Sales of exotic mushrooms have soared recently as a result of the explosion of the vegan food revolution in the UK.
Varieties such as brown oyster cluster, king oyster and shiitake mushrooms are becoming popular as fleshy, savoury alternatives to meat.
John Dorrian from Smithy Mushrooms company told The Guardian that demand for lesser-known varieties has risen sharply over the last two years. He has been growing mushrooms for 25 years and says the market has never been that big, and he is planning to expand his business.
“We’ve been growing oyster mushrooms here for more than 25 years but have never had demand like we’re seeing now,” he says.
The company aims to grow more varieties, including those typically imported from Asia.
“Traditionally, when British consumers bought mushrooms it was the white ones or, if they were a bit braver, chestnut mushrooms,” Dorrian says.
“But that’s all changing. Exotic mushrooms are incredibly versatile and can be shredded to replicate pulled pork, thinly sliced to make kebab skewers and even sliced to make scallops.”
The interest in vegan food has had a significant impact on sales, Dorrian explains.
Smithy Mushrooms received an investment from Korea-based car company Hyundai, and it plans to build a new facility that to grow more shiitake mushrooms and oyster mushrooms.
One of the major UK supermarket chains reported that sales of the brown oyster cluster and king oyster mushrooms have rocketed by nearly 240% year on year, becoming its fastest-growing specialty mushroom line.
Among famous chefs praising the mushrooms dishes is Yotam Ottolenghi, who has created a vegan equivalent of steak and mash featuring roasted portobello mushrooms and Simon Rimmer on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch programme.
David Matchett, head of food policy development London’s Borough Market, said: “When British wild mushrooms are in season, that’s what you’ll find here, in all their stunning diversity. At other times, like now, our traders will import a wide variety of wild mushrooms from wherever they’re in season and at their best, currently Portugal, which is one of the few places in Europe warm enough for wild mushrooms at the moment.”