A magical mushroom harvest in my spare room
Ok, they don’t look much now, but they’ll look amazing in a frying pan!
Now mushrooms lag pretty far behind vegetables and herbs on the list popular home-grown foods. I don’t know anyone who has even tried to grow them. So how did I manage to start propagating? Well, grab a cuppa and I’ll tell you a story.
If you are a regular reader (and you know who you are) you’ll know I was a visitor to Camel Community Supported Agriculture last week to celebrate it landing oodles of Lotto cash to help expand its educational schemes and veg box business.
While I was there and after my ridiculous decision to wear white trainers had been exposed, I was chatting to a guy called Mark over a coffee in their shed/office. Conversation turned to mushrooms, because the weekend before I had been to Dartmouth Food Festival and bumped into Adam from Woodfruit. His newest business venture, as written about here, is home mushroom kits, allowing people to grow their own pearl mushrooms from bags of mulch at home.
I told Mark about this over coffee and lemon drizzle cake and was quite surprised when, in his gentle Northern Irish accent, he casually mentioned that he grew his own shiitake mushrooms at home. It had originally been an attempt at a commercial venture, but he had been unable to get local restauranteurs to commit to buy a regular supply. Turns out they like changing their menus too often! But he had been supplying some to the CCSA box scheme.
After telling me about his attempts to grow the mushrooms he offered to give me a couple of his growing blocks. Traditionally shiitake were grown on wooden blocks hewn from the shii tree (hence the name) but he was growing from special perforated bags filled with wood chippings and other substances that were then impregnated with shiitake spores.
Ten minutes later he was back with two blocks that resembled slightly rotten loaves of brown bread. These were two bloocks from which he had already taken several harvests.
The instructions were simple: put it in a bucket/sink for 12-24 hours covered in cold water. Take it out and leave it somewhere moderately warm, no special humidity requirements, and wait for nature to take its course. No maintenence, no special equipment.
So I followed his advice and the spare bedroom became the mushroom nursery. The soaking was done and blocks left. That was a week ago. The result seven days after conception is around 20 mushrooms growing from the block. They are not ready to harvest just yet (i think) but they are proper mushrooms, grown by a complete home-growing novice in a box room in the centre of Plymouth.
Frankly I think that rocks and I’m looking forward to eating the fruits of my own (sort of) labour.
The only question is, how to eat them? Recipe suggestions welcome!