Body, soul and gardening - grow your own mushrooms

Growing mushrooms to cook with is rising in popularity – fungi even featured at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  This tasty produce is incredibly healthy, with high levels of vitamins, minerals and proteins and low levels of fat and calories.  And since gourmet varieties such as shiitake and oyster are expensive to buy, why not consider growing your own?

Kits are a good way to start.  Indoor kits, including a shiitake log that you stand on a plate and mist to keep moist, makes an unusual house plant that you can watch grow and change in colour from shades of yellow to pink.

Growing methods and materials vary according to the variety of mushroom.  Button mushrooms are grown in horse manure.  You scatter the surface with spawn, mixed in at around 7cm deep, then cover with damp newspaper for a few weeks.  Once the white thread-like mycelium appears, the newspaper is replaced with a casing layer of compost mixed with lime, followed by the mushrooms shortly afterwards.  This can be done outdoors, but indoor conditions are easier to control.

Outdoor methods include growing oyster mushrooms with spawn in damp straw in a plastic bag.  This is then left in a moist, sheltered spot for around six weeks, then moved into a light, warm, moist environment.  Cut slits in the bag and you should see the oyster mushrooms grow through them after a few weeks.  Logs make another ideal growing medium for mushrooms.  Wooden plugs impregnated with spawn are hammered into pre-drilled holes in healthy, freshly-cut logs from around now until spring.  The logs are placed in a shady spot and kept moist until you can start harvesting six to 18 months later.  This method takes longer but has the benefit of repeat harvests.

Whatever method you choose, you can’t beat picking and eating your very own mushrooms cooked in butter and garlic on a bit toast.  So delicious and so good for you.