Growing mushrooms doesn’t seem like the most likely of hobbies to pick up in the 2020s, but the Covid-19 pandemic and a renewed interest in the environmental importance of fungi has seen the popularity of home cultivation increase. Many species of edible mushroom are easy to grow, can live on various substrates in small areas indoors, and thrive with a relatively low level of input.
Mushrooms can be grown at home on spent coffee grounds or in a home compost pile, making use of waste and aiding in the decomposition process. The growing process also reconnects us with our food systems, while providing an excellent and sustainable source of protein.
Grow at home kits are seeing a rise in popularity, with many designers looking at how these may look and work within the home, while also exploring materials and processes that would be needed. Caity Duffus created ‘Mycelia House’, which is a functional glass container that showcases the beauty of mushrooms and supports their growth within the home. The inner form is made from 3D printed terracotta which allows air to get to the mycelium, and retain humidity while also allowing it to stay dark. Then gaps are created to allow fruiting bodies to emerge (the mushrooms). While GAARA by Klil Etrog sees a set of tools that allow the mushroom growing process to take place in the kitchen. The totum style design sees individual growing containers that connect together. That way the product can suit all homes, while also helping to reduce excess maintenance as they work as one.
Mushrooms are increasingly being explored as a means of restoring contaminated soils. This process, known as mycoremediation, involves the inoculation of contaminated soil with mycelium, whereby the fungal networks break down toxic pollutants in the soil, restoring the soil in the process. In the case of hydrocarbon contamination, the mushrooms can even be composted back into the soil.
Growing mushrooms can also be community based. As the mycelium/mushrooms can grow in most climates, if given their needed growing conditions, they can be grown around the world. Research lab Critical Change is looking at ecological building solutions made from mycelium. The project began in response to the impoverished populations of Portugal, and energy poverty. This locally sourced mycelium is used as an insulation material, while the lab has also developed open source collaborative research that it shares online and through a summer school. Projects such as this highlight the ability of localised production and community sharing. Creating products and services from grown materials that are cheap, don’t need shipping, and improve local economies.
Between their potential for the remediation of pollution and their potential for innovative sustainable material applications, mushrooms are more than a superfood – they are an invaluable component of a sustainable future.
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