A production plant in a lowly Schöneberg basement, Chido’s Mushrooms is named after a young Zimbabwean woman who was trained in the farming, preservation and sale of fungi from the age of 11, and has dedicated her life to promoting sustainable entrepreneurship around the world. It was at one of her workshops in Berlin that founder Anne-Kathrin Kuhlemann got the idea to collect coffee grounds from Berlin cafes (by bike, no less) and combine them with mushroom spawn to grow eco-friendly fungi.
All the bags of mixture need next is four weeks in infrared light followed by 80 percent humidity levels, the conditions needed to produce three healthy flushes of fresh oyster mushrooms per bag, with the first taking place within 5-10 days.
For as much sustainability as it can profess to, Chido’s Mushrooms is also a business, and ruthlessly so. Chido – who owns a 20 percent stake in the company – now has qualms about the way her successors have developed the business and is currently engaged in a bitter feud with the management.
But what they allegedly might lack in benevolence, they make up for in bio righteousness: they’ll soon start production with organic-only coffee grounds. And the chefs at the restaurants they supply to, such as Pan Asia and Vau, can usually taste the difference straight away, “because our mushrooms are so fresh,” explains Kuhlemann.
Home cooks can purchase 500g of fresh oyster mushrooms for €8.90 and the sweeter, pink variety for €11.90 at markets including Markthalle IX, or by calling them up and heading directly to the Schöneberg plant. They also open their cellar sometimes for ‘mushroom hunting in the city’ events; stay informed via their Facebook page.
You can even pick up a home growing kit (€9.90- 14.90, produces up to 500g) from gift/homeware shops and food outlets such as Villa Ruh, Goldhahn & Sampson, ausberlin and Fast Rabbit, or by ordering online at www.chidos.org, and for the more avid would-be shroomer, one-day hobby training sessions (€125) cover the whole process.
Originally published in issue #121, November 2013.