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  • Writer's pictureDiana Littlejohns

Growing Fungi

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 Hatter's Nursery, and courtesy of the 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 (which are in essence the fruits of the mycelium) in search of food and water (

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 (

Over ninety percent of plants depend on mycorrhizal fungi which can link trees together in what is sometimes referred to as the 'Wood Wide Web' (Sheldrake Merlin, Entangled life 2020, page 4). Planet earth's entire landscape depends on the ability of plants and fungi to form healthy, symbiotic relationships (Sheldrake Merlin, Entangled life 2020, page 4). It's such clever stuff.

After explaining that some mushrooms are poisonous and that mushrooms 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. The kids and I then sprinkled a sachet of mushroom mycelium into the bag before we closed it and left it to develop for four weeks.

The toddlers enjoyed sketching mushrooms with me, and it was such fun 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 clean and replenish the soil by breaking down matter and 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. They also enjoyed watching the oyster mushrooms develop in their classroom. It was an excellent topic for the children to discover, so thank you very much for having me again Mad Hatter's.


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