Updated: Sep 10, 2021
New Zealand is an ecologically unique place -- given it is a distant Island Nation -- the landmass cut off from the continent for about 100 million years. This leaves us with an interesting agriculture dynamic. Along with mammal and plant species, fungi spores have taken a ride over the years. Some have proliferated, while most don't make it. Nowadays, bio-security is very tight and extra precaution is taken at the border, even taking fungal spores into consideration. There are a handful of mushroom strains that have been approved to be grown in New Zealand on a home-garden and commercial level. Button, oyster and shiitake mushrooms are the most common. Most strains that are grown commercially have been bred so that they grow consistent fruit bodies, within a desired temperature range, and have higher yields. While some globally established strains are being considered to be allowed into New Zealand, here is a list of the strains we currently have and are able to grow.
The Commercial imported strains -
Pheonix Grey Oyster (Pleurotus Pulmonarius) - oyster mushrooms are abundant in the wild on most continents and were first thought to be cultivated during World War II. Grey oyster mushrooms are one of the easiest mushrooms to grow and can be grown on a variety of substrates using relatively low tech methods - and very quickly compared to other mushroom species. Oyster mushrooms are nutrient-dense, offer strong health and medicinal benefits and can be grown on agricultural waste products such as straw and wood chip. They grow in temperatures ranging from 5-25 Celsius, however the temperature will affect the speed of growth. The Grey Oyster mushroom has a great flavour, lower spore-load than most oyster mushrooms and produces bunches that can easily be separated. The shelf life is from 5-10 days at 1 Celcius, making it the top choice for the hobbyist to commercial grower. Grows well indoors and outdoors from spring to early winter.
Pink Oyster (Pleurotus Djamor) - pink oyster, a.k.a. flamingo mushrooms, grow in clusters similar to grey oyster mushrooms but prefer warmer temperatures and will abort growth at temperatures under 15C. As a subtropical species, pink oyster mushrooms tolerate higher heats and are bright pink in colour. Similar to grey oyster mushrooms, they can be grown with pasteurised substrate and relatively low tech equipment. This mushroom is a rapid coloniser and usually begins to pin on day 7-9, while fruit bodies develop quickly and are best to pick before they get too old for better shelf life. If harvesting is left too late, spore release begins and shelf life is shortened, only staying presentable for a few days. Pink colour turns orange as soon as it hits the hot pan. Firmer in texture than the grey oyster with a unique bacon-like flavour. This mushroom is extremely eye-catching and really gets some attention: certainly recommended to everyone to grow! Grows well indoors and outdoors from spring to autumn (South Island is more like late spring to end of summer).
Shiitake (Lentinula Edodes) - shiitake is native to East Asia and grows in clusters on decaying deciduous wood. Shiitake cultivation dates back to the early 1200's and makes up 25% of all mushroom cultivation worldwide. Shiitake requires patience to grow with a long incubation period of 2-3 months and multiple maturing stages. Once blocks are ready they can produce for a long time, usually blocks will begin to get covered in green mould (trichoderma) before they run out of nutrients, spent blocks will continue to produce well outdoors in the garden. For the home grower shiitake is easiest to grow using the log method with shiitake dowels. Grows well indoors and outdoors from early autumn through to late spring.
Enoki (Flammulina Velutipes) - enokitake, also known as velvet shank, is mostly known for its use in Japanese cuisine. Enoki naturally grows on decaying wood and have small brown caps growing in clusters. (As opposed to the long, thin, white, noodle-like clusters of cultivated enoki that you often find at markets and in stores - or in many Japanese & Chinese dishes). They are a 'winter mushroom' as they require temperatures colder than 15C to grow. Enoki are very fragile but are highly nutrient dense and full of flavour. Grows well indoors and outdoors from late spring to early autumn.
