Why not try something a little bit different, and grow your own mushrooms at home?
Mushroom growing may seem complicated but our mushroom dowels, mushroom spawn and complete mushroom growing kits all provide full instructions and everything you will need to grow your own mushrooms - no specialist equipment is required.
They are virtually fat and calorie-free and packed full of vitamins and minerals to keep you feeling on top form - an 80g serving even counts towards your 5-a-day vegetable target. They are a very rich source of protein and therefore perfect for vegetarians. Follow this guide to learn more about how to grow your own mushrooms!
Remember - it's better to grow your own, than to risk picking wild mushrooms! But take care when choosing a location for mushroom growing as some people are allergic to mushrooms or mushroom spores and others may become sensitised by high concentrations of spores. Choose a well ventilated area for mushrooms to fruit in.
Oyster mushrooms have a thick, soft texture with a subtle flavour. Can be eaten cooked or raw and are often used in Oriental cooking.
Shiitake mushrooms have been cultivated and nurtured in Japan for more than a thousand years, and are now a sought after ingredient for many Oriental dishes. Try growing Shiitake mushrooms for a good accompaniment to meats, stir-fries and heavy sauces.
Lions' Mane mushrooms have been used traditionally in China and Japan for hundreds of years, and are renowned for their medicinal benefits. This unusual variety has a taste likened to lobster when cooked with butter, but can be eaten boiled, grilled or as an ingredient to many other dishes.
Brown cap mushrooms are an old fashioned variety. Its firm texture and enhanced nutty flavour offer alternatives to white button mushrooms.
White cap mushrooms are the common form of this much used vegetable that we are all familiar with.
We supply our Oyster mushrooms, Shiitake mushrooms and Lion's mane mushrooms as dowels. The wooden dowels are impregnated with mushroom mycelium (mushroom spawn) ready to 'plant' into a hardwood log. They should be stored in the fridge or a cool, dark, well ventilated place until ready to use.
Dowels are available all year, however the logs needed to grow the mushrooms should be cut during the tree's dormant season, between leaf fall in autumn and early spring. It is recommended that the dowels are planted in the log no longer than 6 weeks after the log has been cut to prevent contamination from unwanted fungi.
Logs should be cut from healthy trees during the dormant season. Preferably you should use hard wood logs for mushroom growing - oak, beech, birch, hazel, willow etc; sycamore, apple and ash are not recommended. The log should have a diameter of about 10-15cm. A log of this diameter and 50cm length will support 10-15 dowels. Keep the logs shaded from direct sunlight and strong winds to prevent them drying out before use. If you don't have suitable logs for mushroom growing you could ask local tree surgeons, council parks departments or forest managers if they have anything suitable.
Drill holes about 15cm (6 inches) apart down the length of the log. Rows only need to be spaced 7.5cm (3 inches) apart around the diameter of the log. Insert the dowels and tap them so they are flush with the log surface. Seal the inoculation holes, any damaged bark and any cut branch-ends with a layer of wax but do not wax the log-ends as some moisture must be allowed in. Position the logs in a shady wooded area or wrap them in black polythene and bury them under ground. You could also place them under evergreen shrubs. Keep an eye on your logs and if there are signs of significant cracking soak the logs in water for 2 days to thoroughly wet the bark. Mushroom mycelium may take between 6 and 18 months to colonise a log. You may see the mycelium appear as a 'V' shape at the end of the log. Once logs are fully colonised they can be moved to a warm, sheltered, moist area in dappled shade where they will begin to fruit. Growing mushrooms in woodland is ideal to meet these requirements. Lean the logs with one end on a brick, rock or another log - do not place logs flat on the ground.
Each species differs and they will only fruit when environmental conditions are right for them. Small, white nodes will appear from the inoculation points on the log and these will develop into mushrooms within a week. Maintain humidity and moisture levels during this time and do not move the log.
To harvest your mushrooms, grasp them at the base of the stem and twist them away from the log. Logs will continue to fruit for up to 4 weeks. When growing mushrooms, allow several months recuperation time for the mycelium to regenerate before producing another crop. Logs will be productive for four to six years.
