Friends of Trouva: Stockport Fungi
From the rise in inner city foraging to cult documentary Fantastic Fungi, mushroom mania has officially hit the mainstream. One person looking to demystify the humble mushroom is Alex Williams, who founded Stockport Fungi, an urban mushroom farm, in 2022.
Run from the basement of Where the Light Gets In, Stockport’s most exciting sustainable restaurant, and supplying mushrooms to customers and chefs across the Greater Manchester area, Alex is hoping to make the farming of our fungus friends more accessible to everyone. Hosting workshops and classes, she shows people how growing mushrooms at home is not only a fun project for all ages, but shortens the journey from farm to plate, making meal time more sustainable.
Whether you want to set your green fingers a new challenge, or are curious to know more about how mushrooms can be farmed on a small scale, read on - we caught up with Alex to find out more about the wonderful world of mushrooms.
Hi Alex! Why mushrooms?
The more I learn about mushrooms and fungi the more fascinating they become; fungi are responsible for everything from the greening of the earth more than 450 million years ago to delicious wine and cheese, as fungi play a big role in fermentation. Scientists are making new discoveries all the time.
I feel there’s a real optimism in mushrooms and fungi: as a sustainable food source, in using mycelium (the root-like structure of fungi) as green building material and rediscovering mushrooms as medicine.
How did you turn your love of mushrooms into Stockport Fungi?
I started building Stockport Fungi in October last year. My interest in fungi, mushrooms and repurposing recycled materials has grown steadily over the past few years. I was growing a lot at home, especially over lockdown.
I got in contact with Stockport-based restaurant Where The Light Gets In, to ask how they acquired their vegetable growing space on top of Merseyway car park. The lovely general manager, James, suggested I come and look at their empty and unused basement space.
Even though it was a bit of a bombsite, I loved it! I spent the next 12 weeks building the farm mainly out of leftover wood, donated laundry bags, rubble sacks, insulation sheets from fresh food deliveries and sheep’s wool that was going to be burnt. It was nerve-racking and stressful but really exciting.
In February 2021, Stockport Fungi started selling to restaurants and people in the area.
What is your brand's key ethos?
To get people eating, growing and learning about fungi. To show that out of recycled and sustainable materials you can produce healthy food at home. To demystify mushrooms and encourage mycophilia!
We are currently hosting workshops teaching people just how easy it is to grow mushrooms at home. Together we are growing oyster mushrooms in straw, used coffee ground and old mayo buckets that takeaway shops often throw away. We want to show people how easily, quickly and affordably you can grow a healthy and delicious food source on your kitchen worktop, with materials that would otherwise have been binned.
Your favourite mushroom fact that our readers might not know?
That scientists have only discovered 5-10% of fungi species. I saw on the BBC’s Fungi: The New Frontier programme that they think it’ll take around 800 years to discover all the fungi, but so many strains are becoming extinct with the destruction of the climate and environment. We have so much to explore and learn!"
Where should we visit when doing 24 hours in Stockport?
What’s next for you?
We’re launching a bi-monthly mushroom subscription delivery service for people living in Stockport and the surrounding area.
We’ll be moving out of our space for expansion soon, making way for a community space where people can come and learn about fungi through workshops, guest speakers, mycology studio space and discussion groups.
We’re also starting to grow and focus on medicinal mushrooms which is a big passion of everyone involved.
You can follow Stockport Fungi on Instagram here.