Growing mushrooms is not new to Mike Jensen - he has grown oyster, shiitake and lion’s mane on his Ellis County farm for decades. But growing them in the basement of his restaurant and then bringing them upstairs to cook is more recent.
Three years ago, Mike Jensen, along with his wife, Amy, reopened Professor’s Classic Sandwich Shop in Hays. That is when they decided to take their mushroom business to a new level. In addition to growing the fungi for wholesale and farmers market customers, they added the delicacy to many dishes at their Hays restaurant.
Along with the materials at his farmhouse, Mike, a fourth-generation farmer, added a state-inspected mushroom breeding facility in the restaurant’s basement.
"The majority of what we use is oyster mushrooms," Mike said. "People like them the best."
To grow the oyster mushrooms, Mike hand packs long, black, plastic sleeves with pasteurized straw and cottonseed hulls. He adds in mushroom spawn, hangs the sleeves vertically and waits three weeks for the mushrooms.
Shiitake and lion’s mane are grown on sterilized wooden blocks.
After the mushrooms are ready, Mike brings them up to the kitchen for his cooks to make mushroom beirocks, mushroom taco burgers and mushroom stir fry.
A little bit of honey and some produce to match
In addition to producing mushrooms, Mike is a beekeeper. The couple uses the honey to make honey lemonade, honey mustard and their signature honey cookie for their customers. They also sell the honey and dried mushrooms at their restaurant.
"We think it is super important to try and use as much local food as we can," Amy said. "You are what you eat."
But Amy and Mike do not stop there. They bring in produce from their garden and Amy makes sand plum jelly and apple butter. When the couple’s lettuce and tomatoes run out, they purchase from local farmers.
"It’s an all healthy concept," Mike said. "We don’t sell pop."
It’s all in the family
The couple’s two children help out with the business. Ethan, 21, works in the kitchen and Elissa, 24, is in the front of the house. The two also help with the family farm – Jensen Farms.
Along with the lunch items, the restaurant sells Jensen Farms jelly, honey and dried mushrooms.
"It’s a lot of work, but it’s awesome," Mike said. "I’m always a farmer."