grow your own chestnut mushrooms

Fairy rings, angel's wings and field blewits

Beneath our feet, most of our plant species depend on fungi (mycorrhiza) to extract nutrients from the soil. We would be without our daily bread or medicines such as penicillin. Conversely they also pose a threat to our trees (dutch elm and ash dieback) and cause athlete's foot or thrush in humans.   

Neither animals nor plants, fungi are a separate group of organisms. Britain has around 13,000 species of fungi (compared to 2,100 species of native flowering plants and ferns). Usually the fruiting bodies are the only visible part, and come in various shapes and sizes, helping to identify them. Big or small, fungi will emerge anywhere there is soil, wood or plants growing including on lawns and borders, in woods and pastures, even in flower pots. Inedible mushrooms won't cause illness but are still unappetising; they may have tough, fibrous textures or unpleasant  taste. Poisonous fungi contain toxins to protect against hungry wildlife (and humans). Edible varieties are keenly sought after.

If you are lucky enough to live not far from Kew Gardens there is an amazing range to discover in the grounds at this time of year.

Instead of foraging for fungi, leave them in the wild to spread their spores and be appreciated by others. Try growing your own edible mushrooms instead

Fat free, full of vitamins and minerals and a rich source of protein, mushrooms count as one of your 5-a-day. They don’t have to be grown in the dark but do need a constant temperature about 16 oC, neither too cold (>10 oC) nor too hot (<20 oC) and kept moist but not soggy.