Mushroom Farmer is Known for Alaska Grown Fungi
Unique produce brings faithful customers
KENAI/ANCHORAGE - Typically when you hear the term Alaska grown produce, what comes to mind?
Potatoes and cabbage? Large zucchini and maybe local lettuce, right?
One Kenai man seems to have cornered the market on an unusual food he grows himself.
But when Bilyeu isnt selling mushrooms, he's growing them in a metal Quonset hut at his home in rural Kenai.
Bilyeu calls himself a mushroom farmer. For the last seven years his family business has involved cultivating exotic species of fungi.
The mushrooms take root in bags of grain soaked with a spore mixture called miscilum, or on logs of compressed alder wood – and picking them at just the right point is important.
It's a job that keeps him on his toes: Picking every day is mandatory, and not just different colors, but also different flavors.
At $20 a pound, lion's bane is Bilyeu’s most expensive mushroom, and some say his tastiest.
“They've got a remarkable flavor to them, and everybody that's ate ‘em is wanting to know why I don't have more of them,” he said.
In the near future he plans to do just that. Bilyeu is now growing more varieties than ever, and says despite the high cost of gas to get to Anchorage markets, he is still managing a small profit.
“There at the South Anchorage market, I'll do over a hundred pounds a week there, just in that one market, and normally I'm sold out before the end of the day.”
Back at the market that's easy to believe.
Bilyeu sells his mushrooms on Saturdays at the South Anchorage Farmer’s Market and at the Center Market at Sears every Wednesday.