Risottos, stews, salads... mushrooms are a staple in so many dishes and also fascinating to farm, as they are grown from microscopic spores in complex and intensive conditions.
'Mushroom farming is a huge investment,' explains David Walker, general manager of Monaghan Mushrooms Farm in Whitley, Yorkshire. 'We grow ours in special four-tier shelving filled with a particular wheat straw produced exclusively at our sister farm near Doncaster. Our growing houses are highly controlled environments where we can modify the air by heating, cooling, drying or humidifying it.'
As the job is very labour intensive, the farm employs more than 95 staff. All mushrooms are hand-picked and packaged immediately, to ensure they get to the stores in record time. 'Freshness and appearance are key. We make sure all mushrooms have a nice shape and colour to them.
But this takes time and skill.'
The farm supplies Tesco with white mushrooms, from the large open variety to baby buttons, part of Tesco's 'local' Yorkshire range. 'Stocking Yorkshire-grown mushrooms in Yorkshire, with the farm's name on the packs, reduces road miles and reinforces the importance of local produce,' says David. Chestnuts and portobellos are also produced on a second Monaghan farm in Ireland.
Different types are created by varying growing times, which affects taste, texture and appearance. The Whitley farm specialises in large flat mushrooms, which have a longer growing time. Adds David, 'I love them stuffed with goats' cheese or roasted with garlic.'
And to drink
Tesco Finest Tautavel. Full-bodied red wine with rich aromas of blackcurrant and spice.