A scientist by trade, Dr Noel Arrold took over the lease of the old Bowral train tunnel by chance in 1987. A historical feature of the Southern Highlands landscape, the tunnel was built in 1866 and – despite not seeing a train in almost 100 years – it’s led an interesting double life. Fifty metres below the ground, the Bowral Brick tunnel provides the perfect growing conditions for mushrooms, and is now home to Noel Arrold’s Li-Sun Exotic Mushroom Farm.
“The temperature is about 16 degrees all year round, no air conditioning required” explains Dr Arrold. “That’s the beauty of it.” Utilising the unique environment, Dr Arrold has introduced many new mushroom species into Australia. “We set about growing all the different types of mushrooms – shitake, enoki, shimeji, king browns and wood ears – which are commonly grown in Asia using oak sawdust rather than the snowy mountains gum we use. I like finding ways of growing different types of exotic mushrooms in Australia,” he says.
Li-Sun now supplies many chefs who revere the mushrooms for their locality and freshness over imported competitors. “We supply a lot of restaurants in Sydney and around the Highlands,” says Noel. “The best restaurants want only Australian-grown mushrooms.” Noel also values the sustainability of mushroom production and its contribution to the environment. “The exotics are grown using waste products. After cropping, you end up with essentially a potting mix, making it a very efficient cycle,” he says. Noel also runs mushroom tunnel tours and sells his produce at farmers markets – engaging and educating the community about his fascinating Southern Highlands fungi.