From Classrooms to Mushrooms, Science is Flourishing

June 25, 2018
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KC Sullivan, left, and one of his former Middletown South students, Evan Curcio, managed the Two River Gourmet Mushrooms vendor table at Bell Works Fresh Farmers Market May 30. Photo by Lily Marten

By Lily Marten |

TINTON FALLS – Why just teach science when you can live it on the weekends, too?

This is the life of KC Sullivan, a Middletown High School South environmental science teacher who doubles as a mushroom farmer. Sullivan, a resident of Sea Bright, started Two River Gourmet Mushrooms in 2014, producing locally grown mushrooms in Tinton Falls. A short time later, friend and fellow teacher, Travis Wisinksi joined him as a business partner to help operate the facility that grows organic gourmet mushrooms.

Sullivan said it all started as a hobby. After studying environmental science and sustainable food sources, which he describes as agricultural farming techniques that protect the environment and public health, he found this culinary interest. “I was always into gardening and got into producing mushrooms,” he said.

With experience in the restaurant business for more than 20 years and an environmental passion for mushrooms’ sustainability, Sullivan saw a unique niche market and went with it.

The mushroom men cultivate several species in their indoor “fruiting rooms” where they strategically place mushrooms with varying environmental requirements for optimal thriving conditions.

One of their best sellers is the lion’s mane mushroom. According to Sullivan, it is popular for its lobster-like flavor as well as its medicinal qualities. The mushroom is said to benefit the immune and nervous systems.

Lion’s mane mushrooms cultivated by Two River Gourmet Mushrooms. They are trendy for their lobster-like taste and health benefits. Photo by Lily Marten

If exotic mushrooms are intimidating for some, the shiitake mushroom is a great starter, said Sullivan. And for those who wish to test the waters, their popular Forest Medley is an assortment of mushrooms sold by the quart.

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Two River Gourmet Mushrooms is a popular vendor at local farmers markets in the summer, such as Asbury Fresh, Sea Bright and Bell Works. At these markets, Sullivan said, many patrons admire the mushrooms but don’t know how to prepare or cook them. “We kind of hold their hand and explain ways to use them,” he said. “We also sell a cookbook that contains the types of mushrooms we grow.”

For example, Sullivan guides his customers to incorporate lion’s mane into vegan crabcakes due to its resemblance to seafood.

Sullivan appreciates how culinary shoppers gravitate to the different tastes and textures of mushrooms. At farmers markets, their produce descriptions include textures like velvety, firm, spongey, meaty and more. Two River Gourmet Mushrooms not only provides quality produce for the home cook but for fine dining restaurants as well.

Local restaurants that feature their mushrooms include Russel & Bette’s in Rumson, Via45 in Red Bank, Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park, Anjelica’s in Sea Bright and Ray’s Seafood in Little Silver.

Sullivan compared the rising popularity of gourmet mushrooms to that of craft beer. “There used to be a handful of each,” he said. Just like liquor stores now offer hundreds of beer choices, “there’s been an explosion of exotic mushrooms.”

This article first appeared in the June 21 – 28, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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