Making space for food

Shitake logs on racks in the Mittagong mushroom tunnel. Photos by Nicola Twilley.

Last week GOOD Magazine began “Food for Thinkers,” a mini online festival/multi-site conversation about the way we think about food today. “Put another way, I want to know what happens when a music blogger thinks about food. What does a space archaeologist or an architect want to read and say about food? What kinds of things interest a science writer in food, and why?”

All this talk about food prompted BLDB BLOG‘s Geoff Manaugh to recall a 2009 trip he took with Nicola Twilley to a railway tunnel in the hills of Sydney, Australia that has been converted into a commercial mushroom farm. The railway track was abandoned in 1919 and stayed that way until Dr. Noel Arrold took it over more than twenty years ago.

The most fascinating part of Arrold’s project isn’t the exotic species he grows or the fact that he had to import mushroom cultures from all over the world (Australia is only home to the generic varieties), but that he didn’t modify the tunnel to suit the mushrooms, he modified the mushrooms to suit the tunnel. Because Dr. Arrold’s tunnel is only one of two in the entire country, “his mushrooms have evolved to fit an extremely specialized environmental niche: they are species designed for architecture.” That means that however exotic the mushroom cultures were when they arrived in Sydney decades ago, they are only more so now. Check out the pictures below to see some of Arrold’s specialized growing methods and head over to “Food for Thinkers” to read some modern day musings on what and how we eat.

The tunnel from the outside.

Pink oyster mushrooms grown in black plastic bags.