On 16th May the children and I began growing fungi. I know; it sounds a bit ‘out there’ but, fungi are one of the earth’s unsung heroes and can help solve many of the world’s problems, so together with Mad Hatters Nursery and courtesy of the www.growwilduk.com at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the little ones and I began a mushroom exploration with our new fungus lab.
Having landed on earth 1.3 billion years ago – way before the dinosaurs – mycelium, the roots of mushrooms or biological wires threaded into every single section of the ground, stretch out beneath the mushroom in search of food and water (https://www.growwilduk.com/fungi/why-fungi-matter). Mycelium holds the planet together so that when your feet press against the ground, or when a tree falls over, the fungal network responds altering its growth and behaviour accordingly by streaming chemical data in all directions (https://www.growwilduk.com/fungi/why-fungi-matter). It’s very clever stuff.
After chatting about how some mushrooms are poisonous and should only ever be eaten when a grown-up says it’s ok, the children and I opened the straw bag I’d filled and sealed with boiling water the night before, drained it and gave it a shake. A sachet of mushroom mycelium was then sprinkled into the bag before we sealed it to be left to develop for four weeks.
The kids enjoyed sketching mushrooms with me and it was wonderful to see how much they loved saying ‘fungi’ or ‘fun guy’ as one teacher kept saying comically. Another group of children were making mushroom pizzas at the same time so the health benefits of mushrooms were also being discussed, along with how fungi cleans and replenishes the soil by recycling nutrients back into the earth helping plants grow and flourish.
The list of benefits of mushrooms is pretty extensive so it’s great to get little ones thinking about fungus from a young age but, explaining that we have to wait until 16th June for the next step in the growing process of oyster mushrooms was a little trickier…