Olga Tzogas became interested in fungi and its uses about 10 years ago after taking a natural history course at MCC. “The professor was genius,” says the founder of Smugtown Mushrooms. “He could go into the woods and hear a bird’s song and not even see the bird and be able to identify it. He could look at just the bark of a tree and be able to tell you what kind of oak it was.”
When they went mushroom hunting, they found more than 50 different kinds of mushrooms, many of them edible. “The professor knew every single one of them, Latin names and all,” Tzogas says. She was instantly hooked. “It became my passion to be able to safely identify wild plants and fungi.”
Tzogas became familiar with the woods and the seasons when different mushrooms grew. After several years of gathering with other mushroom and good-food devotees, she noticed Rochester lacked the mushroom culture often seen in Europe, Asia, the Pacific Northwest and larger cities. “We thought that, ‘Hey, maybe since we have over a hundred pounds of Maitake mushroom or Lions Mane maybe Rochester foodies would want some.’”
Local restaurants—like Cure, Lento, Rocco and the Red Fern— were quick to jump on board, using Smugtown’s native mushrooms in their dishes.
“I’ve brought our local Lions Mane, Maitake, Oyster, Chicken, Reishi and other specialty mushrooms into cultivation from wild specimens found in the hills around here.”
"Our business is growing mushrooms—tons of them—and offering the grow kits themselves to people, teaching workshops about cultivation, and offering the supplies to grow mushrooms indoors or outdoors."