Dear Readers, it’s been a fungus-y kind of year, as I’ve found myself noticing mushrooms and toadstools popping up all over the place, but I must admit I hadn’t given much thought to deliberately growing them myself. Then, in the RHS magazine this month there was an article about Caley Brothers, who are leading the way in producing kits to grow your own mushrooms at home. The company is actually run by sisters Lorraine and Jodie Caley (Caley Brothers was the name of the family’s original grocery business) and they explain that mushrooms can not only be grown on the things that we throw away (such as waste paper or coffee grounds) but that, when the mushrooms have been harvested, the compost left behind is a great soil conditioner (I’ve used mushroom compost as a mulch in the garden on several occasions).
It’s interesting that the first ever display of mushrooms at RHS Chelsea came about because of the pandemic – the date of the show was moved to the autumn in 2021, and the designer of the Garden of Hope, Arit Anderson, asked the Caley sisters if they could find a way to incorporate mushrooms into the display. They provided canvas bags inoculated with oyster mushrooms that could be popped in amongst the ferns and shrubs in the garden. They remind me of those little people in Antony Gormley’s ‘Field for the British Isles’ for some reason. Or maybe it’s just me.
Anyhow, I have been looking at the Caley Brothers website, and they have quite a range of fungi on offer. They recommend grey oyster mushrooms to first-time fungologists (a word that I absolutely just made up – the correct word is myrmecologist, but I rather like the idea of ‘fun’).
and perhaps most intriguing of all, lion’s mane mushroom growing kits – the Caley sisters point out that this is a very rare mushroom in the wild in the UK and it’s illegal to forage for it, so if you fancy a lion’s mane steak (and a lot of people do) this might be the way to do it.
Well, I must admit that now I’m intrigued. Key to growing the mushrooms seems to be keeping them moist (as you’d expect) but they also seem to need light. Has anyone out there had a go? Mushroom kits have been around for a while, but these seem to take the whole notion up a notch. I’ve always loved fungi (as regular readers will know), and this feels almost like having a pet fungus, albeit one that you eat. Anyhow, I will keep you posted. Let’s see the future brings!