© Caley Bros

Meet the exhibitors:
Q & A with the fungi gurus, Caley Bros

Jo and Lorraine Caley, sisters from Surrey, (the name Caley Bros comes from their grandparents’ grocery business) have been creating a home-grown revolution with the success of their mushroom kits. Fresh from a Gold medal at RHS Chelsea, they’ve brought their fabulous fungi to RHS Hampton Court.

How did you get started as a company?

Having spent much of our adult years in different careers, we united as siblings to look after our father after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  When a terminal illness blights your family, it makes you stop and take stock of your diet and lifestyle. 

Read more about growing mushrooms at home

This is what happened to us, and whilst striving to maintain the variety and ease of our well versed and familiar diets, we found that mushrooms were the way forward.  However, in 2018, anything beyond the white, chestnut or Portobello mushroom was hard to come by, and if you did find them, they’d have more than likely been flown halfway round the world. So, we started growing our own. 

Caley Bros at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

We quickly found a market, or the market quickly found us, and we scaled up our growing to supply cafes, pizza vans, independent chefs, friends, and neighbours with fresh oyster mushrooms grown on used coffee grounds.

Within a year the curiosity surrounding our change in careers and the story behind why we were now ‘mushroom farmers’ had us making simple, small-scale kits for people we knew so they too could get growing their own mushrooms.

Why do you think there has been an increasing interest in people growing their own mushrooms?

There has been mystery for many people surrounding mushrooms and slowly those myths are being dispelled and people are seeing how simple and joyful mushrooms are to grow and eat. There is also much discussion around the health benefits of mushrooms, and people are exploring eating a more plant-based diet and it is becoming more and more accessible to find interesting and delicious mushrooms locally and responsibly cultivated by small scale independent farmers like us.

Pink Oyster
Yellow Oyster

What are the benefits of growing your own mushrooms?

We have found the benefits of growing mushrooms to be, not only the mindfulness and joy that comes with cultivating but also the nutritional benefits of cooking with and eating fresh local produce. It has opened our eyes to a wide variety of wonderful textures and flavours, a long way from the closed cup mushrooms of our childhood. Nothing beats home grown produce and the same for mushrooms as a tomato straight from the vine. Fresh Mushrooms have a wonder and beauty about them that is so short lived, because the fruiting bodies are at their prime for display and consumption for such a short period of time. Mushrooms can be grown on an incredible number of different types of waste products, such as soy hulls or used coffee grounds or even cardboard. This makes them remarkably versatile for any number of growers wanting able to source substrate and get growing depending on what is available to them locally.

 What’s your favourite mushroom?

Currently we’re really enjoying growing Lion’s mane, Hericium erinaceus. A simple mushroom to cultivate, it loves growing onhardwood substrate.  It is important that we share with our growers how to grow Lion’s mane at home, as it is a very rare wild fungus and illegal to pick in the UK. Lion’s mane has a stunning and unusual fruiting body it is cream in colour, but can have beautiful blush tones during young growth, with long spines and a delicate soft texture. The flavour is one of delicious intense mushroom when cooking it fresh, and you can also dry it and consume it in teas and powders for all its incredible medicinal properties.
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