Thinking green, by Caitlin

Thoughts and ideas on environmental topics from Caitlin Howlett, editor of Green Lifestyle.

The green fungi mile


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By Caitlin Howlett, Deputy and online editor at G

Our food is often more travelled than we are. A CERES report found that 29 of the most common foods in an average person's shopping basket have travelled over 70,000 km - that's nearly two times around the globe. By localising our food and bringing it closer to home, there's greenhouse gas savings, plus nutritional value is preserved, and with a good green thumb there's even cash savings to be made.

But many urban-dwellers are restricted in the space they have to grow their own food. Rising land values in the big cities in recent years has seen an increase in families living in apartments and high-rise complexes, where the only soil to till is on high traffic street verges. Here's where fungi comes in: no soil, windows, fertilliser or hydroponics are necessary - all that's needed for DIY mushrooms is a small, dark, preferably dank area (such as a basement or laundry) and a kit, available to buy online from sites such as Fungi.

I've been experimenting with growing mushrooms for the last few weeks in the laundry of my apartment complex. It's a good idea to make sure you have an easy to access area to grow mushrooms, as depending on the species you want to grow, you'll need to spray water on them once a day or so. A kit costs as little as $40 delivered and can yield a few kilos worth of mushrooms - so there's plenty to share!

I started with oyster mushrooms which grew so quickly that I had my first harvest in just four days. They grow out of a bizzare looking heavy block of compost wrapped in plastic that my housemate first mistook for a loaf of bread! Oyster mushies need to be sprayed with water at least once a day for good results, so to keep the humidity high I stuck a few skewers in the compost to drape a wet tea towel over the block. For first-timers, I'd recommend starting with oyster mushrooms, as it's great getting such instant results to help me feel like I'm doing something right. But in reality, it's so easy that anyone can do it.

Best of all, I've been able to enjoy the taste of nutritious, nutty mushrooms picked fresh. I've found it's best to keep the flavours simple for my home-grown oyster mushrooms, but they go well sautéed with cashews, spring onions, soy sauce, garlic or a splash of apple cider vinegar.

Be aware that there are still some transport emissions involved from getting the mushroom kit delivered to your house (or you can buy kits from most nursery's). But I've been able to grow enough oyster mushrooms for three dinners - plus I'm hoping for an additional 'flush' in another two weeks - so it should mean the overall emissions of my food is a little bit greener than having them trucked to the supermarket where they're then refrigerated for sometimes months on end. Stay tuned for the next few blogs about trying to grow button and Swiss brown mushrooms, before I venture onto the slightly more difficult task of growing shiitake mushrooms on an inoculated log.

Caitlin received her mushroom kits courtesy of