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Written by Sarah Talbot
Posted on 13 December 2020
Mushrooms are turning into big business in both the UK & the USA.
Sales and prices are up, and growers are struggling to keep up with demand. This is thought to be due to an increasing number of people moving to a plant-based diet. Mushrooms are an obvious meat alternative. Even if you don't favour a plant based diet though, mushrooms are fat-free, low calorie, low sodium and gluten free, delicious, nutritious and available all year round.
This year mushrooms may be especially important due to their vitamin D content. Reports about vitamin D reducing the risk of Coronavirus have been all over the news. Even if there is currently not enough evidence to roll out taking vitamin D to combat the disease, it plays a vital part in keeping bones, muscles & teeth healthy so helps you stay in top shape. And topping up your Vitamin D is especially important in the UK where the sunlight isn't strong enough between March & October to allow our bodies to produce what we need.
Vitamin D in the diet mainly comes from red meat, oily fish, egg yolks and fortified foods. But if you are vegetarian or vegan then mushrooms are the only source of vitamin D in the Fruit & Veg section of your supermarket so are a useful addition to achieve a balanced diet.
So, the combination of a huge rise in people following plant based diets and many of us not going outside as much means it is the mushroom's chance to shine.
Button mushrooms remain the most commonly eaten variety, But demand is picking up for specialty varieties, such as shiitake, crimini and oyster mushrooms.
Despite being a much used ingredient, mushrooms are not an everyday crop in your average garden. If you are nervous of wild foraging but long to harvest mushrooms then growing your own gives the reassurance of getting safe, delicious mushrooms without the chance of the poisonous or mind altering effects.
Mushrooms are perennial organisms that can live for decades, and have two distinct parts. Underground, a web of threadlike hyphae known as mycelium cover an often huge area, absorbing nutrients and powering the fungi. Above ground is the visible fruit which is the reproductive organs - the bit we eat.
If you have asked for a mushroom growing kit for Christmas then the choice of which mushroom to grow will already have been made for you. However, if you are planning your own mushroom growing adventure then what variety do you choose?
If you're a beginner, start out by growing Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) The Oyster Mushroom mycelium grows vigorously and will survive a wide range of temperatures so it is easy to grow.
Another great choice is Shiitake Mushroom (Lentinula edodes). These are both easy to grow and taste great and will save you ££££s at the supermarket as they are often sold dried and a little more pricey than your ordinary button mushroom.
Your methods and materials are other factors to consider. You can grow mushrooms on manure, wood, straw, paper or compost. Certain species do better on certain substrates, and matching them up is essential to a good crop.
Plant: all year round but temperature should be between 10° and 18° Beyond this the key consideration is when you are planning on starting and harvesting. Different mushrooms fruit in different seasons, so matching your mushroom to its preferred season will give you the best success.
There are different ways of buying the spawn but the basic steps for growing mushrooms are the same for all
You can get the spawn in a number of forms.
Mushrooms grow in the shade in buckets or shallow planters, in the green house or the shed, or outside in the lawn, beneath trees or on the edge of the compost heap.
Many people think that mushrooms need to be grown in the dark. This is a myth and the truth is that mushrooms lack the ability to use energy from the sun. They do not have the chlorophyll that green plants have. Therefore they can grow in the dark or light as their energy does not come from the sun but from its growing medium.
They do however, need to remain moist, not wet or dry, at all times and it is easier to achieve this in a shady spot.
Mushrooms are a great source of non animal protein, and one of the only foods that you can eat happily for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They are also a lot of fun to grow so well worth trying. For a tasty way to enjoy them why not try this dish?
Cut up one clove of garlic and add it to a frying pan of melted butter. Cut up a large handful of your home grown mushrooms and add to the pan. Fry until brown, tip onto a piece of toast and eat hot. Simple but delicious.
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