Sunday, January 06, 2008

Und A Motorbike

Kylie Kwong is an Australian TV chef on the Discovery Home Channel. Simply Magic is photographed like the gauziest of gauzy soft-core bow-chicka, bow-bow-bow, except with a breezy spiritual tone. The attention to light, color and atmosphere makes me sigh often. Though I seldom learn much about Chinese cooking I could use at home, I love watching her dry roast spices, skip through Shanghai or argue with her mother, whom Kylie plainly adores. I do learn things, though.

One of my favorite segments featured Kylie sitting backward on one of those miniature trucks as it rolled through ...something. She talked about "a mad fellow named Noel" who took an abandoned subway tunnel and turned it into an underground farm for high end mushrooms. I watched the reruns obsessively to see this segment three or four times, until I finally picked up enough context clues to find the aforementioned "mad fellow."
Unlike white mushrooms that grow in compost, the shitake, chestnut and other varieties of exotic mushrooms produced by Li-Sun Exotic Mushrooms in Mittagong are spawned in a laboratory and grown in an old underground railway tunnel.

Owner and operator Dr Noel Arrold has been studying and growing exotic mushrooms for more than 20 years. He says the tunnel offers ideal growing conditions because it is naturally dark and the temperature sits at a comfortable 17 degrees centigrade all year round.

Holy cow, that's recycling!
The growing process begins in a laboratory in Mittagong not far from the tunnel where mushroom cultures are spawned on an agar plate.

"In order to multiply that up so that you can use it to inoculate your crops we grow it on rye grain," Dr Arrold explained.

"We boil up rye grain to get the moisture in it and then we mix it with a bit of lime and gypsum, sterilise it and then we add a piece of agar as a pure culture."

"This will then grow all through that medium and you can then transfer that from a small bottle into larger bottles and so on."

The end result is a variety of mushrooms that could not only be used in a stir-fry but for artistic displays.

"They come out in clumps much like the Sydney Opera House."

Frankly, who doesn't?

My first thought, watching the tiny, beautiful woman in an erstwhile railway tunnel was, 'SWEETIE! YOU DON'T KNOW WHERE THAT RAILROAD'S BEEN!' but the "mad fellow" has Science on his side. Delicious exotic mushrooms provide a further impetus to get over the germ-inspired heebie jeebies. I'm not totally certain about how one cleans the world's longest bathroom without a Queen Mary-size can of Scrubbing Bubbles, but I do love Science, preferably in soup or a cream reduction sauce. That's an excellent use of resources!



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