On the journey of designing our new mycelium packaging, we’ve been exposed to the wonderful world of fungi, and it has been truly fascinating.

One of the best parts of working with mycelium has been the people this material has led us to, including Lorraine and Jodie from the Caley Brothers.

We were first introduced to this sister duo (despite what the name might suggest) by our packaging manufacturers the Magical Mushroom company when we we’re looking for someone to help us bring our vision of a living fungi window display to life  a giant wreath growing mushrooms.

After seeing their amazing work at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, we knew they would be the experts for the job.

 Now that this wonderful project has finally come to fruition (click here to see the wreath installed in our window), it’s time to give them a proper introduction, read on to hear all about how the Caley Brothers got into the fantastic world of fungi.

How did you get into the mushroom business?

"We started growing mushrooms for ourselves, in an attempt to eat a more 'plant based' diet.  We'd seen lots of exciting things being made with mushrooms by the Wicked Kitchen team, but couldn't buy the mushrooms we wanted to eat. So, in 2018, we started growing our own oyster mushrooms on used coffee grounds that we would collect from local cafes. The curiosity surrounding our home-grown mushrooms led to small independent grocers and restaurants getting in touch, keen to buy fresh and local sourced mushrooms. And that's how it quickly went from a hobby to a business."

What is your mission and what do you do?

"We have 3 main areas within our business that we champion with equal passion in order to promote the benefits of mushrooms and mushroom growing. The first is our fresh mushrooms that we grow on a farm in West Sussex and supply local retailers and independent restaurants. The second is our Ready to Grow kits, these allow others to experience the excitement and satisfaction of growing their own delicious mushrooms. The last area is teaching others about the amazing world of mushrooms through workshops, displays at exhibitions, supper clubs, and more."

Where did the name Caley Brothers come from?

"In the 1950's our grandfather and his brother started their own greengrocers and fruiterers. At first they operated out of a large white van. Early in the morning they'd drive up to the London markets at Brentford and Covent Garden to fill it with a variety of fruit and veg, before touring the new housing estates of Molesey in Surrey. Their aim: to bring fresh produce to the doorsteps of local residents. You could say they were the first Ocado of their time. They then moved into a permanent shop on Molesey High Street. We grew up listening to stories of their adventures and when we needed a name for our business it made sense to revive it for ourselves, despite being two sisters…"

How did you discover that mushrooms can be grown on denim?

"When you understand the basics of mushroom growing, it allows you to explore other growing options. We first displayed mushrooms growing on denim at our RHS Chelsea Flower Show display in 2023. We won Gold and Best New Design for our mixed display of edible, home grown mushrooms, all grown on a variety of substrates such as denim, but also on books and in ceramics - it was pretty amazing."

How did you make the denim mushroom wreath for our living window display?

"Denim is easy to manipulate, so we felt it would work well wrapped around the metal base you gave us. The blue of the denim also looks quite striking against the patches of mycelium. We contacted our local Age UK charity shop and purchased a variety of their preloved jeans.

We incorporated a mix of mushroom spawn and sawdust as we wrapped the dampened jeans around the metal wreath base, carefully sewing the ends in place to hold it together as we worked. We then allowed it to inoculate for 21days, this is where the mycelium spreads from the grain spawn onto the jean material, covering the blue of the denim with a soft white layer of mycelium. After 21 days we could see the oyster mushrooms beginning to pin these are tiny, baby mushrooms that go on to grow into the stunning clusters of mushrooms you saw on your display."

Click here to see how the wreath turned out. 

Which is your favourite type of mushroom and why?

"This is a tough question, it's like trying to choose our favourite ice cream! All our mushrooms have so many stunning properties. For Lorraine it's the pink and yellow oyster mushrooms as they are so hard to buy fresh, and when you grow your own their colours and taste always amazes her. Jodie loves the shiitake, a tricky one to produce from a mushroom growers POV, but we succeeded, and their flavour is beautifully intense with rich umami tones."

What's one thing you wish everyone knew about fungi?

"How easy they are to grow, and that they need the light to grow. The one question we get asked a lot is, "Do they need the dark and damp to grow?" All our mushrooms like the light and when sprayed twice a day with water from a plant mister, this creates the perfect environment for them to grow and will have you harvesting your very own mushrooms within a month."

What are you looking forward to this year?

"We have so much ahead of us, but the one thing that stands out at this moment is our new book  Project Mushroom. Written in collaboration with Kew Gardens, it's a stunning book that talks you through the simplicity of mushroom growing, as well as many other projects such as making your own mushroom ink, mushroom paper, and even mushroom ornaments  the ornament and seed pot projects explore the power of mushroom mycelium and allows you to create amazing forms  a very similar process that your own MONC mushroom packaging has gone through."