King Stropharia (Stropharia Rugosoannulata) - a.k.a. garden giant, a.k.a. wine cap, a.k.a. burgundy mushroom. A mushroom with many names and many uses. It is grown in the garden and tolerates full sunlight. King stropharia can be grown where hard frosts occur by simply adding a thick layer of wood chip or covering patch with frost cloth to protect the mycelium over winter. This edible mushroom is used in permaculture for important roles such as quickly breaking down wood chip to build soil, helping navigate nutrients from soil to plants, as well as an effective filtration system for grey water and nitrogen run off. This water filtration technique is inexpensive and low tech even on larger scales. King Stropharia fruits abundantly after rainfall from spring to autumn, a prolific producer and highly recommended to any hobbyist grower, gardener, or anyone interested in applying fungi to mycoremediation and soil building.
Morel (Morchella) - not to be confused with "False Morels" which look very similar and can be highly poisonous, morels are a delicacy among many cultures and frequently used in French cuisine. Morels are difficult to cultivate commercially with any consistency, making wild harvested Morels a multimillion-dollar industry in the Northern Hemisphere. Morels have a unique honeycomb-like structure and generally pop up in spring time. They can be grown in the backyard with a bit of luck, a bit of timing, and a bit of quality spawn.
The NZ Natives -
Turkey Tail (Trametes Versicolor) - a common "polypore" mushroom that grows on every continent except Antarctica. Its shape and variety of colours often resemble that of a turkey's tail, hence the name. Although this mushroom has the texture of a gumboot, it has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries and is currently undergoing clinical trials in cancer research for its immunity boosting properties. Turkey tail is easy to grow and relatively easy to forage. Turkey tail is most commonly used in teas or dual-extracted with alcohol to make tinctures.
Coral Tooth (Hericium Coralloides now known as Hericium Novae Zelandiae) - also known as pekepekekiore in the Maori language, and part of the large family of Hericiaceae. (Hericium means hedgehog in Latin). Coral Tooth is the native cousin of "Lion's Mane" which is known globally for its cognitive and nerve regeneration benefits. Coral Tooth grows on dead hardwood trees, especially in beech forest and has a unique look, similar to icicles or snowflakes. This variety of Hericium has a crayfish/crab like flavour when cooked and adds an interesting umami depth to culinary dishes. Personally we have found this mushroom excellent for memory and cognitive function, taking roughly 1 teaspoon daily as a dried powder at night. Excellent for sleep and noticeably enhanced dream states. A personal favourite of mine for these cognitive benefits.
Tawaka (Agrocybe Parasitica now known as Cyclocybe Parasitica) - also known as poplar mushrooms, found on living and dead poplar trees in late summer and early autumn usually in clusters. Tawakas have a long stalk and a hanging skirt or 'veil' with a bold, meaty flavour. The stem is very wood/ fibrous and not that nice to eat on larger fruit bodies. Pretty common fruiting mushroom from spring to autumn across NZ. Tawakas can cause heart rot to some hardwoods, generally lives on poplar and native beech trees. Can be growing on sawdust blocks and dowels into logs.
Artist's Bracket (Ganoderma Applanatum) - a.k.a. artist's conk a.k.a. bear bread, this is a cousin to the famous Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma Lucidum). This fungus grows on living and dead trees, commonly causing heart rot to beech and poplar trees once mycelium begins colonising. Known as 'artist's conk' for its use as a drawing medium. Ganoderma Applanatum has also been used in Japanese and Chinese traditional medicine for centuries while studies now show that it contains chemical compounds with anti-tumour, antibacterial, and anti-fibrotic properties.
Native NZ Oyster (Pleurotus Parsonsiae) - also known as velvet mushroom. Similar in taste to the pheonix oyster but with a much firmer texture and a more velvet like cap. Care should be taken growing this mushroom indoors as the spore release can be very heavy. Grows large dense clusters that are difficult to separate. Because of the massive spore load and difficultly to separate the clusters it is not the best species for large or small commercial operations. The yield from this mushroom is very good however, making it great for the home and hobbyist grower who just wants the high yield.
Native Shiitake (Lentinula Novae Zelandiae) - A beautiful dark-coloured shiitake with bold flavour, similar in shape in size to the commercial strains with lower yields. Fun to grow, but incubation period is very long, almost twice as long as established shiitake strains (about 4-5 months incubation period when grown on sawdust blocks). Good for the very patient hobbyist growers out there!