When l first arrived at the Farmers Club my aim was to access as much British produce as l could from large, medium and small producers and use their products in our dishes in the Restaurant, Conference & Banqueting and in our Bar Food Offerings.
Those of you who notice the various changes in suppliers as we work through the seasons on our menus will also note the new farms that we use and the established farms that are now part of our everyday menus. Woodland mushrooms from Livesey Bros Ltd being one of those that have been with us since l came on-board
In my quest to meet more suppliers l booked an appointment to meet Tim Livesey at his farm.
This is a third-generation family run Woodland Mushroom Farm located in the
heart of the national forest in Leicestershire.
They are the leading producer of woodland mushrooms in the UK.
Established in 1985 by brothers Tim and Simon Livesey, who grew up near Ashby De-La-Zouch on a farm where their father Tom once grew button mushrooms.
Tim and Simon knew the button mushrooms market was becoming dominated by large scale producers, and for them to progress in the future they needed to start growing something a little different, unusual and exotic. A mushroom like no other, a mushroom from further afield. They came across the Oyster mushrooms and decided to take the risk and trail growing this unfamiliar yet deliciously tasty mushroom, and the brothers never looked back.
They have been continuously developing over the past 32 years and now have over 50 specialists growing rooms on their farm, cultivating eight different varieties of woodland and exotic mushrooms.
All year around they supply the UK’s leading supermarkets including Asda, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, as well as retailers and wholesale suppliers throughout the UK. Livesey Brothers is now into its third generation, with Daniel and William sons of Tim Livesey taking over some of the main roles and growing responsibilities on the farm.
On the day of my visit l was met by Tim who took me on a tour of the wonderful facility they have built to grow, harvest and pack their mushrooms ready for the supermarkets and the Hospitality Industry.
We started in a vast barn where straw was being soaked and turned ready to be bagged for the growing of Oyster Mushrooms. The eight mushroom varieties grow in different compounds which are all mixed, washed and steamed sterilised on-site.
The various growing materials are then bagged and placed on trolleys to be steam sterilised before the chosen mushroom spores are inserted into the bags.
They then get placed on specially built pallets that then get taken away on a remote forklift truck to vast hanger like buildings where the bags are left in a temperature-controlled environment until the spores are almost ready to explode into flower (which is fact the mushroom we eat)
They are then taken to another isolated poly tunnel facility where the mushrooms break free and open ready to be harvested. Depending on the mushroom being grown at the time will depend on the temperature and humidity required. Some like it warm and some like it very cold!
As Tim mentioned “It`s like having 8 children, they all grow differently, require different levels of attention but…. you have to keep your eye on all of them individually as they will always play up at some time, luckily not all at once”
My favourites were the stunning White Enoki that are produced using the same traditional method that is used in Japan where they are grown in a terracotta vase with a sleeve around the neck that creates the long string like stem. These mushrooms thrive in frosty weather conditions in nature so the farm recreates the same environment to produce there’s.
The Poly tunnel with Oyster mushrooms busting out was like walking down a forest avenue of mushrooms hanging from top to bottom.
Then onto the packing and distribution areas where it all comes together to continue its journey to all corners of the country including us at the club.
Seeing this operation in progress made me think this is not to dissimilar to the way a kitchen and restaurant operates.
The planning, the ordering, the preparation, the cooking then the delivery to you at the table. If there are any problems along the journey you the customer might not be happy!
That’s exactly how Tim and his Brother see it as well.
By the time you read this in the journal we will be in full swing with our new Terrace menu which runs throughout the summer months where we have some wonderful Lobsters, Crabs and other shellfish from Portland, Caviar from Exmoor for you to enjoy with a glass or 2 of Fizz!
Also, the new seasonal Restaurant menu commenced at the beginning of July with Herdwick Lamb, Goosnargh Guinea Hen, Cotswold Chicken and Norfolk Quail coming back onto the menu with Cornish Turbot & Sardines to name a few items.
We have new suppliers with some really unique products that you may not have come across before. You might find them interesting and worth a try and they do make for great talking points over a visit to the club.
I recently took my kitchen team to Forman & Sons in Stratford, East London where they produce London Cure Smoked Salmon (on our menu) to learn about the whole process of producing this quality product from start to finish. The amazing thing was that all the preparation and slicing was done by hand and not by machine. They even slice the smoked salmon to your desired specification. Such a labour-intensive product but what a product! As they proudly proclaim “Probably the best Smoked Salmon in the World”
The team really enjoyed the talk, the guided tour and sampling the range of smoked salmon products they produce.
I hope you enjoy it as much as they did!