GROW WILD: MAKE ROOM

Hi, my name is Jonathon, I am 24. I volunteered at Belville Community Gardens and now I am on a Future Jobs placement through the TRUST Inverclyde. I am currently based in Belville Community Gardens as a chef and with a new job comes new challenges, one of which is cultivating mushrooms!

Not long after I started at Belville, me, my boss Laura Reilly, and one of the volunteers Jason McIlroy, submitted a video application to Grow Wild, an organisation which promotes, funds, and encourages the growth and maintenance of wildlife and agriculture in the U.K. We were ecstatic to find out my application had been accepted and that Grow Wild were awarding us a £500 grant to support my project, `Make Room for Mushrooms’.

Additionally, the conservation volunteers (T.C.V), organised a mushroom excursion in the Coves Reservoir, just across from Inverclyde Royal Hospital. These woodlands are a hotbed for various forms of fungi. The many varieties we saw came in all different shapes, sizes and colours. The trip was led by Mr Neville Kilkenny, a freelance consultant field mycologist. He is also a research associate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, a member of the British mycological Society, The Scottish Fungus Conversation Group, and the Fungus Group of South – East Scotland. Needless to say, Nev knows his stuff when it comes to mushrooms. The trip was very education, visually stimulating and above all very, very exiting! Me, and a few of the volunteers from Belville Community Gardens that attended the trip learned so so much!

A large part of what I took from the experience was the procedure of mushroom identification, through recording the un-identified mushroom’s habitat, substrate, spore print and spore colour. But most of all, it has inspired me to learn more and more about not only the identification process of the mushroom itself, but the cultivation of mushrooms, indoor and outdoor.

Now, I would like to share with you some of my ideas and goals I would like to achieve through the development of my project. Firstly, mushrooms are a great source of protein. They also contain various vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, B5 AND B9. They also contain selenium, potassium, copper, iron and phosphorus. Many of these vitamins and minerals can be hard to obtain for vegans. So, to all vegans out there, make room for mushrooms, they could be what’s missing from your diet and they could be just what you need to keep yourself nice and healthy

Which brings me onto my next subject. The concept of sustainable provision of community food. In my opinion, it is very important to have good quality food stuffs that are affordable, grown locally, and therefore have a low ecological footprint. Save money, support local food producers and help keep the community healthy.

Secondly, I would like to tell my friends, family and all of Inverclyde all about my research and as mentioned before, all the health benefits of mushrooms. I would also like to raise awareness on how mushrooms work within the food cycle. They turn organic waist, such as decaying plants, into inorganic materials, such as nutrient rich soil. Mushrooms are the one of the worlds best and most efficient recyclers.

Finally, in the future, I would like to run a mushroom cooking workshop to show the local community how easy and affordable it can be to produce healthy and tasty meals at home.

Now, on to my cultivation and research. Firstly, we had to source the manure for the outdoor mushroom beds. Luckily, we were able to find a friendly farmer in Kilmacolm who was happy to help us out. Once this was sourced, the next step was the procurement of reliable mycelium. We soared this mycelium from Ann Miller, who runs Ann Miller’s Specialty Mushrooms LTD, based in Aberdeen.

Her company provides its services and produce to keen gardeners, other companies and research institutes throughout the U.K, the E.U and worldwide areas alike. This business has been running since 1996, and they produce a large array of mushroom spawn for amateur grower and professional mushroom cultivators and studiers alike. She was very helpful! Giving tips and advice along the way to insure the development of the fungi.

Once the manure had been laid into the bed by one of our many volunteer teams here at Belville, we arranged for the mycelium to be placed. Sally Clough and I, one of the staff at Belville who is a keen gardener and is an Environmental Officer, completed the research and set out to the gardens to conduct our experiment.

Firstly, I dug a trench along the front of the bed. Next, I placed the mycelium along the inside of the trench space in 6 equally sized patches. Once this was done, I forked the soil and manure back over the top of the mycelium, effectively filling the trench back in. The final step was to cover the refilled trench with cardboard crates. As said before, mushrooms are the world’s recyclers, so not only will the carboard boxes help to keep the mycelium insulated, eventually, they will break down and ultimately become food for the spawn.

In our outdoor bed, we are growing King Stropharia (Stropharia rugosoannulata). They are more commonly known as wine caps, because they have a lovely burgundy red brown cap present on the fruit of the mushroom. They also have a nice nutty and earthy flavour, with a hint of red wine, and they tend to be quite large. We expect these mushrooms will fruit in spring.

Local man, and occasional Belville volunteer, Barry Harper, a mushroom and wildlife enthusiast from Inverclyde was also present on several occasions along the way to give advice, support, knowledge and a general helping hand.

Additionally, my boss Laura Reilly has arranged for us here at Bellville to take a trip to Bute to visit Scotland’s first ever Truffle farm. I can’t wait to see what wonders will be growing down there!

Moving into the new year, we won’t just be growing mushrooms outdoors in a bed, we will be attempting to grow them in a fish tank, and we will be growing them in buckets to. The purpose of the tank and the buckets is that they will be transportable, easy to monitor, and as they will be indoors the outdoor elements won’t have to be factored in. The transportability is key element for me, as another one of my ambitions going into the future is to take my portable mushroom tank and buckets around schools and other local community centres to spread the education, awareness and excitement of fungi.

In the next blog, I will present more information on the growth of the mushrooms in the outdoor beds as well as the progress of my mushroom tank and mushroom buckets. We are also hoping to produce a short film about this protect at the eco event in 2019 – held in Beacon Art Centre, Greenock.

A great big shout out to Grow Wild for making all this possible. Thank you to Ann Miller for supplying the mycelium so promptly and for all her advice. A big thanks to Nev Kilkenny for all your inspiration, thanks to Barry for all your guidance and advice, and a huge thanks to all the volunteers and staff here at Belville Community Gardens. Couldn’t have done it with out you guys! All help and support, both manual and educational is greatly appreciated. Stay tuned to see the progress of this fascinating experience.
Stay tuned for more on the fascinating fruiting of the mycelium.

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