Taylor McConnell and his partner Susan Jacobs recently returned to New Zealand from an extended travel period in the United States with the desire to live a simpler, more sustainable life back in Canterbury.
One day whilst stocktaking for Taylor’s father’s electrical business, they listened to a podcast by Joe Rogan and Paul Stamets about how mushrooms could save the world. It was a ‘light bulb moment’. Intrigued by what they heard they decided to test-grow some mushrooms at the back of one of the horse sheds on the family property.
With some help from Taylor’s uncle, they organised a positive pressure clean room (essential for spore growth), and somewhere they could carry out sterile culture work. Taylor then purchased some mushroom cultures from a mycologist and from there, building Sporeshift Mushrooms it was all about ‘trial and error’.
‘I read numerous books on mushrooms and taught myself through watching YouTube videos,’ explains Taylor. ‘We sourced everything we needed like old freezers to blankets from second-hand shops – we needed to build the perfect environment for the mushrooms.
‘We quickly realised that there was quite a demand [for mushrooms] and saw an amazing opportunity to scale up as we quickly outgrew the 15-square-metre growing room and our bathroom-sized lab at the back of my parents’ horse shed.
‘We then found the perfect shed just around the corner. It had plenty of space for the entire process, from the lab to the grow room, a massive prep area, inoculation area, and even room for a giant compost pile that we turn with a tractor.
‘All of our growing media is from organic local agricultural waste products such as wheat straw and sprouted grain from Milmore Downs, and organic coffee grinds from local markets and cafés in and around Christchurch,’ continues Taylor.
‘We do all of our own lab work; everything is made in-house starting from a simple agar plate. Our aim is to grow everything as energy efficient as possible, recycling or up-cycling all potential “waste”products and pumping any excess heat, CO2, and humidity into an external tunnel house to boost plant growth.’
The industrious pair now supply a handful of restaurants and retailers such as Piko Wholefoods Co-operative and Vegeland Farmers’ Market in Christchurch. They also sell their mushrooms at the local farmers’ markets, grow and supply spores for others to grow in their own home gardens, and run workshops to introduce people to different growing techniques.
‘There are so many avenues from the mycoremediation of soil to now supplying the local community with nutrient-dense, spray-free, organically-grown boutique mushrooms all year round! It’s just the beginning, but a positive way to help our environment.’
Words Georgi Waddy Images Charlie Jackson
Mushroom and Italian Sausage Pizzas
Begin this recipe 1 day ahead
Prep 20 mins
Cooking 20 mins
- 1 1/3 cups tomato passata
- ¼ cup red caramelised onion marmalade
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
- 150 g fior di latte cheese, thinly sliced (sub with mozzarella)
- 2 fresh Italian sausages, skins removed, torn into pieces
- 200 g mixed mushrooms, torn into small pieces
- 1 fresh mozzarella, torn into chunks
- fresh basil leaves to serve
- Overnight dough
- 400 g strong white flour
- ½ tsp yeast
- 1½ tsp salt flakes
- 1½ cups (375 ml) lukewarm water
For the overnight dough, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover with a tea towel and chill for 12 hours or until double in size.
The next day preheat oven to 220°C. Grease two non-stick pizza trays with oil. Divide dough in half, then working with one piece at a time on a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll out to 0.5 cm thickness. Transfer to greased trays. Combine passata, onion marmalade, garlic and oil in a bowl. Divide between pizzas and use the back of a spoon to spread out to edges. Top with slices of fior di latte cheese, then sausage, mushrooms and finish with fresh mozzarella.
Bake pizzas for 16–20 minutes or until golden and can move easily from the base of the pan when helped with a spatula. Scatter with basil and cracked pepper and serve.
RECIPES & STYLING Samantha Parish
Samantha Parish is latitude’s newest contributor and brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience, with over eight years of working as a freelance chef and recipe writer in Australia and New Zealand. Sam’s food ethos is MOF MOF: Maximum of flavour, minimum of fuss, producing beautiful recipes that show off how smart you can cook when you cook simply. Mofmof.space