When we were children, my mum used to take us foraging for mushrooms in the woods, which we’d then bring home and fry in butter to eat on toast for tea (often with clods of earth still attached; we had a rather reckless regard for hygiene). In those pre-internet days, my mother relied heavily on a rather hazy and abstract recollection of which mushrooms were safe to eat and which might be deadly; meals were thus always charged with a certain frisson of danger, and we watched each other attentively for signs of imminent poisoning.
Despite this cavalier approach, most of us made it to adulthood and we all still enjoy eating mushrooms; so much so in fact that I’ve always quite fancied the idea of growing my own. The internet abounds with handy instructions on how to grow a forest of fungi from the pages of an old book, old coffee grounds, tree logs – you name it, there’s a tutorial.
I was fleetingly obsessed with the idea of using books, perhaps some of my book-folded sculptures, to grow beautiful, sculptural fields of oyster mushrooms. Then I looked more closely at the instructions for this, which seem to involve lots of soaking in bathtubs (the books, not oneself, sadly), freezing, spore-scattering and alternating between pitch black and sunlight, all whilst maintaining a steady temperature. Really, it wasn’t for me. I needed something that thrived rather more on neglect and distraction.
And then I found it…
I bought one of these ready-made kits which promised a bloom of mushrooms within a couple of weeks of activation (kits are widely available online and in garden centres from lots of suppliers). With this one, you simply take the packet out of the box, soak it overnight, drain and stand it upright again and wait for the mushrooms to appear. Like so:
You are supposed to spritz the pack lightly with water twice a day, but – confession time – I began mine the day before I left for a work trip to the US and returned after 6 days to find, magically ….this!
The box had been roundly ignored by all remaining household members, and had quietly produced a magnificent bloom of hot pink oyster mushrooms, which apparently arrived overnight on day 4. Once grown, you simply twist the mushrooms off and they’re ready to be rinsed and cooked. Don’t they look beautiful?
They’re currently sitting on a chopping board on the kitchen counter, looking gorgeous and awaiting recipe inspiration. In the meantime, the pack promises a second yield so I am hoping another week of neglect might provide a second Saturday-night feast. Let’s see.
Have you tried growing mushrooms? Any luck with a more green-fingered, spore-based approach? Having tried this easy option, I’m inspired to experiment a bit more…
Have a wonderful weekend!