Grown With Love
Recent award winners, Wyreside Mushrooms of Garstang, is anamazing micro-business creating the most wonderful mushrooms utilising an intricate and painstaking process to produce organic and delicious varieties
Overlooking the impressive fields of Garstang lies a small but mighty hub of mushroom growing excellence.
Owners Hayley Ward and Paul Thornton, who live in St Michael’s on Wyre, grow top quality gourmet mushrooms using low impact methods to minimise environmental impact. A specially built laboratory houses a mycelium library of 17 species of mushroom, and the fruiting rooms provide specific conditions for the varieties to grow including grey oyster, king oyster and lion’s mane.
It all started with Paul’s grandma, Ruth. “My grandma was always growing things and experimenting,” said Paul. “I would go to her house from primary school and she would encourage me to try to grow different things. I was fascinated by sowing an acorn in a plastic cup and watching the seedling grow. About 20 years ago, I got fascinated by the process of growing mushrooms. My dad is a physicist, so I naturally enjoy working out the strategy of growing the mushrooms and getting it just right.”
And what an intricate process it is. It starts with the collection of spores which are transferred onto agar dishes so mycelium – a root-like structure of the fungus – can form. The mycelium is then transferred to bags of sterilised oak pellets which is left to colonise with holes cut for the mushrooms to grow. It is a constant cycle with different areas within the premises to create the perfect growing conditions.
Depending on the seasons, Hayley and Paul currently grow seven different types of mushrooms. Spores for new strains can be found in nature or can be bought from specialist producers. But as their business grows, the couple are concentrating on growing a select few varieties with plans to expand their operation over the next year.
Hayley said: “We are really pleased with how quickly the business has grown since we set up in 2022. We supply independent shops in Manchester and Lancaster and a number of local restaurants and we have also ran pop up shops which we would like to hold more regularly. We have held several children’s workshops so people can learn more about the process of growing mushrooms and their importance in the eco-system, and plan to roll these out to adults in unique venues next year.”
Last year, Wyreside Mushrooms were awarded organic status – a rigorous process including inspections to gain the prestigious certification. More recently, they won Micro Business of the Year in the Wyre Business Awards 2023. Hayley added: “We were shocked to be in the shortlist, but to win was amazing!”
The business has also been recognised as a stop on an artisan food tour by Bowland & Bay and representatives from Simon Rogan’s three Michelin starred L’Enclume have also dropped by.
This year promises big things as the couple plan to expand their operation. Currently producing 45-50 kgs of mushrooms a week, they plan to increase this to 90kg a week by installing a new, larger sterilizer, taking on more staff and build online sales to be able to send their fabulous mushrooms to customers further afield.
It has been hard work to start the business with savings being ploughed into the couple’s dream, but the 120 hours a week that they spend in the business between them is paying off with firm plans in place. It is a far cry from Hayley’s former career in housing and homelessness and Paul’s career as a utility surveyor.
Paul said: “We are hoping to commission a courier with refrigerated vans so the mushrooms will be delivered to customers in their most optimum state. In the meantime, customers can order our mushrooms to collect at our base here at Bradley Hill Farm if they call us with a collection time. It has taken a lot of hard work and effort so far but we are ahead in our growth plans and our dedication it is paying off. We are really happy with the quality.”
The lion’s mane mushrooms look like coral but are meaty in texture and the oyster variety are like pulled pork. Both are absolutely delicious. And if you follow Hayley’s advice of frying the mushrooms in butter with some garlic, you are guaranteed to be in mushroom heaven!