta dish, there seem to be endless possibilities for the mighty mushroom. 

We get ours from Smallhold, the first and only organic farm in New York City, though it’s not the kind of farm you might expect. You’ll find their mushrooms growing all throughout the city, in partner spaces like nearby restaurant Maison Yaki. It’s easy to be fascinated by the mushroom kingdom, but the folks behind Smallhold really know their stuff, which is why their mushrooms keep selling out! (Don’t worry, we’ll always order more.) And because Smallhold is so knowledgeable, we asked co-founder Adam DeMartino a couple of questions, including the best way to include their mushrooms in your upcoming Thanksgiving feast. 

What inspired the founding of Smallhold?

Mushrooms themselves were the real primary inspiration. They're so mysterious, have such potential for western cuisine and medicine, and they come embedded with stories spanning the ages. Growing them is a challenging treat...growing them in the middle of Brooklyn is an amazing experience. Our secondary influence that pushed us to bring specialty mushrooms further into the spotlight is the fact that they lend themselves to the mission of local farming, and are easy to set up shop with as we expand our distributed farming network across the NYC and the country.

What is something you want to let people know about your mushrooms, or about mushrooms in general, but don't get always get to?  

Fungi is a kingdom. This means, culinarily, that they present huge untapped potential. You can use them as a main dish in place of or in addition to meat, you can use them as a side in a salad. Each mushroom actually has a different flavor and texture profile than the other. A pink oyster mushroom varies as much in texture and flavor compared to a portabella as spinach does to basil. 

You have to basically turn a mushroom into ash to make it taste “burnt”—because of the organic composure of most mushrooms, they don't break down the same way as meat or veg when exposed to heat. Making them crispy still keeps their original flavor while also adding new layers and texture (snap or crunch) and ensuring the produce is cooked all the way through!

What's the best part of being mushroom farmers in NYC?

The art. When mushrooms collide with artists, magical things happen—both in the kitchen and on the page. We are lucky to be surrounded by the most compelling artists in the world in NYC, at a time when mushrooms as a subject have become very intriguing to many creatives.

What's your favorite way to prepare mushrooms? 

On the grill. It's the move at Thanksgiving. Everyone else shows up with stuffing, salad, etc, but you show up with raw mushrooms and butter and just toss em' on the grill till they're crisp for like 5 minutes. Instant party pleaser.