Fungi are part of almost all of our terrestrial ecosystems, for much of the year we aren’t aware of their presence, they exist as mycelium, a mass of tiny, thread like filaments, hyphae, that live entwined in the soil and undergrowth, we see their fruiting bodies – mushrooms or toadstools – for a short time when they are in season each year.
At this time of year there are many fascinating varieties of toadstools and mushrooms to be found outside. Whether you spot them on a walk or in your garden, fungi are always fun to admire, but not as easy to identify as you might think: there are estimated to be anywhere between 700,000 and 5 million species of fungi in the world. I’d only recommend eating wild mushrooms collected with an experienced, reputable guide person, sadly it’s all too easy to make mistakes, even if you have the most comprehensive guidebook available. Eating wild fungi can be fatal – every year many people make themselves ill eating poisonous fungi they believed to be edible.
I’d recommend admiring the fungi you see on your walk and tasting the delights of your own freshly picked, home-grown mushrooms, grown from a kit. This year I have had so much fun growing mushrooms inside at home, using the Espresso Mushroom Company’s Kitchen Garden Kits! Purchased as a simple and straightforward kit, comprising of a growbag of spent coffee grounds (collected from Brighton’s cafés by bike), which have been inoculated with mushroom spawn, a water spray pump (which can be used effectively in a bottle or glass of water to mist your mushrooms), and a recipe card.
It’s a simple process to start your mushrooms growing, just remove your growbag from its cardboard carton (the size of a large fruit juice carton), you then cut along the cross which is clearly marked on the pack, peel off the perforated panel on the carton, and soak the growbag in water for 12 hours. Then you simply drain the growbag, pop it back inside the cardboard container and place upright in a light and airy spot, out of direct sunlight and away from cold drafts – a cold winter windowsill isn’t recommended, as the pack needs to be kept above 10C. My packs, which I placed on a coffee table in the centre of the room, thrived. Then, using the water spray provided, mist your mushrooms twice a day until harvesting.
I grew both of the Espresso Mushroom Company’s Kitchen Garden, growing mushroom kits – the Hot Pinks and the Pearl Oyster mushroom packs. The Hot Pink kit really does grow pink mushrooms! The mushrooms I grew were a beautiful, vibrant pink and really enhanced the appearance, as well as the taste, of the very special and delicious mushroom risotto and other dishes that they were made into. I have successfully re-used my packs three times so far, harvesting between 180g and 60g of mushrooms each time. Nothing is wasted as the contents of the spent growbag can be used as a soil conditioner, when cropping ceases.
Growing mushrooms is great fun, and fast – once they get started, the mushrooms double in size each day!
If growing mushrooms isn’t for you, quick results can also be achieved indoors, growing cress, and sprouting seeds like chick peas, mung beans, adzuki beans, and alfalfa, to name but a few. Only use seeds specifically sold and labelled as suitable for home sprouting, as some seed deemed destined to be grown outdoors could be contaminated with pesticides or other treatments. Seed sold for sprouting is subject to strict safety controls.
For safety advice from the NHS on growing sprouting seeds for eating, please click here.
A home-made pink mushroom risotto!
Update: I have now successfully harvested both my Espresso Mushroom Company Hot Pinks Kitchen Garden Kit and my Espresso Mushroom Company Pearl Oyster Mushroom Kitchen Garden Kit four times. After harvesting my crop of home-grown mushrooms, I followed the instructions on the pack and left the kits alone to rest and dry for 10 days, before soaking again and then misting twice daily until the next crop of mushrooms were ready for harvest. I grew the most mushrooms from both packs during the first growing session, at each successive harvest I grew fewer mushrooms, as the nutrients in the recycled coffee grounds lessened with each harvest.
If you purchase your own mushroom growing kit, or decide to send one as a gift, it’s worth remembering that the Espresso Mushroom Company strongly recommend that you open and start your pack within a month of purchase. When you place your order, the Espresso Mushroom Company allow you to pre-order on their website, so you can place your order ahead of time and have your mushroom growing kit delivered closer to Christmas or at a time of year that’s convenient to you.
To visit the Espresso Mushroom Company’s website, please click here.
A shortened version of this article was originally published in the October 2015 edition of VantagePoint Magazine.
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