Whether it’s microdosing with psychedelic mushrooms, seeking biodegradable alternatives to polystyrene, or mycologist Paul Stamets’ TED talk (over 5m views on ted.com), fungi is a hot topic. Mushroom gardens are spaces to grow gourmet delights such as oyster or shiitake mushrooms: think elegant woodland dwellings with logs and woodchip beds. Fungi are the perfect solution for slightly damp, shady city gardens, or that spot under a tree where nothing grows. Instead of battling to get plants to take hold, inoculate your ground with mushrooms instead.
This is a dedicated form of gardening that needs to be studied; I suggest you start with Home-grown Mushrooms From Scratch: A Practical Guide To Growing Mushrooms Outside And Indoors, by Magdalena and Herbert Wurth, a comprehensive guide to everything from oyster mushrooms to medicinal reishi. Growing from scratch, or more accurately spores, requires care, so start with a kit and go from there. I got a recycled plastic pot oyster mushroom kit for just under a tenner (from gourmetmushrooms.co.uk). It’s perfect for the uninitiated, as oyster mushrooms grow in a wide range of conditions.
A packet of grain spawn arrives in a neatly sealed packet with straw and instructions: all you have to do is get handy with an old pot, or in my case, a recycled industrial mayonnaise tub with a lid that I got from the local chippy. Cut holes in the pot for the mushrooms to grow, wet the straw, gently massage the grain spawn to break it up, mix it about, pack it back in the tub, and wait. Oh, and mist the holes as often as you can remember, ideally twice a day. I failed at this, which is probably why I waited much longer than four weeks for mine to appear.
Just when I was about to give up, my first batch of oysters appeared overnight. They grew so fast that it felt as if they would gain an inch if you turned your back on them. What I wasn’t expecting is how different a freshly picked mushroom would taste. Home-grown mushrooms are silken and plump, unlike anything I’ve ever bought.
With luck, the pot is capable of producing a flush of mushrooms every fortnight for about 10 weeks. Once the pot has finished, the straw can be used as spawn to create an outdoor bed using woodchip, or mixed into an open compost bin, where it may continue to produce.
This easy kit has worked: I’m hooked and already planning my mushroom garden.
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