Our Local Vendors – Great Lakes Treats

  in Blog

 Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms

Proprietors: Jill & Aaron Grenchik

When did you start your business?  

We opened Great Lakes Treats in May 2017.  Funny enough, that was not our original intention. We were manufacturing and selling locally grown fruit leather and doing farm to table catering. As an anniversary gift, we decided to take a wild foraged mushroom identification class through the Midwest American Mycological Information group (MAMI) which happened to be the requirement to legally sell wild foraged mushrooms in the state of Michigan. We then decided to bring along some mushrooms to the Sara Hardy Farmers Market. Immediately, we learned that there is a strong market for wild foraged foods and identification classes in our area. 

During the pandemic, we decided to pivot operations offering a variety of seasonal wild foraged mushrooms, wild ramps including salt and powder, and offering identification classes both locally and through the Department of Natural Resources Outdoor Skills Academy.  

What do you do in the winter months?  

The chaga mushroom can be harvested year round and so Aaron can often be found strapping on snow shoes in hunt for this medicinal treasure. We also have a decent online presence and so we do spend time fulfilling orders for our shelf stable products. We are also working on renovations to our Williamsburg kitchen.  

Name some spring mushrooms you forage. 

We are always on the hunt for morels during the spring, both in the woods and from fellow foragers. We are also finding the Pheasants Back mushroom to which we jokingly refer to as the consolation prize for the morel mushroom hunter. Spring oyster mushrooms are also an excellent treat and can be found in abundance in the later part of spring.

What are some fall mushrooms? 

Fall is a great time for mushrooms.   Some fall finds include lobster mushrooms, black trumpet mushrooms, shrimp of the woods, honey mushrooms, hen of the woods, lions mane, fall oyster mushrooms, hedgehog mushrooms and the elusive Michigan truffle (still on our bucket list!)

What do you find most rewarding about the business?  

This is a chance for us to spend time in nature doing exactly what we love to do together. Every day is a treasure hunt. We especially love to share our knowledge and bounty of wild foraged mushrooms with the public.

What do you find challenging about your business? 

We are subject to Mother Nature and mushrooms absolutely have a mind of their own. One year we may have a bumper crop and the next year, we will find nothing. We keep a detailed schedule of the dates and areas of where we found certain species, as most mushrooms will often fruit again the following year. It’s hard to keep up with this and we put a lot of miles on both our feet and our truck.

You were the recipient of a microloan from Oryana which you were going to use for a  renovation. How is that going?

We are so thankful for that opportunity! We finished renovations on our office space which includes a lab space. We’ve been experimenting a bit with mushroom cultivation. We have also begun installing the electrical and drywall in what will eventually be our commercial kitchen. Our next steps are to finish plumbing and install a three compartment sink.  

What are your plans for the future?  

We hope to develop more shelf stable products including a coffee mushroom line featuring the three medicinal mushrooms from our line; chaga, reishi, and turkey tail. We also hope to have our commercial kitchen finished soon. Longer term goals include mushroom cultivation and perhaps more value-added wild foraged products including ready-made foods.  

What advice do you have for beginners who want to forage for mushrooms? 

We always like to encourage 100% certainty when it comes to wild foraged mushroom identification. A recent guide book specific to your area and classes are good start. We live in such an extraordinary area and sometimes it’s just getting out there and taking advantage of our magnificent forests. 

Visit the Great Lakes Treats website for more info.