Mushrooms are culinary superstars, bringing unique flavour, texture and nutritional value to a huge range of cuisines.
But despite being found in everything from stir-fry and salads to bruschetta and brunch spreads, mushrooms are a mystery to many.
They aren’t plants, yet they can be cultivated and incorporated into your home food production.
In fact, you don’t even need a garden – under your kitchen sink will do! If you’ve ever wanted to grow your own mushrooms but weren’t sure where to start, consider this your cheat sheet.
Mushroom biology basics
First of all, what is a mushroom?
In short, it’s the fleshy fruiting body of a fungus that appears above ground, either on the surface of the soil or the fungus’ food source (e.g. a decaying tree). It carries the spores that the fungus uses to reproduce.
There is a huge, diverse array of mushrooms types, many of them poisonous. Fortunately for us, others are excellent for eating!
Edible mushroom taxonomy
Mushrooms of the species Agaricus bisporus are the most well-known for culinary use.
White button mushrooms and Swiss browns are both of this species, being two different colour states of this mushroom before it reaches maturity.
In their mature state, they are often called Portobello mushrooms. They are delicious, nutritious and not difficult to cultivate.
The easy way to grow mushrooms
There are numerous methods of cultivating mushrooms and exploring these can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be quite complex and specialised.
For beginners, a mushroom growing kit offers a simple, no-fuss way to start enjoying edible mushroom cultivation at home.
How to Grow Mushrooms at Home
Where to Grow Mushrooms
Climate is an important factor in growing mushrooms.
Australia has a wide range of climate zones, but you can grow them almost anywhere by choosing an indoor spot with a fairly constant temperature and humidity.
Optimal conditions vary depending on mushroom type – for example, a constant 17-20 degrees celsius is ideal for white buttons and Swiss browns.
Mushrooms don’t rely on sunlight for growth, as they don’t photosynthesise like plants do.
A little light is needed in order to form the fruiting body, but keep it dim.
In a basement or under the kitchen sink can be good places to try.
How To Grow Mushrooms
Cultivating mushrooms involves inoculating a growing medium with mushroom spawn, then incubating this in a warm, dark place.
Depending on the type of mushroom, the growing medium will vary. This can range from wood (often taking the form of a log) to coffee grounds in a bucket.
There are numerous techniques out there, and while these go beyond the scope of this guide, it is a fascinating topic to dive into.
Using a kit is much simpler because the inoculation is done for you.
With one of the Garden Express mushroom kits, all you need to do is empty the included peat moss growing mix onto the mushroom compost, and sprinkle with water to keep moist.
Your first mushroom should appear in 2-3 weeks.
Harvest mushrooms when they’re at your preferred size, keeping in mind that a more open cap generally means a more intense flavour.
As you pick them, more flushes will emerge.
Pick mushrooms as they develop and more will emerge in flushes.
Using a kit, you can expect to harvest around 2.5-3kg over six weeks.
Garden Express stocks growing kits for both white and brown mushrooms. Swiss browns (or Portobellos in their mature form) have a stronger flavour and firmer texture than the more delicate white button form.
Both are nutritious, delicious and versatile in the kitchen, so why not give them a go?