Magic Mushrooms

Like many customers of ours, David and Lorraine have been taking bags of recycled coffee home for their garden. But these guys did something different - last week they came in and showed us what they've been doing with it and it absolutely blew me away.


These PERFECT oyster shrooms are growing directly out of the spent coffee grounds, with literally no additives but water. Beautifully roasted beans once arrived in that very bag, and their caffeinated, molecular insides were extracted to fuel the brainpower of these two excellent human beings, who then planted king oyster mushroom spawn directly into what was then apparently “waste product” of our shop. Lorraine said she stir fried some of her crop for dinner last night.

This cycle of life is beyond full circle guys. This is a polygonal, spherical, thirteen-dimensional cycle of life doing a bloody backflip on a trampoline.

According to David, the spawn is available very cheaply online, and actually comes as a grain with the fungi already attached. I'm sure there's a fancy pants botanical term for this that none of us knew, but it is apparently a simple biological symbiosis requiring very minimal energy from the eventual grower. After three weeks or so of simple watering, shoots begin to poke through the surface of the coffee and start growing incredibly quickly.

Lorraine is a horticulturalist, but apparently David - professional engineer and enthusiastic home scientist - is the chief wizard conducting an extremely thorough series of experiments in their garage. He reckons the garage is perfect as it is usually warm, moist and well insulated. In fact, he told me different bags positioned in different spots produce different harvests according to microclimatic conditions, i.e. it's warmer near the bonnet of the car than by the draught of the door, and this impacts the output. AMAZING.


This experience made us so bloody happy. For all we do our best at Steam Engine to reduce our own footprint, encouraging others can be a frustratingly different box of skittles. When it falls on deaf ears (as it sadly often does) it is almost demotivating, despite proving the persistence of the problem. This situation, however, was just a sparkling reminder that if doing that positively affects even just one or two people, it is always worth doing. 

Recycling used coffee is just an absolute no brainer, but combined with reusing the non-recyclable bags they come in as makeshift pots is something else. Let alone to produce delicious, immediately-edible food! And rapidly!!! Poor Lucky Rolls nearly had a heart attack out of excitement. Lorraine reckons they let one keep growing without harvesting once and it grew to the size of two closed fists together before they decided to eat it. I can only presume this was out of necessity, rather than risk it next simply growing legs and running off.

Aside from a soppy feel-good story, what does this mean? Well, if you have thus far been discounting the level of your own engagement with environmental sustainability, stories like this mean it is time to think again. Evidence of this sort is irrefutable; so little effort is required to make significant impacts in reducing your personal footprint.

As Lorraine said to us with a smile on her face, “all it takes is a little discipline.”