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 go to catch up to Europe and Asia who have a different cultural attitude,’ Jamie Gibson from Byron Bay 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’.
‘Australians 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,’ says Jamie.
From one petri dish, through a process of expansion, Jamie and his team will grow up to 1200 kilos in a 13-week period.
Located in Rosebank they grow in a sterile and highly meticulous process. They sell 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 steep sided gully in Uki he grows his Shimeji, Shiitake, King Oyster, Blue Oyster, White Oyster, and Pink Oyster in an outdoor forest environment. Gary agrees with Jamie that we are only scratching the surface of fungi potential and that Australians 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 the challenges of nature: drying winds, the sun and lunar cycles. ‘It means fungi 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.’
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 Market, Friday 7–11am, and Wollumbin Gourmet Mushrooms are at New Brighton Farmers Market 7–11am Tuesdays.