by Diana Cercone
Some have a blue tint to them. Others display petals that lean on the rosy side or burst into a brilliant bouquet of sunset orange. Still others are more sedate hiding in their mass of creamy browns or grays. A few are scruffy looking and globe-shaped with long, shaggy spines. Or have gumdrop-shapes sporting honeycomb caps. None, however, look like the tidy, white button mushrooms found in supermarkets. But mushrooms they are. Glorious, delicious cultivated and wild mushrooms grown and foraged by Joe Seif and Brad Wuerstle of 5th Street Mushrooms in Pipersville.
I first made the acquaintance of their culinary captivators last summer at the Doylestown Farmers Market. And captivating they are. Both in their looks and in any dish where they preside. Not to mention their nutritional and health benefits (I’ll get to more on this later.)
On a bright spring day I caught up with Brad and Joe at Brad’s home (btw—an eye-popping timber-frame home he built totally by himself for him and his wife) in Pipersville. That’s where Joe and Brad do most of their mushroom growing—both in an environmentally controlled “grow room” in the basement and in the barn on the property.
Though Joe, 41, and Brad, 40, were high school friends at BC East, it wasn’t until 2016 that they reunited as good buds—and mushroom partners. It was Brad’s motorcycle accident that brought them back together. Facing multiple surgeries—seven in all including an amputation of his left leg from the knee down—Brad says he had time on his hands which he spent surfing the net. That’s where he came across his old friend Joe’s YouTube videos on the Arduino (micro-controller) projects he built with his two sons, ages 10 and 12.
Thinking that Joe could build an Arduino for his prosthetic, Brad called him. And that’s when the two discovered they were interested in growing mushrooms. Instead of growing them separately, they decided to team up.
“Sounded easier than making feet,” Joe says. “Plus I’ve always been interested in science and nature.” Both men are something of science nerds. They always have some project to work on, adds Joe, the forager of the two. This summer look for his foraged chanterelles, Old Man of the Woods, chicken of the woods and black trumpets. Come fall, they’ll have Turkey tail and reishi (which they also have in the spring). Pheasant back and morels are only found in the spring.