by Liz Potter |

Mushrooms are funny little things, neither vegetable nor animal, but something uniquely in-between. Their ‘meaty’ texture and propensity for soaking up flavours makes them a cook’s dream. While mushroom forays are a glorious seasonal outing they’re entirely reliant on someone possessing a rock-solid knowledge of fungal classification; mistakes can be fatal.

Growing your own mushrooms from a kit is a safe and easy way to enjoy them without any aggro. Pre-spawned mushroom kits will see them germinating in just a few weeks or days; the fungal version of sowing cress. It’s best to buy kits online rather than picking them up in shops as you want the mushroom spawn to be fresh, not lingering on a shelf for too long.



Oyster mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms have a delicate flavour and a soft, velvety texture. They cook quickly so they’re great in stir-fries or soups, or sautéed with spring onions and garlic. They’re the easiest of mushrooms to grow so a foolproof place to start.

Oyster mushroom straw kit. Includes breathable bag of straw, tie, spawn and full instructions. £16.99 Dobies 0844 967 0303;

Oyster mushroom book spawn. Pour boiling water over a thick book, add the spawn and wait. £7.99 for 50g spawn Suttons 0844 326 2200;


Chestnut mushrooms

Chestnut mushrooms are a more interesting version of the common white mushroom with a dark cap and stronger flavour. Great raw or cooked in omelettes and casseroles.

Chestnut mushroom windowsill kit. Contains tray, lid and pre-spawned substrate. Harvest in weeks with an estimated two further picks to follow. £9.99 Dobies 0844 967 0303;

Ready-growing chestnut mushroom grow kit. Teeny mushrooms at the ‘pinhead stage’ are ready to grow and pick in days. £9.65 Merryhill Mushrooms 01903 743238;


Shiitake mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms have a meaty texture and a smoky rich flavour that chefs wax lyrical over. Use the tougher stems in stocks and the prized caps in stir-frys and pasta dishes.

Shiitake mushroom grow kit. Ready prepared kit by Merryhill Mushrooms, a major advantage since shiitake are slower to grow. £12.45 Merryhill Mushrooms 01903 743238;

Shiitake mushroom windowsill kit. Ready growing kit by Dobies containing tray, lid and pre-spawned substrate for quicker harvests. £9.99 Dobies 0844 967 0303;

EASY RECIPE: Mushroom pastries


Mushroom tart

This creamy mushroom pastry case filling is a perfect autumn treat. Make the mixture in advance – it’ll keep in the fridge for a couple of days, just warm it through before spooning into the cases.

You will need • 30g (1oz) butter • 250g (9oz) mushrooms, finely chopped • 2 shallots, finely chopped • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley • 4 tablespoons double cream (or creme fraiche) • Half teaspoon Dijon mustard • Salt and pepper • 40 mini pastry cases

  1.  Melt the butter over a fairly high heat and add chopped mushrooms, shallots and garlic. Fry until tender stirring regularly, they should almost be turning slightly crisp.
  1.  With the heat turned low, stir in the double cream and season to taste with parsley, mustard, salt and pepper.
  1.  Spoon into warmed pastry cases.

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