Smooth and refreshing, the taste is light, crisp with a clean finish.
The magic of farming is happening in one of the most unexpected places on the island. Tucked away in a corner spot on the second floor of Royal Plaza Mall in downtown Oranjestad is an urban farm yielding hundreds of pounds of gourmet mushrooms weekly.
Farm a Cure Fungi is founded by Rachell Peterson, a well-known local tattoo artist turned urban farmer. “I started growing mushrooms at home as a hobby about 14 years ago…one day I was working on a tattoo for Chef Urvin Croes and noticed the mushroom on his tattoo sleeve and we started talking about my hobby of growing them. He was very interested in sampling them, and once he did, he started buying from me regularly and even put them on his menu,” explains Rachell.
The needs of her first client quickly outgrew her supply, prompting her to research a move from a small-scale, home-based operation to a commercial setting. “In Aruba we don’t see a variety of mushrooms offered, mostly the common white button variety…but there is so much more out there,” she informs.
Rachell expanded her knowledge as a hobbyist with online courses and forging relationships with other growers and mentors, while also collecting more exotic species like shitake, oyster, lion’s mane, and enoki. She then presented her business plan to investors and opened Farm a Cure Fungi in May of 2022.
Growing mushrooms takes a lot of patience and knowledge of the exact science needed to successfully cultivate various mushroom varieties. The process starts in her lab where she cultivates and clones some 25 species. Once enough mycelium has grown in agar on a petri dish, it is transferred and further developed in a liquid solution and fed a diet of nutrient-rich rye berries. After a few weeks, it is then transferred to hardwood to colonize for a couple of months, followed by the final growth stage in temperature-controlled fruiting tents.
Farm a Cure Fungi is a 24/7 business and requires immense dedication, with Rachell forgoing much of her personal time and vacations. “I have to be here every day of the week because mushrooms don’t take a break,” she laughs. But her hard work is paying off: her mushrooms are now popping up on menus all over the island—from hotels like Marriott, Renaissance, and Hilton, to restaurants like Infini, Opus, Taste My Aruba, Barefoot, Fred Royal, and Daniel’s Steak & Chop. Cheers to sustainable and innovative entrepreneurs like Rachell!