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Farmed Exotic Mushrooms

Farmed Exotic Mushrooms

Rose Prince | UK Telegraph

The first soup I ever made was a “black” mushroom soup. It seemed modish back then, compared to the canned, white slimy version that everyone thought fine to serve at dinner, jazzed up with parsley and a spot of cream.

My soup contained flat mushrooms, whose ripe black frills gave it its darkly chic tone. A clove of garlic, a chopped shallot, a dash of lemon juice, into the liquidiser then a finish of double cream; it was the smartest pottage of the Eighties.

In those days, you could only buy cultivated “field” mushrooms, which had never seen a field. A choice of “button”, “cup” or “flat” was a bonus and we swooned when chestnut mushrooms arrived. It was slow progress.

Had I been told then that English farms would one day be growing a whole potpourri of exotic fungi, I would not have believed such a perpetual autumn was possible.

Jane Dick and Sue Whiting are now harvesting big cloudy Pom Poms, delicate yellow, white or chestnut-coloured Oysters and fragile brown Velvet Caps on their organic Hampshire farm.

Their business, Fundamentally Fungus, also sources cultivated mushrooms from other farms, both here and in other parts of Europe, bringing frilly Maitake, meaty Eryngii (also called King Oyster), clusters of Enoki, sticky brown Nameko and sturdy, good-for-you Shiitake.

In fact, it was the Shiitake that prompted my visit to the farm.

I was wondering why the significant health benefits of fungi seem unimportant to the British, while Asian countries are properly preoccupied with the anti-cancer, immunity-boosting benefits of mushrooms like Shiitake.

“For the British, fungi are still an exciting new culture and a ‘young’ industry,” says Dick, who started the farm nine years ago and sells via mail order and to restaurants (see Shopping Basket, right).