It's taken me a little while to begin this blog post. Not because I'm not excited about writing it - for those of you following my Insta Stories you will know just how over-excited I am about growing these mushrooms! First of all I wanted to make sure the kit I bought worked before recommending it, and secondly I wanted to come up with some delicious pink oyster mushroom recipes to share with you. I'm now sure of the former, but the shrooms aren't yet big enough for the latter ... so I'll get writing and add the recipe once my crop is ready to cook.
Why Grow Mushrooms?
I got excited about growing mushrooms thanks to this man. Derek Sarno is the guy behind vegan food brand Wicked Kitchen. If you haven't seen Wicked Kitchen in the supermarket yet, go to any decent sized Tesco and check out the vegan section. WK will most certainly be there! Wicked offer ready made plant based meals (healthy ones), including sourdough pizza, vegan ravioli and passionfruit cheesecake, to name just a few. The bigger the Tesco the wider the range. As you'll see from his insta feed, Derek is also super passionate about squirrels and mushrooms - he cares for both! It was watching the amazing variety of mushrooms Derek uses that got me thinking about growing my own. They literally multiply all over my lawn, how hard can it be to cultivate them, right?
The Skin Benefits of Mushrooms
Mushrooms may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of skin-boosting ingredients, but they have been used in Eastern medicine for over 7,000 years.
- Mushrooms are the only source of vitamin D in the fresh produce aisle and one of the few non-fortified food sources. Vitamin D helps build and maintain strong bones by helping the body absorb calcium. Vitamin D is available via diet, supplements and sunlight, which is why it is also referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”
- With anti-inflammatory properties, mushrooms can help reduce irritation and inflammation therefore improving skin conditions such as psoriasis, rosacea and eczema.
- Mushrooms are rich in selenium and antioxidants that protect our skin against wrinkles and discoloration caused by environmental damage
- Mushroom varieties such as shiitake help to strengthen the body’s natural immunities, reducing skin sensitivity and improving resilience to environmental irritants
- White button, cremini, portobello and oyster are good sources of minerals, B vitamins, protein and phytonutrients for general health maintenance
- Reishi mushrooms are good for hydration levels; by supporting the skin’s protective barrier you are boosting the skin’s ability to keep moisture in and shut intruders out, which creates a healthy and resilient complexion
Mushrooms in the Shops
The range of mushrooms now readily available in the supermarket has massively increased over the past few years. Whilst chestnut, button and portobello mushrooms were often the mainstay of the mushroom section, most supermarkets now offer shiitake, king oyster and more. It's exciting to see such diversity and the options available make for very delicious recipes. Mushrooms are also a fantastic source of vegan protein, so having heaps of varieties to choose from definitely helps those of us following a plant-based diet.
Where to Buy a Kit
So, knowing I wanted to start my own mini mushroom farm I began researching what was involved. Do I simply buy mushrooms seeds and plant them like vegetables? Erm, nope! Shroom cultivation is more complicated than that, BUT it's infinitely easier than I expected. First off, I recommend buying a kit. This is the kit I bought. It was paid for, this is not an ad, I have no affiliation with the seller but he's been helpful, chatty and his advice makes sense. You see, garden centres might have kits sitting on the shelf for a good few months before they're sold. That means the spores are old. Old spores equals less chance of successful shrooms. This seller will post the full kit to you, OR if you're looking to gift it you can buy a voucher for the spores and redeem that when the recipient is ready to begin their grow. I was ready to get started right away, so for a tenner I bought the full kit which contained everything I needed.
Which Variety to Buy?
There are lots of different mushroom varieties. Everything from button mushrooms to pretty coloured Oysters and also medicinal mushrooms such as Shiitake. I really fancy having a go at growing those, but Elm & Oysters are apparently the simplest crops, and I wanted to begin with something easy. Too complex and I'd fall at the first hurdle, then the incentive to try again slowly wains.
How Long Will it Take to Grow Mushrooms?
My kit was here within a couple of days. The first bit involves soaking what is essentially a small hay bale with water and leaving it overnight. Then you massage the spores in, seal the bag and do nothing for 2 weeks. That's right, nothing! The mushrooms stay in the dark - no peeking - and they do their thing.
After 14 days I carefully opened the bag to see a white growth on the straw. It's a bit like a white spiders web. This is called mycelium and means things are looking good! From that moment onwards the shrooms need light & oxygen exposure, so I sat the bag on a windowsill out of any drafts. The straw has to be sprayed with water each day to keep it damp. I actually worried for the first few days that the mycelium was disappearing. There certainly wasn't any sign of a mushroom. It literally looked as though I'd plonked a bag of damp straw on the window ledge in my lounge. Oh, oh, oh,day 7 and there it is ... a tiny pin head of pink! My first home grown mushroom! Yes, the excitement was real. From that moment things escalated fast, each day I'd see new pin head of pink & they were gradually growing into fully formed mushrooms. Bright pink & beautiful.
So, here we are, day 13 (actually 27 days total since I started my kit) and probably not far away from cultivation. Apparently pink oysters like warmth and grow bigger in hot climates so I'm keeping mine snug.
Once these have been cut & cooked I apparently have another 2, 3 or even 4 crops to come. Which makes a tenner seem like a real bargain. The only thing I'm disappointed to read is that the pink colour disappears in the cooking process. Boo hoo I so wanted pink mushroom risotto! Rumour has it pink oysters taste like chicken :) Having not tasted chicken for 27 years I'm easily fooled, although I will be delighted if my mushrooms simply taste like mushrooms!
Are you inspired to give these a try? Check out my Pink Oyster Porcini Risotto Recipe right here.