For details of local mushroom growers and kit providers, see the relevant part of the Local Food Directory.
As a reasonably serious home grower, I naturally think that the best veggies are the ones that I grow myself. So it is with mushrooms. The obvious way to grow mushrooms at home is from a kit. For many types of mushroom, such a kit is simply a box or bag containing spores ‘hidden’ within a suitable growing medium. You just place the box/bag in a suitable place (e.g. inside, but not in direct sunlight or next to a heater; contrary to what some people think, darkness is not required), water it every day (by spraying), and, after X days, a whole bunch of mushrooms suddenly appear. And, to some extent at least, they are ‘crop and come again’ for the next few months. As long as you do the watering diligently, success is almost guaranteed (i.e. I have always succeeded). For some types of mushroom, however, a more specialised kit is required. For example, shiitake mushrooms are usually grown in logs (of particular trees only) and seem to require a combination of skill, technique and luck to grow successfully (i.e. I have never succeeded).
When I was starting out, I used to buy my mushroom kits online. But since moving to North East Melbourne, I have been able to obtain my kits from local producers. Luckily, such kits are available at very affordable prices from local mushroom growers for all types of mushrooms:
- Normal mushrooms (e.g white button, swiss brown): from The Mushroom Shed, based in Montmorency. The kits are the size of a large shoe box and come with instructions. You can obtain them at Alphington Farmers’ Market, Coburg Farmers’ Market; Eltham Farmers’ Market, Slow Food Melbourne Farmers’ Market or St Andrews Market.
- Asiatic mushrooms (e.g, oyster, shimeji): from The Mushroom Co, based in Ringwood. The kits are small plastic bags or tubs.
- Shiitake: my recommendation is that you get the kit as part of a workshop where you learn how to use it. Bulleen Art & Garden Nursery run such courses.
If growing your own mushrooms is not your thing, you can buy them from:
- The Mushroom Shed for normal mushrooms (at Alphington Farmers’ Market, Coburg Farmers’ Market; Eltham Farmers’ Market, Slow Food Melbourne Farmers’ Market or St Andrews Market).
- The Mushroom Co for Asiatic mushrooms.
Or if, like a friend of mine, you want to pretend to be growing your own mushrooms (to impress people?), you can always buy a shoe box and place some bought mushrooms in it (see picture right, where the regular spacing of the mushrooms is the giveaway).
Finally, why do you think that mushrooms sometimes appear in large rings (known as fairy rings)? This becomes explicable if one understands that a mushroom is not actually an ‘organism’ but, rather, is ‘the fruiting body of an organism’. The organism itself comprises hair-like filaments called mycelium (my-seel-ium), which are underground and thus never seen. A mycelium spore will grow outward from where it first alights and, if not inhibited, will grow equally in all directions. Its outermost extremities will therefore form a circle. As the nutrients in the centre are gradually exhausted, the living part will eventually become the outermost circle. And, by changing the constitution in this outermost circle, the circle might still be apparent even if there are no longer any mushrooms.