Growing mushrooms at home is very easy with straw kits. They produce oyster mushrooms in around 6 weeks, and can be grown indoors all year round making them the simplest mushroom growing method.
Pour boiling water over the straw in the bag and fold over the top, allowing the water to cool for a few hours. Once cooled, pour the water out of the growing bag and drain the straw. Sprinkle the spawn onto the straw and shake the bag to distribute them evenly, before sealing the top of the bag with the tie provided. The bag will require a warm position of 18-25C (64-77F) for thefirst four weeks while the mycelium grows through the straw; an airing cupboard is ideal. It should then be moved to a cooler position of 10-15C (50-59F) for 3 to 5 days.
Remove the straw from the growing bag, place it in the fruiting tray and cover the straw with the perforated fruiting bag to encourage mushrooms to develop. Place the straw in a lit area but shaded from direct sun, at a temperature of 10-21C. Spray the straw with water twice a day as the mushrooms begin to develop. Mushrooms should be harvested within 10 days, before the caps unfurl and release their spores. After harvesting the crop, the straw can be soaked in cold water for two hours before returning it to the fruiting tray and repositioning the fruiting bag. Again, place the straw in a lit area at a temperature of 10-21C. Simply repeat this process until the straw is exhausted.
Grain spawn for mushroom growing is available all year and enables growers to follow traditional methods of growing on composted manure. Using this method mushrooms may be grown outdoors or indoors in controlled conditions. Sow outside from spring to August, or sow indoors with an even temperature of around 16C (50F), and not below 10C or above 20C.
Mushrooms can be grown outdoors in neglected lawns and around compost heaps. They are most successful in soils that are rich in organic matter. Lift 25cm (10 inch) square pieces of turf to a depth of 4cm, with each square set about 60cm (24in) apart. Loosen the soil beneath the turf squares with a garden fork, adding extra organic matter such as well-rotted manure or garden compost if the soil is poor. Do not use chemical fertilisers as mushrooms will not grow in these conditions. Spread the mushroom spawn thinly over the soil surface and lightly mix to 1cm deep. Replace the turf squares firmly and keep the soil moist though not waterlogged. When growing mushrooms outdoors, fruiting will depend entirely upon weather conditions.
Try growing Button mushrooms in a mushroom box or bed, ideally on compost made from well prepared horse manure. You can either use well-rotted manure which is available pre-packaged from garden centres, or prepare your own using fresh horse manure. To make your own compost simply moisten the fresh manure and fork it into a heap, packing it down firmly. The heap should soon heat up in the middle and become hot to touch. Turn the heap every 2 days for 2 or 3 weeks by forking the cooler manure on the outside into the middle and make sure the manure remains moist but not waterlogged. The compost is ready when the contents have become dark brown and have a mild sweet smell.
Mushroom beds and boxes can be established in cellars, sheds, or garden frames, and should be 25cm (10”) deep. They can be grown in dark or lit conditions but not direct sunlight. Remember that mushrooms require an even temperature of around 16C (50F) to grow, and not below 10C or above 20C. Tightly pack mushroom beds with prepared compost and scatter the spawn across the surface, mixing it to 2 or 3 inches deep before covering with damp newspaper. After 3 weeks, the compost will be colonised by mycelium which will look like white threads. Remove the newspaper at this point and cover the compost with a 2.5cm (1”) layer of casing, mixed from 50% garden soil, 50% peat and a few handfuls of lime. Alternatively you could also use 50% compost (peat-free is fine) and 50% chalk or lime. Lime is necessary as mushrooms prefer alkaline growing conditions. Keep the casing layer moist but not wet - use a fine rose watering can or a mister. Mushrooms will begin to develop 3 to 5 weeks after adding the casing layer.
Maintain a moist, humid atmosphere as mushrooms develop - water with a fine rose watering can or with regular misting. Harvest mushrooms by twisting the cap until it comes away from the compost. You should receive flushes of growth every 10 days or so.
Thompson & Morgan offers a wide selection of Mushrooms, click here to view our full range of mushrooms.