Home > Mushrooms find perfect growing conditions in cellar of Customs House in Brisbane

Mushrooms find perfect growing conditions in cellar of Customs House in Brisbane

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In the cellar of one of Brisbane's most historical buildings, an interesting crop is being cultivated in the dark.

It could be one of the city's best-kept secrets -mushrooms are being farmed in the University of Queensland's (UQ) Customs House cellar.

Shitake and oyster mushrooms have flourished in what had been deemed the "perfect mushroom growing conditions".

"It's a project we've been running for the last two months as we wanted to grow something on site," UQ Customs House director Brian Roberts said.

Customs House contains a restaurant and has been using the mushrooms in a number of its meals.

"We've quite unique as the building was built in 1884 so we have an amazing cellar and thought, 'why not grow mushrooms'," Mr Roberts said.

"You can't get much more local than growing the food on site."

Grown on wooden logs

A local south-east Queensland farmer supplies wooden logs that are loaded with mushroom spores.

The logs are then transported into the city and placed in a fridge overnight to trigger the growing process before being placed in the cellar.

After a week, the mushrooms are harvested and the log breaks down and is turned into compost for the Custom House gardens.

Mr Roberts said the thick sandstone walls provided the perfect stable, dark and humid environment essential for growing mushrooms.

"In the cellar we can harvest the mushrooms in the morning and they can be on the table for lunch," he said.

"Visitors love the idea as it's paddock to plate, and it's reducing our carbon footprint, and it's sustainable."

"Our chefs are passionate about produce and they are getting a buzz out of it -going down and harvesting them and taking them back to the kitchen."

"This method allows us to retain more of the flavour, when they are harvested straight away and then they arrive on your plate."

"I do believe it makes a difference as some of the mushrooms we were getting from suppliers were harvested two to three days prior."

Beating the heat with ice

The recent hot and humid weather made things a little difficult for the crop, Mr Roberts said.

"Some very hot days this summer have been a challenge, but on those days our operations manager George Muscat gives the mushrooms iced water to keep them cool," he said.

"Georges cares for them so well, they're like his little babies."

Customs House hopes to branch out into growing different varieties of mushrooms in the near future.

"We thought we would start with two kinds and make sure we had our training wheels on first ...we're getting great results," Mr Roberts said.

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