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Marlborough Mushrooms are magic

Hywel Jones at Lucknam Park Hotel

Oriental mushrooms grown in Wiltshire using revolutionary new techniques have been winning plaudits from some of the county’s top chefs.

Dewi Williams, founder of Marlborough Mushrooms, says the way his Shiitake mushrooms are produced offers consistency in volume, appearance, flavour and price – and chefs like Michelin starred chef Hywel Jones agree.

In fact Hywel, who trained under Marco Pierre White and has himself become a household name following appearances on the BBC cooking competition Great British Menu, now uses Marlborough Mushrooms exclusively when recipes call for some fungi flavours.

“It’s a fantastic product; top quality,” said Hywel, executive chef at the renowned Lucknam Park Hotel near Chippenham.

“The mushrooms are consistently fresh, tasty, economical, and the fact that they are local is a bonus. I use them throughout the year and in all our dishes which require mushrooms – not just Asian dishes.”

Dewi and Hywel JonesDiners at Lucknam Park will find Marlborough Mushrooms in the loin of Brecon venison with oxtail and squash risotto fritter and sloe gin sauce; in the risotto of summer vegetables with soft herbs and lemon oil; and in the honey and soy glazed organic salmon with soba noodles and pak choi, where the mushrooms are used to make a broth. The chef also uses dried Marlborough Mushrooms to add flavour to stock.

And Hywel is not alone in using the locally-produced Shiitake. The Red Lion at East Chisenbury, The Hare at Lambourn, The Royal Oak at Bishopstone and The Bear at Hungerford are among a number of food establishments of regional repute that use Marlborough Mushrooms in their dishes.

Meanwhile home cooks wanting to use Marlborough Mushrooms in their dishes will find them in a growing range of farm shops, including Cobbs at Hungerford , Marr Green near Marlborough, Allington near Chippenham and Bloomfields delicatessen in Highworth.

All of the mushrooms are grown at a farm just outside Marlborough. Dewi explained: “Blocks of oak chippings from the Savernake Forest are inoculated with Shiitake spores – in the same way that the Japanese have cultivated crops from the dead logs of the shii tree for thousands of years.

“The blocks are then stored in a warm and dry cultivation room where they spend around 10 weeks until they are ready to fruit. When transferred to a warm and moist growing room, the blocks produce mushrooms that are ready to harvest in around a fortnight.

Dewi and mushrooms“Each of the mushrooms is picked by hand and we deliver them to restaurants and farm shops within a couple of days.”

Anyone who wants to have a go can buy a Marlborough Mushrooms home growing kit, which can yield up to three or four crops.

The £8 kits – which proved popular at the recent Devizes Food Festival, and make imaginative gifts for budding chefs – are available at some farm shops, and will be on sale at Marlborough’s Feast of Food, which will be held at Marlborough College in October.

Meanwhile, anyone who fancies life as a shiitake producer can buy a licence to replicate the Marlborough Mushrooms model. The licence comes with a complete production system, training and support, together with a defined territory.

“With around four hours’ work a day, the units should generate income of £15,000 to £20,000 per year” said Dewi, “making it ideal for the recently-retired, or people looking to supplement their existing income.”

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