Winding around rural roads, seeking autumn inspiration… autumn time, that’s mushroom time.
Chanterelles, portobello, cremini, porcini, enoki, shiitake, morel, oyster, saffron milk cap… The names border on mysterious, and their appearance sometimes the spooky. And magical, even, perhaps.
In nature’s hands they appear, almost out of nowhere, and invariably overnight. Magical indeed. The classic table and chairs mushroom rings make it easy to believe they are the work of fairies, celebrating at mystical feasts in darkness, while we sleep.
Their parts even sound mysterious. They’re all veils, gills, caps, stems and spores. And they grow like topsy - doubling in size super quick, and spreading their spores, and with that still more caps appear.
Under the cover of darkness, this is no covert vege operation…
And let’s clear up one thing straight away. They aren’t vegetables. There are no roots, no stems, and no leaves.
Fungi grow in the dark - veges photosynthesise, they need sun. Your shrooms also need misty and wet conditions. In compost beds, on tree logs, in amongst the foliage. And when it’s done commercially, the word, we’ve learnt, is fungiculture.
And here’s another thing… with most of what we eat, issues of harvesting and population sustainability are two opposing concerns. Each need careful consideration and management, so that one does not compromise the other. In quite the opposite turn of nature, harvesting mushrooms quite possibly improves the growth of the species, promoting the dispersion of spores, responsible for creating that all important mycelia…
Ever heard of mycelia? These are truly vast, usually microscopic, thread like systems, created from mushroom spores. They run throughout the earth, and from which bloom - just like a flower - your delicious mushrooms. And they really are vast. One visible network has been found at over 1,500 playing fields in size, and it’s around 2,200 years old…
And these mycelia are, generally speaking, little known organisms. That’s a shame, because they play an essential part, in fact an utterly crucial one, in our ecosystem, for the decomposition of organic waste.
These magnificent webs have been called the earth’s natural internet. They work like nature’s neurological network, responding to changes in the environment to keep things in check.
So think about that just a wee bit the next time you’re sitting down to brunch, and your plateful of favourite mycelia blooms on toast.
Autumn time, and other times
It was always an early autumn special moment growing up, to head out on the farm some mornings, and spot the little white buttons poking up through the grass here and there. Yay, the mushrooms were on that year.
Other years, perhaps not so much. And yet, some other times, to wake up and find the grass covered almost white like snow, the mycelia’s magic having turned buttons out like crazy.
Today we are fortunate with some excellent New Zealand mushroom growers, fungiculturalists perhaps, creating mushrooms in specialist cultivations for us, some even through the seasons. Thank you so much for your hard work, in this intricate fungi world. Where would a decent brunch be without you!
And on brunch… and our mushroom idea. Well, nothing beats them on toast - and it’s fun to try some different ones. Click here to see our brilliantly orange saffron milk caps, which made quite a spectacle turned out on toast. And click here for a mixed mushroom salad idea, perfect for a quick lunch or a side dish with dinner.