I’ve recently been trying out a Suttons Mushroom Kit, it’s been fascinating watching them grow, as once they get going they mature really fast. To begin with nothing seemed to be happening but then, by peering closely at the soil, I saw teeny tiny mushrooms just under the surface which gradually peeped though when the mushrooms were about the size of a shirt button. Once above the surface they soon got much bigger very quickly.
This made me realise that, although I like eating mushrooms, I know very little about them. So I thought that I would find out a little more.
- There are essentially two types of mushroom: those that grow on the ground, such as button types and those that grow on decaying wood, such as Oyster or Shitake, which need to be started off in logs.
- Mushrooms are fungi, which mean they grow from microscopic spores not seeds. These spores develop underground so most of the time when you are watching for signs of growth in your kit you see nothing happening at all. But under the surface tiny filaments called hyphae are spreading to form a mass called a mycelium, and it is the fruit of this mycelium that we eat as mushrooms. That’s why they seem to appear overnight, it is the mycelium under the ground that is doing all the work. The small mushroom that first emerges has the same cell structure as the bigger one we finally eat. It therefore needs very little energy to grow, just some water to help it get bigger.
- They contain no chlorophyll, so do not need light to grow, taking any nutrients they need directly from the soil.
- Mushrooms do not have a skin so they can both lose and soak up water from the atmosphere very easily. So when growing mushrooms it’s important to keep them humid, but not wet and also out of draughts which might dry them out.
- Store mushrooms in the bottom of the fridge in a paper bag, the aim is to prevent moisture loss without them getting sweaty.
- Clean them before cooking with a soft brush, try not to get them too wet as this will affect the flavour.
- Mushrooms are a good source of B vitamins and have one of the highest protein content amongst the vegetables, yet are low in fat and calories.