The mushroom is no vegetable. It’s the fruiting body of a fungus. At the top end of fungus food are truffles, a fruiting body that doesn’t emerge from the ground as regular mushrooms and toadstools do. Truffles are attached to tree roots, as the fungus grows in association with specific plants. The most widely grown tree for truffle farming is hazelnut, as then two crops can be enjoyed for the set-up of one.

Truffles are grown successfully in Australia. In particular, there are two significant farms: Perigord Truffles of Tasmania ( and The Wine & Truffle Co. ( in Western Australia. Visit their websites for more insight into growing this amazingly ugly, yet amazingly delicious fungus.

Regular mushrooms are much more delicate in flavour, but still delicious and versatile. Mini mushroom farms are available from most garden centres and they produce quite a lot of mushrooms over a period of time, as long as conditions are right.

Home gardeners have always grown mushrooms but these commercial kits make it a lot easier.

And these mini farms get around the problem of seasonality (to a certain extent) and the problem of correct identification. It can be difficult telling the difference between the culinary fungus and their inedible and often poisonous relatives, toadstools.

The main fungus part or ‘body’ is not the mushroom itself; it’s actually mycelium (my-seel-ium), which is seen as webs of hair-like filaments through soil and compost etc.

Right Conditions

The mushroom farm comes inoculated with spores. All it needs is for you to create the right conditions for mycelium growth which will soon be followed by the fruit forming. Mushrooms can be picked at any size desired – from little buttons through to flat open ones.

They require high humidity and the ideal temperature range of between 15 and 18 degrees C. Contrary to popular myth, mushrooms don’t require absolute darkness. In fact, a well shaded situation with still, fresh air is best.

The farm will come with a bag of peat, which is used as a casing layer. This is spread over the top of the inoculated compost. The top layer is kept damp but not wet and within 10 to 15 days mycelium will cover the surface. The mushrooms are first seen is ‘little pin heads’.

You should get a crop every 10 days or so for about three months. Flushes of mushrooms take longer in cooler weather. Eventually, no mushrooms will appear for several weeks and it can be assumed that the farm is exhausted (unless the temperature has been too cool).

There will be more detailed instructions with the mushroom farm, and it is advisable to read and follow them to get the most out of the farm.

The finished farm’s compost can be dug into vegetable gardens or put into the compost bin. It’s very nutritious but can be quite alkaline.


Mushrooms, incidentally, are rich in lots of important nutrients, especially the B group vitamins (B2, B3 and B5), making them an important food for people who don’t eat meat. They are also a source of vitamin D, and potassium, copper, and other minerals.

Information source:
Yates Garden Guide, 42nd Edition, 2006, published by Harper Collins Publishers.