By Julie Horner
Cool cats looking for a chill experience this summer will be delighted to discover Santa Cruz Fungi “Popsicles with Benefits,” handmade medicinal mushroom-infused frozen treats. Founders and fungi fanatics Paul Lazazzara and Katie Sarna have a lifelong obsession with mushrooms and eating healthy. Based in Boulder Creek, the couple launched their nano business in 2020 and began bringing their delectable edibles to life. This summer they have hit the farmers markets and vendor-maker scene in their bicycle-cart with the charming umbrella painted like a giant red-and-white Amanita muscaria. Using USDA organic, Kosher, and non-GMO extracts — and locally wild-foraged mushrooms — these handmade gourmet popsicles come in a variety of extraordinary flavors each with a beneficial mushroom boost.
Paul said he is no stranger to the enchanting world of fungi. While he doesn’t have official accreditations, he’s spent over nine years foraging, studying, and exploring the fascinating realm of mushrooms and their medicinal uses, including growing over eight varieties at his home in Boulder Creek. “When it comes to our popsicles, rest assured that there are no magic mushrooms involved. We prioritize safety above all else, especially for a tasty treat designed for all ages.” Every popsicle has .5g of beneficial mushroom extracts like chaga, lion’s mane, tremella, cordyceps, and turkey tail without any “dosing” surprises. “After extensive research, we feel this is the right amount to supply mushroom nutritional goodness to people of all ages and sizes. For those looking for increased mushroom benefits, we encourage eating more than one pop in a day.” He also recommends consulting with a health professional if anyone has any health concerns or medication interaction questions.
From the Ground Up
The couple’s story started in San Francisco. Paul juggled full-time night school in SF while living and working as a teacher for the visually impaired in Santa Cruz. Katie had been living and working in the city for over a year, recently transplanted from Boston. When Katie took the leap to move down to Santa Cruz, they quickly realized that staying in Santa Cruz was not affordable. Now rooted in Boulder Creek, they’ve deepened their passion for fungi and the profound connection with nature and each other.
Paul said, “One of our favorite pastimes is foraging with our three small but mighty rescue dogs Penny, Fuzz, and Minnow. We’ve discovered a few fantastic spots near our house brimming with chanterelles, black trumpets, oysters, candy caps, and porcini.”
Mushrooms in Popsicles?
Unusual foods are exciting. Have you tasted garlic ice cream? Don’t knock it till you try it. When farming at home,” Katie said, “we always had a lot of mushrooms around and kept trying to find different ways to add more to our diet, but we were getting sick of only cooking savory mushrooms.” The first dessert Paul tried to create on a whim was the Key Lion’s Mane Pie but in a mousse form. It was an instant hit with their friends, but with their commitment to not using preservatives, they encountered some challenges with its extremely short shelf life. Knowing they’d stumbled upon something special, Katie suggested trying the recipe in popsicle form. The popsicles are a treat that they can make — and anyone can enjoy — year-round. They’re also exploring other mushroom-infused desserts, hot/cold beverages, and baked goods.
Santa Cruz Fungi works out of Extra Kitchen behind Patagonia in Santa Cruz at 254 Potrero Street. “The mushroom extracts are sourced from the best in the biz (over 45 years in operation), who perform rigorous scientific analysis to ensure the critical active compounds are present. When we use wild mushrooms, they’re responsibly foraged by us and from the Santa Cruz Mountains or Northern California. We strive to source other ingredients locally whenever possible; our mint is grown in Ben Lomond and Boulder Creek, lemon and limes from Monte Verde Orchard off Ocean Street Extension.”
The popsicles are creamy, sweetened with honey, and don’t taste like mushrooms. Some of their flavors include Strawberry Lion’s Mint infused with lion’s mane extract, known for its cognitive-enhancing properties. The Cordy Creamsicle, infused with cordyceps extract known for its immunity-enhancing properties, is an organic twist on the classic orange-and-vanilla taste. Or try the uplifting Chagaccino with Verve coffee and the oxidative stress-fighting lift of chaga mushroom extract. All the seasonal, wildly creative offerings are dairy free, gluten free, organic, and vegetarian. Katie said, “We also find that fellow fans of ‘The Last of Us’ instantly gravitate toward this zombie-inspired cordyceps popsicle. They even have a pop for your pup!
“We’ve been so lucky to have the support of other businesses in Santa Cruz County, especially allowing us to use their space! It’s been a great way to bounce around and share our popsicles around town,” Katie said. “We’re incredibly thankful to Amanda at Mountain Feed in Ben Lomond, who has been a massive supporter of us from the start!”
Julie Horner writes about the people and culture of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Reach out to Julie at email@example.com.
Featured photo Paul Lazazzara and Katie Sarna with a friend at a Boulder Creek popup by Julie Horner.