With intricate, spongy ripples and umbrella tops, some dainty with slender stems, others thick, tan, or red-hued, the sculptural beauty of mushrooms caught the eye of Tyler Akabane early on. “They have a mystique about them,” he says. The 37-year-old Swampscott native has been foraging for mushrooms for years, leading tours, and selling rare fungi to local restaurants. When the pandemic closed the businesses, he launched a home delivery service, Mushrooms For My Friends. Now, Akabane recently opened The Mushroom Shop in Somerville. Handmade sketches on the picture window first draw you into the homey store. A steady stream of customers come to explore the gathering of wild and cultivated mushrooms in the glass display case. Certain ones are grown in Massachusetts, others around the country. Some visitors are amateur mycologists; others just inquisitive. “There’s something fascinating about mushrooms that captures your attention,” says Akabane. He eagerly shares his expertise to help you make sense of the fungi and how to cook with them: wild morels, porcinis, mousserons, cultivated exotic king oysters, lion’s manes, maitakes, and more. Several shelves are lined with ingredients that pair well with their woodsy, meaty, nutty, umami flavors: oils and spices, jars and bottles of craft soy sauce, honey, and fermented veggies. Fresh seasonal vegetables, like asparagus and fiddleheads, are available too. As for the mushrooms, Akabane believes, “People are taught to be afraid of picking wild fungi,” he says. “That’s because they haven’t familiarized themselves with mushrooms to learn which ones are deadly or not.” (½ pound wild morels, $22.50; 1 pound wild and exotic cultivated mushrooms, starting at $15 a pound and up). 433 Medford St., Somerville, 617-718-0570, mushroomsformyfriends.com. The store is open Wednesday to Saturday.
ANN TRIEGER KURLAND
Ann Trieger Kurland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.