Recently I had the pleasure of discovering more about one of the most interesting and delicious ingredients used in every day cooking: the humble mushroom. The incredibly versatile fungi body is widely celebrated in Perth’s dining scene, taking on many forms such as sauteed on top of a brekky stack, fully loaded onto a pizza such as the delicious ones over at Crust Mount Lawley, or simmered down into a creamy sauce paired with a good steak, and much more.
Costa is Australia’s largest supplier of white and brown mushrooms, with over 3,500 hectares of farmed land nationally delivering to all major supermarkets within 24 hours of harvest. WIth farms also in Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria, I was able to visit Costa‘s Western Australian farm in Casuarina to discover how their mushrooms are grown, picked, and packaged for WA shops.
Brian Backhouse, state manager at Costa, explained that the compost used and made in Mandurah s pasteurised for 6 days to kill off any potential bacteria such as E. Coli and salmonella present within the mix. Then, mushroom spores are added to the compost then left for a further 17-20 days to culminate.
Once culminated, a pH specific blend of Baltic, Irish and limestone peat is added over the top and watered to force the mushrooms to grow upwards. For each tray, it is said that you can get about 3 flushes worth of mushrooms before the compost is replenished and the process starts all over again. Any more than 3 flushes, and the compost becomes more susceptible to disease, and the yield is determined unfeasible. The first flush yields about 50% of the total mushrooms grown, the second flush yields about 30%, and the final flush even less. Did you know that over 80 tonnes of mushrooms are grown per week at Costa Mushrooms in WA?
We got to take a look at the endless spread of budding mushroom caps at each stage of growth, and even got to pick some out to taste in extraordinary freshness. What surprised me was how flavoursome they were; a burst of earthy, nutty flavour that is evidently diminished slightly once brought home from the supermarket. All these ideas on ways to serve mushrooms started flooding my head and I was itching to get home and cook.
Mushroom Quick Facts
They are not a fruit, nor a vegetable; they sit within the fungi Kingdom but are the fruiting bodies of mycelium or the little white thread-like structures in the mushroom compost.
Mushrooms are a great source of niacin and riboflavin, which help maintain healthy blood cells and nerve function and are great for growing children.
If left in the sunlight, mushrooms can also produce Vitamin D! You can leave your mushrooms out in the sunlight before cooking to increase Vitamin D production before cooking.
More interesting mushroom facts can be found at http://www.australianmushrooms.com.au/about-mushrooms/
The next part of the tour was to pay a visit to Quinlan’s Training Restaurant at South Metro Tafe, to sample the menu developed by culinary students to pay homage to the delicious mushroom. The 3 course lunch was incredibly delicious and impeccably presented, despite your preconceived notions about food prepared by chefs-in-training. Diners were offered a choice of entree, main, and dessert, with bread, appetisers and pre-dessert courses in between, for a very reasonable price of $25.
Quinlan’s Training Restaurant at South Metro Tafe is open for lunch and dinner on weekdays via reservations only. For more information on reservations and dining at Quinlan’s Training Restaurant, head to http://www.southmetrotafe.wa.edu.au/campuses/facilities/quinlans-restaurant.
Disclaimer: foodie cravings was invited as a guest to Costa Mushrooms and Quinlan’s Training Restaurant by Australian Mushrooms.