JCB Gourmet Mushrooms, Deep Roots save van-loads of growing fungi

JCB Gourmet Mushrooms turned to a local food organization and its root cellar to save three van-loads of mushroom growing blocks from spoiling.

After already losing about two tons of blocks due to heat, we brought grow bags to the Deep Roots Food Hub’s root cellar to take advantage of its cooler temperatures. Collaborating with a grassroots organization in West Carleton allowed us to continue growing enough blocks for potentially more than 100 pounds of fresh mushrooms.

Each of these growing blocks can produce up to two pounds of fresh mushrooms each. The white found in the block is mycelium, the fungi that absorb nutrients in the mix and grow fruiting mushrooms. (Photo courtesy Nathalie Tovell)

The summer heat was disastrous for our year-old mushroom business. There was no air conditioning in the incubation room where hundreds of blocks with mushroom spawn start the growing process. The spawn struggled to develop as a result. A full room of blocks also raises their core temperatures due to heat radiation from the fungi. The temperature hovered around 32 C, nine degrees hotter than the ideal temperature.

The mycelium – similar to roots and grow mushroom fruitbodies – could not spread throughout the substrate to absorb the nutrients necessary for mushrooms to grow. More mushrooms will grow when the block is covered in white mycelium; instead, bags were spotted with untouched growing mix. In worse cases, the bags were contaminated.

We ordered an air conditioning unit, but the installation was delayed. We had no choice but to clear out most of the incubation room and reset. We filled a utility trailer with spoiled blocks, all with the potential for one to two pounds of fresh mushrooms each if they were healthy.

Facing further delays with missing air conditioner parts, we risked losing more bags if they stayed in the incubation room for a few more days. That is when we reached out to Deep Roots co-founder and board member Dr. Barry Bruce about briefly turning the root cellar into a mushroom hotel.

JCB Gourmet Mushrooms co-owner John Bakker stands beside Deep Roots Food Hub co-founder and board member Dr. Barry Bruce in front of the JCB facility in Kinburn.

The root cellar officially opened on Sept. 22, 2020, to local farmers. Located off Carling Avenue in western Nepean, it can store between 50,000 to 75,000 pounds of root vegetables in its insulated walls during the winter, according to Bruce.

The hub seeks to help West Carleton residents access, grow, and sell healthy food, according to its website. Mushrooms fit the bill with their fibre, potassium, protein and other nutritional content, according to information gathered by mycologist Paul Stamets.

West Carleton is considered a “food desert”, meaning residents must commute more than 10 kilometres for fresh, healthy food. The closest full-grocery stores are in Arnprior, Kanata, Stittsville and Almonte. This makes it especially important to have locations in the area where people can access fresh food, such as mushrooms.

Located in Kinburn, part of the West Carleton-March ward in Ottawa and 25 minutes west of Kanata, anyone can visit the JCB growing facility – now with a cooler incubation room – for healthy mushrooms and grow kits. JCB's address is 3765 Loggers Way, Unit 116.

The Deep Roots Food Hub can be reached at their "Contact Us" page or at

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