Last week we went to visit a Quality mushrooms, an organic mushroom farm just outside Hamilton. We literally had no clue about how a commerical mushroom farm would look so were really excited to see what it was all about! We were shown around by Dan, the son of the farmer who started the operation some years back.
There are many steps involved in mushroom growing; all of which we could see at the farm on our lil tour!
Mushrooms are grown inside. This means that every second of the growing process can be managed and monitored carefully. At Quality Mushrooms, there are 9 mushroom growing rooms, all at different stages. Each room contains long trays of mushroom growing beds, all loaded with compost and are 6 levels high.
Compost is the basis from where mushrooms grow. It's made up of a mix of wheat straw, chicken manure and gypsum - and it's here where the mushrooms get their nutrients and goodness from! All the compost that Quality Mushrooms uses is made on site, and once it's ready to use it is pasturised to make sure its safe for use.
Once the compost is pasturised, it is mixed with mushroom 'spawn'. Spawn is grain that has been coated with mushroom mycelium (the basis of a mushroom), which then grows into the compost!
With well managed water, temperature, humidiy, and CO2 concentration - 16 days later mushrooms are ready to pick!
You can see the white mycelium (mushroom core body) growing through the middle of the compost. You could almost think of the mushroom that pops up as a kind of flower of the mycelium. It's the mycelium that is alive and would continue to live, even once mushrooms are picked.
After around 3 days, the little nib will turn into a proper mushroom!
Quality Mushrooms grows 2 varieties of mushroom - white button and swiss brown. Mushrooms double in size every 24 hours, so it is a non-stop opartation! They need to be picked at the right time to avoid any overgrowth and wastage. Mushrooms grown so fast that this farm has to pick 7 days a week, 364 days a year (they get Christmas day off). They can pick up to 12 tonnes of mushrooms a week.
*Interesting fact alert!* Swiss brown mushrooms are the same as Portobello mushrooms! Portobellow are just swiss brown mushrooms at a later growth stage.
We learn during our tour, that the 'perfect' and desirable mushrooms are those that still have the veil closed. This means they look like a perfect button and you can't see any underside of the mushroom. Anything that has grown slightly oversized or open will have a broken skirt and be deemed not good enough for the perfect 'Class 1' tag. We are excited to get our hands on these misfits - open veil or not, they still taste delicious! (although we have learned that mushrooms that are more open tend to spoil a bit fater as they can lose water quicker)