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Harvest: Why Cambridge Mushrooms is growing strong




Prompted by the pandemic to start growing gourmet oyster, shiitake and pioppino mushrooms on their Coton plot, Michelle and Andrew Duggan are fast making a name for their produce. Alice Ryan joins them for a cup of (mushroom) coffee

Cambridge Mushrooms (51092070)
Cambridge Mushrooms (51092070)

If you meet Coton mother and son Michelle and Andrew Duggan, try to wangle an invitation to brunch. “For brunch we’d do yellow oyster mushrooms lightly sautéed with some garlic butter, served on sourdough toast with a dollop of crème fraiche,” says Michelle.

“Or if we were hosting a more formal dinner, I’d make a mushroom stroganoff using sliced king and tarragon oysters - the latter of which taste and smell like the herb - and serve that with brown rice. . .”

Cambridge Mushrooms (51092068)
Cambridge Mushrooms (51092068)

As you might have guessed, the Duggans are not only excellent cooks, they’re also mushroom aficionados - something which, when pandemic lockdowns posed the opportunity, inspired them to launch their own business, Cambridge Mushrooms.

“We’ve travelled widely and found that the mushrooms on offer back here in the UK were lower quality in some instances and also had a large carbon footprint, coming from across the world when they could be grown here,” explains Andrew.

Cambridge Mushrooms (51092053)
Cambridge Mushrooms (51092053)

“With time on our hands due to Covid, we decided to see if we could grow our own. Having a keen interest in both good food and microbiology, mushrooms seemed a great fit: they are part food cultivation, part science. With six months’ research behind us, and self-learning how to grow, we set up one mushroom house - which quickly expanded into three due to the demand!”

Now growing three types of oyster, shiitakes and pioppinos, across a series of polytunnels and a purpose-built shed, Cambridge Mushrooms supplies pub and restaurant kitchens, stocks farm shops, and sells direct to customers via markets and the webshop (where you can order for doorstep drop-off each Thursday within Cambridge and for next-day delivery nationwide, too).

Cambridge Mushrooms (51092071)
Cambridge Mushrooms (51092071)

With popularity of their produce soaring, “I think the increase is due to public awareness of how most of the current meat farming practices globally can and have been impacting on the health of us and on our planet,” reflects Michelle.

“I think people are seeking an responsible alternative which will hopefully assist ecosystems across the world to recover. Plus we know mushrooms are extremely beneficial for human health: taking oyster mushrooms as an example, they contain statins and research has suggested that, as a result, they have the ability to massively lower blood pressure when consumed regularly.”

Cambridge Mushrooms (51092069)
Cambridge Mushrooms (51092069)

Identifying a gap in the market for environmentally sound dried mushrooms, the Duggans expanded their offering accordingly: “Most dried mushrooms are harvested from the wild and usually in too-great numbers, which can lead to loss of habitat and impact on the natural ecosystem. By offering dried mushrooms grown in a sustainable way, we can lessen the burden on the wild and stop over-exploitation of our forests.”

Tapping into the trend for mushroom infusions - just type ‘mushroom latte’ into Instagram for proof - the Duggans also use their crops to make their own-recipe range of mushroom teas and coffees.

Cambridge Mushrooms (51092073)
Cambridge Mushrooms (51092073)

“We love being able to offer people mushroom varieties they haven't ever seen before and greatly enjoy the feedback when they tell us what delicious dish they intend to make with them,” says Andrew. “We also love the fact that our farming practices have minimal environmental impact and are sustainable. Plus you can't beat coming out of the growhouses with tray after tray of delicious, planet-friendly gourmet mushrooms. . .”

For more information, including market dates, and to order visit cambridgemushrooms.co.uk.


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