Find a dark spot at your place to cultivate this popular nutritional powerhouse in just a few weeks
Mushrooms range from the common button to the more exotic golden oyster. Image: Thinkstock
They may be small in size, but mushrooms are big on nutritional benefits.
With virtually no sodium or fat, they’re cholesterol free, contain the B vitamins niacin and riboflavin, and are a good source of dietary fibre.
Tasty and versatile, they’re used raw or cooked in a number of ways.
More than 85% of Australian households purchase fresh mushrooms on a regular basis. According to the Australian Mushroom Growers’ Association, they are the second most valuable fresh vegetable crop grown in this country after potatoes.
Mushrooms can be grown at home without any special equipment, and you don’t need a garden as you can use a kit and cultivate them indoors.
To grow white button and Swiss brown mushrooms indoors, just add water and keep the kit in a dark, moist spot. The spore of the more exotic oyster and shiitake can be grown on a mushroom board, wood or straw.
Depending on the variety, you can be harvesting mushrooms in three to five weeks’ time.
Use the kit contents as fertiliser when finished.
Raising from kit
To cultivate your own mushrooms purchase a grow your own mushroom kit from your local hardware or garden store. Most come with instructions and pasteurised compost that is preseeded with spawn and casing.
Step 1. Open the bag of compost
Open the large bag of mushroom compost. Leave it in the box and spread the small bag of peat moss on top. Water with a fine spray and keep moist while the mushrooms are growing.
Step 2. Store the box away from sunlight
Put the box in a dark, moist spot away from direct light or draughts. In about seven days, a white or light green mould will appear and the mushrooms will grow from this.
Did you know?
Commercial mushroom growing in Australia dates back to 1933, when they were grown in railway tunnels, including the Circular Quay to
St James line before it was completed.
The industry moved outdoors in the late 1930s and mushrooms were grown in raised beds in open fields, covered in straw and hessian bags.
The mushroom industry is the ultimate recycler. The nutrient-rich compost in which they’re grown is made from stable bedding, straw, poultry litter and other organic materials. The finished waste is sold as garden mulch and fertiliser.
Never eat wild mushrooms unless you can identify them accurately, as fatal poisoning can occur. Take heed of the saying, ‘If in doubt, go without’.
SAFFRON MILK CAPS or Lactarius deliciosusare bright orange and mild tasting. They are popular sautéed, in rice dishes and pastas, and may
SLIPPERY JACKS or Suillus luteushave brown caps and yellow gills. They also have slimy skins that need to be peeled before eating. They have a strong taste and can be used in a variety of recipes, including sauces and casseroles, or fried.
Slippery jack have a strong taste and can be used in a variety of recipes, including sauces and casseroles, or fried. Image: Thinkstock
Also called champignons and table mushrooms, if picked when very young their delicate flavour makes them perfect for eating raw or cooked. If picked when starting to open, button mushrooms have a deeper colour and taste, and are great for stir-fries and casseroles.
White button mushrooms have a deeper colour and taste, and are great for stir-fries and casseroles. Image: Thinkstock
The deep, earthy taste and firm flesh of Swiss brown mushrooms makes them an ideal ingredient for casseroles and risottos. They’re also delicious marinated and added to an antipasto plate. You can pick them young or allow them to grow larger. The large ones are usually sold as Portabello mushrooms.
The deep, earthy taste and firm flesh of Swiss brown mushrooms makes them an ideal ingredient for casseroles and risottos. Image: Thinkstock
Reaching a height of about 200mm and a width of 300mm, these large mushrooms are also called King Stropharia. Rich and meaty, they’re perfect for stuffing and also make tasty soups. You can buy an outdoor kit that comes with spawn and grow them in a shady spot in the garden.
Rich and meaty giant mushrooms are perfect for stuffing and also make tasty soups. Imaeg: Thinkstock
Very popular in Asia, oyster mushrooms have a delicate, mild flavour and a distinctive shape and texture. They’re great for stir-fries and go well with seafood, chicken or pork. You can choose from pink oyster, golden oyster and pearl oyster mushrooms.
Oyster mushrooms great for stir-fries and go well with seafood, chicken or pork
Reputed to have many health-giving properties, shiitake mushrooms are a good source of iron, protein and fibre. The rich, woody flavour is ideal for pasta and casseroles or they can be thrown on the barbie. Remove the hard stems before cooking and use them to flavour soup or stock.
Shiitake mushrooms are a good source of iron, protein and fibre. Image: Thinkstock