Local Produce is Fun(gi)

Growing your own? It never looked so good. The grow it locally movement is growing in leaps and bounds, and with it come new trends in urban gardening and foraging. Stinging nettles and dandelions are on the list for foragers in urban areas. Bees in the city and chickens in yards are up next. What’s coming soon: cows in the alleyways? Possibly. However, the next big trend is urban mushrooms.

Fungi are the ultimate in local eating, especially for those of us in northern climes. After all, we’re a little stretched in the winter time, what with the lack of almost any fresh vegetables. Yes, there is the possibility of kale, chard, and collard greens, and there are root vegetables like celery root, turnips, and squash. There are even cold-storage apples and pears for the eating. All right, we’re rich in food, but it would be nice to have something fresh in the winter. This is where mushrooms come in.

Mushrooms are the next cool trend. A little bag of oyster or shitake mushrooms will set you back many dollars at the grocery store. But buy a mushroom log or better yet, some mushroom inoculant for your local garden logs and apartment compost heap and you’re all set to grow your own. Mushrooms can grow indoors or out, in very little space. Best of all for us north-facing gardeners, mushrooms don’t care at all about the light levels in your garden. The less light the better. They are the ideal winter food.

Mushrooms are also nutritious. High in fiber, low in carbohydrates, rich in potassium and selenium. The giant ones make a fabulous burger and the tiny ones make an excellent garnish for a winter kale salad.

How do you grow mushrooms, exactly? Well, there are log-growing mushrooms and there are compost mushrooms. I recommend the log version, since they last for a long time. Mushrooms use the nutrients in their substrate to grow, and logs decompose over years. Add the fungus to its base and keep in a moist environment, and you’re all set.

While mushrooms may not sustain whole cities, they are certainly one small piece of the greater puzzle of urban food security. Small, easy to grow, and simple to harvest, they are yet another step toward self-sufficiency, even if you live in a north-facing apartment and it’s January. And that’s saying something for the fungi.

Posted in Natural Living.

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