By Shelby Brooks
THE first thing you notice about the oyster mushrooms incubating in Beatrice Imbert and Peter Bland’s garage in Wattlebank is the strange smell.
The pink, yellow and white coral-looking mushrooms will be harvested and sent off to local businesses like Udder and Hoe, Grow Lightly, The Borough Dept. Store and Prom Coast Food Collective, under the Wattlebank Farm brand.
“We were so chuffed to get that call last weekend [from Prom Coast Food Collective], we’re delivering four kilograms to them this week,” Beatrice said.
“Tamsin Carvan from The Borough is putting the mushrooms on her menu and will sell them in store.”
“All our dreams are coming true and now we’re overwhelmed with orders,” Peter added.
Beatrice and Peter only moved full-time to Wattlebank last year during COVID-19 and are now living off the land and working on their Wattlebank Farm business.
It’s only been in the last month that they have gone from selling to individuals and at markets to supplying the local businesses.
As a family which eats a mainly plant-based diet, Beatrice and Peter wanted to grow their own mushrooms and began with grow kits before moving into the industrial-style operation they have now.
The spawns first feed on a substrate of straw and coffee grinds, supplied by The Local in Inverloch. They are then packed into an incubator where they stay for two to three weeks.
When the mushrooms start poking through the holes in the buckets, known as pining, they are moved into the humidity-controlled growing room.
While Peter is in charge of the research and science behind the operation, Beatrice is more into the quality control, harvesting and packaging.
She also loves to cook with the mushrooms.
“For vegetarians and vegan, oyster mushrooms have a meaty flavour.
“The white mushrooms have a high-water content with the same consistency as chicken so you can roast them like roast chicken or cook them on skewers like chicken kebabs.
“The pink ones are fluffy and are great for risotto and have a woody texture. “Oyster mushrooms are kind of like wine, they all have slightly different flavours.”