Considering we have such a reputation for clean, green, environmentally responsible farming of nutrient rich food, it’s surprising that there is a field of sustainable agriculture that Australia isn’t at the forefront of.
As it happens in terms of mushroom cultivation we are ‘still in nappies’ says Gary Miller of Wollumbin Gourmet Mushrooms.
‘We have a long way to come to catch up to Europe and Asia who have a different cultural attitude.’ Jamie Gibson from Byron Gourmet Mushrooms explains.
‘These countries underwent times of political upheaval; they have a reverence for mushrooms because they could forage for them when other food was unavailable’.
We tend to be more suspicious and see them as potentially dangerous. Now though we are seeing a renaissance in mushroom cultivation and we in the Northern Rivers can take advantage of this.
‘There is a change in the understanding of the value of a forest. A forest is not only valuable if it can be cut down for timber, with mushrooms you can farm in a forest!’
There is also the potential to train mushrooms to break down plastics, contaminants, hydrocarbon even cigarette butts. ‘Nutrition and medicine are one aspect of an unexplored mega science.’
From one petri dish, through a process of expansion, Jamie, Skye and their team will grow up to 1200 kilos in a 13 week period.
‘There is a misconception with mushrooms that you feed them shit and keep them in the dark. They are phototropic, the grow in lighted contained in a sterile environment, breathing oxygen just like us. It is a meticulous process and a very interesting way to farm’.
Byron Gourmet Mushrooms are located in Rosebank and sell through Farmers Markets and to local restaurants. Like many of us, with COVID lockdowns their orders have halved, instead of this becoming a crisis they see it as an opportunity to diversify, producing mushroom seasoning, mushroom jerky and delving into the medicinal side of things. Currently they are awaiting TGA approval so watch this space.
They are certified organic and cultivate mixed seasonal Oysters; White, Golden, Pink, Black Pearl, King Oyster, Pioppino/Sword Belt, Lion’s Mane, Reishi and Shitake.
Gary from Wollumbin Gourmet Mushrooms oversees a different cultivation process. From his acre on a south west facing steep gully in Uki he grows his Shimeji, Shiitake, King Oyster, Blue Oyster, White Oyster, and Pink Oyster in an outdoor forest environment. Gary’s mushrooms have a harder life, bunkering down during the day and growing in the humidity at night which he believes adds to their flavour.
Gary agrees we are only scratching the surface and are unlike Europeans who will just pick what they would like to eat from the ground. He believes knowledge is all we need to get on board and is enjoying seeing the growth in mushroom microbusinesses.
Gary sells only at the Farmers Markets as his mushrooms are naturally susceptible to nature, drying winds, the sun and lunar cycles. ‘It means it is very seasonal produce, I follow the moon and sun cycles but then there will be an equinox or a solstice and everything will change again. We have micro seasons so I sell what I harvest each week.’
When asking why he chose mushrooms as a new career from software development Gary replies ‘I’m just a fun guy (fun-gi).’
You can purchase new varieties and learn more about gourmet mushrooms when shopping at your weekly Farmers Markets. You can also pick up starter kits.
Byron Gourmet Mushrooms are at Mullum Farmers Markets Friday 7am-11am and Wollumbin Gourmet Mushrooms are at New Brighton Farmers Markets 7am-11am Tuesdays.