If you’ve never attempted it before, growing your own edible mushrooms may seem difficult, even for an experienced gardener. However, it’s not that strange a crop to grow. It’s also quite easy to grow a healthy, great-tasting crop at home. You don’t even need to spend hours in a dark, damp cellar tending to them! Read on to learn how to grow these delicious morsels yourself.
If you’re a complete beginner, consider a mushroom-growing kit. They’re easy to use and provide you with everything you need. If you’re slightly more experienced—or brave—you can order mushroom spawn and inoculate a log or a purpose-built mushroom bed. Whichever option you choose, you’ll find that growing edible mushrooms is a rewarding and fruitful process.
Mushrooms are also incredibly good for you. Virtually fat- and calorie-free, mushrooms are full of vitamins and minerals. Additionally, as little as 80g of mushrooms will count as one of your 5 fruit and veg a day. Growing your own is also far safer than picking your wild mushrooms, which have many toxic lookalikes.
- 1. White Caps
- 2. Brown Caps
- 3. Portabello
- 4. Shiitake
- 5. Morels
- 7. Pearl Oyster Mushrooms
- 8. Enoki
- 10. Lion’s Mane
- 11. Wine Caps
- 12. Chanterelles
- Grow Your Own Mushrooms
- Shiitake Mushrooms
- Wine Caps
- Mushrooms for Your Health
- Making a Living with Mushrooms
- Mushroom Kit Resources
- Connect With Us!
- 1. Outdoor Mushroom Beds
- 2. Rafts
- 3. Grown in the Garden
- 4. Indoor Mushroom Beds
- About Mushrooms
- Learn How to Grow Mushrooms
- Types of Mushrooms
- Mushroom Information
1. White Caps
via skeeze / .com
White caps, or button mushrooms as they’re also known, are among the most common edible mushrooms. If you’re a complete newcomer to growing fungi, then whitecaps are the ideal place to start. Not only are they tasty to eat, they’re also easy to grow. Furthermore, they’re commonly available in easy-to-use mushroom-growing kits.
White caps don’t require sunlight to grow, making them perfect for indoor gardeners. This is especially beneficial if you’ve already filled your window sills with herbs and flowers. You can grow white caps at any time of the year. Unlike other crops—including some mushroom varieties—white caps prefer to grow during the colder, winter months.
2. Brown Caps
Another traditional variety, they’re also known as creminis. These are almost as common as white caps, and just as easy to grow. Additionally, they’re known for their nutty flavor and firm texture, which makes sense, since they’re basically juvenile portabello mushrooms.
Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons
This is a warm weather-growing edible mushroom that will happily grow in a small bed of mature compost. When it starts to fruit, the distinctive texture of this mushroom’s cap makes it easy to identify. In addition, growing mushrooms in compost or mulch makes harvesting quicker and easier.
With a little mature compost, mulch, and warm weather your portabello spawn will produce several flushes of edible mushrooms over the course of a summer.
via Hans / .com
These edible mushrooms are both mild and meaty. In fact, their distinctive flavoring makes them one of the most popular culinary mushrooms. They can also boost the immune system and can help lower cholesterol and reduce weight gain.
Shiitake mushrooms are also easy to grow. They’ll grow either indoors on a mushroom bed, or outside, on pasteurized wood chips or logs. A 40-inch log can, over the course of a couple of seasons, yield up to 4 pounds of mushrooms. Just note that if you choose to grow them outside, they’ll require some shade. Growing them under a porch or in a similar shady location will also allow them to remain moist.
Different types of shiitake are all native to Asia, and will fruit at different times of the year. That said, they’re most successful when started in the fall. Whatever the variety, they usually fruit after a good soaking or rain shower, when temperatures are between 45-85°F.
via StarZhab / .com
Morels are some of the most attractive and versatile edible mushrooms. The morel’s distinctive pinecone-shaped appearance is reminiscent of a fairy house.
