Ora, Itay and their dog Leo live on the hills of Mangawhai, north of Auckland. It’s safe to say that their ‘office’ is better than most, and they spend most of their days looking out at some of the most picturesque landscapes that New Zealand has to offer. Ora and Itay are the caretakers of their 12.5-hectare farm, and it’s here that some of New Zealand’s luckiest mushrooms can be found.
Ora and Itay love mushrooms and discovered this while travelling around Europe, where they found that mushrooms of all species were very common and easily accessible - even if you weren’t a mushroom grower. When they came to New Zealand, they realised that outside of the Button and Portobello mushrooms, other mushroom species were really hard to come across. Considering the many positive medicinal and nutritional properties mushrooms have, Ora and Itay found this lack of accessibility across mushroom varieties really unusual. So, they set out to change the status quo, have become New Zealand’s largest producer of Oyster mushrooms, and are in the process of selling Shiitake, Enochi and Turkey Tail varietals too.
Growing mushrooms in New Zealand is extremely difficult. Patience, time, understanding and much trial and error are needed before consistent results can be achieved. The strict New Zealand biosecurity laws also limit the varieties of mushroom that Ora and Itay can import for experimentation and mushroom cultivation. This is a key challenge for them due to different species of mushrooms performing better in certain weather conditions and in certain seasons of the year. Only having one strain of mushroom to work with all year round means that Ora and Itay are constantly battling with the elements to achieve success, and are very limited in their ability to adapt.
Visiting a mushroom farm for the first time is a pretty unforgettable experience. You see the beauty of the land, the unusual growing conditions and hear about the unique farming methodologies. You look at the farm and these funny little fungi with wonder and awe. What you don’t see is the hard work, the complications, the challenges and the everyday maintenance of the delicate conditions needed to grow such high quality produce.
Ora and Itay are pretty passionate about the humble mushie. Their hard work, devotion and philosophical approach to mushroom cultivation can be tasted in every bite of the world class mushrooms they produce. Every mouthful is full of flavour, beautiful texture and colour - and they are an all time favourite at our Auckland eatery, just perfect on a piece of toast!