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Otahuna Lodge executive chef Jimmy McIntyre says oyster mushrooms - so-called because of their shape rather than their flavour - are prized for their delicate taste and ability to take on flavours such as olive oil, butter, garlic, lemon, lime and fresh herbs.

The lodge grows oyster mushrooms for its own kitchen. Most exotic mushrooms eaten in the South Island come from Asia in a dried form.

Reddell said fresh oyster mushrooms were expensive, selling for upwards of $8 a 100 grams, compared to $12 a kilo for the white button mushrooms found in supermarkets.

"We know there is real demand for other types of mushrooms."

Gordon Smith, of specialist greengrocer Gordon Smith & Sons Fruiterers in Victoria St, used to buy oyster mushrooms from an Auckland grower, but freight costs and high prices made them hard to sell.

He thought South Island restaurants would be keen to buy oyster mushrooms produced locally.

Reddell said mushrooms were especially prized in Asia, where 62 varieties are farmed. That compares to the four varieties grown in New Zealand.

This country gobbles 220 tonnes of mushrooms a week, 65 per cent of them white button mushrooms.

The mushroom trade here is thoroughly dominated by Prebbleton company Meadow Mushrooms, the Prebbleton company founded by Philip Burdon and Roger Giles in 1970.

Reddell reckoned his operation controlled about 1 per cent of the market. He and his wife bought Broadfields in August 2010 and within weeks, the first earthquake collapsed six of nine growing sheds.

The pair struggled on and started growing brown mushrooms in November 2011. But Reddell decided he could either be a seven-day-a-week mushroom farmer or try to recover from the quakes, but not both.

He shut production to sort out insurance and a rebuild. This gave him a window to experiment growing oyster mushrooms.

At a Ministry of Awesome event last week, Reddell said he needed $500,000 to get <a href="" title="Dried Mushrooms"><strong>Dried Mushrooms</strong></a> production fully operational and as much as $3.5 million to entirely rebuild his farm.
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