Why Mushrooms Are the Grow-Your-Own Treat for the Whole Family

If you’re looking for healthy food you can grow yourself and get the whole family in on the fun, mushrooms are the answer. We asked the experts from Merryhill Mushrooms to explain

What exactly are mushrooms?
Mushrooms are the edible fruiting bodies of a fungus. There are many different varieties grown all over the world both cultivated and in the wild. The mushrooms we eat consist of a stem, cap and gills. Their scientific name is Agaricus Bisporous. Mushrooms are a great food, high in protein and vitamin D and a source of B12 and selenium, count as of one of your five-a-day, and help support the immune system.

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How are mushrooms grown?
Mushrooms are grown from spores, not seeds, and they need a substrate like sawdust, grain, straw or wood chips for nourishment. They start as a mycelium that pushes through the soil grows into the fruiting body.

Mushrooms do not need light from the sun to grow unlike other plants so can be grown in the dark. However species like Oyster mushrooms need some daylight to give them their colour.

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Mushrooms like moist conditions and a temperature range of 60 to 70 degrees F to fruit. They are grown commercially on large farms, in the wild and are available in small kits designed to grow at home.

How are they grown from a kit and how long does it take?
There are various kits available to grow your own fresh mushrooms at home depending on experience and knowledge, from regular white mushrooms to the more exotic Shiitake, Oyster and Lion’s Mane.

With a little skill and care mushrooms can be grown at home within weeks and depending on the kits some as quick as a few days. Most kits are suitable for beginners and come with instructions. The easiest kits are ‘ready spawned’ kits – these will give the quickest results. Nothing beats the thrill and taste of growing your own produce.

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Are mushroom kits suitable for kids?
Yes definitely, there are many mushroom kits suitable for children that are easy to assemble and look after. The most popular are the White and Chestnut mushrooms.

Mushrooms are fascinating to watch grow as once starting to fruit they double their size overnight. They require minimal care often only daily watering and keeping in the right conditions as detailed on the kits. Kids love picking and then cooking with them – they make great healthy pizza toppings.

What different types of mushrooms are there?
There are over 50,000 species of mushrooms in the world! The most commonly recognised are the White and Chestnut varieties, and are found in supermarkets as button, cups or the large flat (Portabella).

Other well-known varieties are oyster, shiitake, and king oyster which are gaining popularity. You will also find on many menus in restaurants Chanterelle, Porchini and Morels.

Medicinal Reishi, Maitake and Lion’s Mane are also in demand. This time of year in the fields you will find giant Puff Balls which can reach up to 20kgs!

Are mushrooms good to eat?
Mushrooms have a unique savoury taste and a dense meaty texture when cooked. They provide a fifth taste sense, ‘Umami’, and are an economical, nutritious way to enhance any meal.

The baby buttons are perfect for casseroles and large Portabella can be stuffed or topped like a pizza . Mushrooms can be eaten raw and are delicious on salads or with dips. They twin well with garlic and thyme. They can be dried, powdered and frozen once cooked.

Where can I find some good mushroom recipes?
There are so many fantastic simple mushroom recipe ideas on line.

Tips for preparing and cooking:

  • When preparing mushrooms, avoid washing them as this can cause them to soak up water. Simply brush off with damp paper towel.
  • When frying, cook on a high heat as this will enable water content to evaporate, and don’t overcrowd the pan – this will make them steam rather than sautee
  • Store fresh mushrooms in fridge in a paper bag

What other mushroom based products are available?
There are many mushroom based products available.

  • Mushroom Jerky – dried marinated mushroom make a delicious snack
  • Mushroom powders, ketchups to enhance sauces and soups
  • Salts and seasoning giving a rich umami flavour for cooking and using in dips
  • Dried mushrooms, porchini, chanterelle, simply rehydrate to use
  • Mushroom coffee, coffee mixed with medicinal powders full of antioxidants to boost immune system, often used chaga and Lion’s Mane

Merryhill Mushrooms is a family run business at the foot of the South Downs in West Sussex, with knowledge and expertise growing mushrooms for local suppliers and pub menus spanning three generations. Its range of indoor easy grow your own mushroom kits are created by hand in small batches for freshness with bespoke easy to follow instructions. With any surplus crop and the help of local chef ‘the team’ have created a range of Jerkys and salt seasonings. It all started at local Farmers’ Markets and food festivals, spurred on by winning a small business award from Theo Paphitis. The products are now available online and shipped to mainland UK.

Where can I find out more?
Further details on all our products can be found at www.merryhill-mushrooms.co.uk. or from merryhill-mushrooms@live.com. Available on on Amazon. Pre-orders are taken from October for Christmas gifts.

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