BRUSSELS (AP) — In Belgium, a country where beer is the culinary king, its brewing also creates magic for mushrooms.
In the cellars of the famed Abattoir meat market in Brussels’ Anderlecht neighborhood, Quentin Declerck and his partners have come up with a business idea for the times: Growing exotic mushroom varieties using the spent grains from organic breweries.
With their ambient temperature never going below 11 degrees Celsius (52 Fahrenheit), the cellars are ideal to host a 3,000-square-meter (32,000-square-foot) underground urban farm, where Declerck and his associates produce organic mushrooms.
When they started “Le Champignon de Bruxelles” in 2014, founding members Hadrien Velge and Sevan Holemans first tried to grow their Shiitake, Maitake and Nameko varieties using coffee grounds as a substrate. They soon realized that mushrooms prefer beer.
“It did not work out well with coffee. So we teamed up with the Cantillon brewery down the road,” Declerck said. “In cities, the beer waste would normally be thrown away.”
Benjamin Gaugué, a cook who honed his skills at the prestigious Georges Blanc restaurant in France and went on to work with rising star David Toutain, is a fan. At “De Bruxelles et D’ailleurs,” he cooks with the mushrooms.
“I tend to work my oyster mushrooms with thyme microgreens, they work well together,” he said.
Gaugué also appreciates the ecological side of the project, which implements a form of circular economy in a urban context. Once the mushroom harvest is done, the substrates can be used yet again, as fodder or organic fertilizer that Le Champignon gives for free to local farmers.
“They sell good products and promote sustainability,” Gaugué said.