Young, tender morels, which are rich in the varieties distinctive, nutty flavor, can be cooked whole. Only the caps of older, larger morels should be eaten, because the stems can become overly woody as they age. You can also dry morels for use at a later date, if you have a glut.
6. Oyster Mushrooms
via evitaochel / .com
These edible mushrooms come in a range of colors, and are incredibly easy to grow. Even the efforts of a complete novice will be rewarded with a pleasing, large crop of oyster mushrooms.
Oysters are best grown outside on soft wood, such as aspen, poplar, or willow. They’ll also grow well on pasteurized straw, cardboard, and coffee grounds. This adaptable nature makes oysters an affordable variety to grow.
Different oyster mushroom varieties will grow best at different times of the year. Whichever variety you choose will give you at least 2 fruitings, but this can be increased with the correct management.
7. Pearl Oyster Mushrooms
via adege / .com
The pearl is an attractive variety of the oyster mushroom family. Pearl oysters are easy to grow, take up little room, and will happily flourish in a plastic container filled with ever-useful coffee grounds.
Unlike some of the edible mushrooms on our list, pearl oysters are also relatively quick to grow and fruit. In fact, small mushrooms will start to appear within a few weeks of inoculation. For continuous production, simply refresh the coffee grounds once mushroom production starts to slow noticeably.
Photo credit:Wikimedia Commons
This is a distinctive mushroom that almost impossibly balances a tiny cap on a long, thin stem. Enokis are one of the easiest edible mushrooms to grow at home. They also taste great as part of a home grown salad or in a hearty soup.
Enokis are available as spawn or as a mushroom kit, and come in the form of an inoculated sawdust block. They’re happiest in dry climates, and are a reliable, heavy-cropping mushroom. One kit can provide you with a monthly harvest of about 2lbs of mushrooms throughout the growing season.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Native to both Japan and North America, Maitakes are sometimes known as “Hen of the Woods” because of their roast chicken flavor. They’re not as easy to grow as other some of the other edible mushrooms on our list, and can take up to 2 years to start fruiting. They commonly grow on logs or roots, but will also grow indoors in substrate grow bags.
While maitakes can take a while to fruit, it is worth the time and effort. Because of their rich umami flavor, they’re one of the most valued culinary mushrooms in the world. These mushrooms are also good for your health. Studies suggest that maitake mushrooms can potentially help to lower blood sugar levels, and lower blood pressure.
10. Lion’s Mane
Lion’s mane is an edible mushroom like its cousin the comb tooth. It will grow both indoors and outdoors, with the right care and attention. While each variety of lion’s mane has its own preferences, they usually grow on hardwoods like oak or maple. They grow best in the cool temperatures of spring or fall, and fruiting usually occurs when temperature is between 55-65°F.
Unlike other edible mushrooms on our list, lion’s mane will only fruit once a year. After it fruits, the mushroom can be cut when it’s half developed. This will allow for a second regeneration within about a week.
These mushrooms are popular in China and Japan, and taste like crabmeat. They’re also a prized medicinal mushroom. Studies have shown them to have powerful, possibly regenerative effects on brain cells. Like other types of mushroom, they can also lower blood glucose levels and contain anti-cancer compounds.
11. Wine Caps
Also known as “Garden Giant” or “King Stropharia” this edible mushroom is popular with no-till gardeners. You can spread wine cap spawn in the spring months over mulched areas, such as around shrubs and trees. This allows for continuous harvesting throughout the summer months. Growing mushrooms on mulch between other plants and crops can also help to increase yields. Consequently, the wine cap mushroom is considered to be a great intercrop and companion plant.
The elegant, maroon, wine-colored cap makes it easy to identify and pick out against dull-hued mulch. It also has an excellent, reliable flavor that tastes like a combination of portobello mushrooms, white potatoes, and red wine.
via Barbroforsberg / .com
Chanterelles are small- to medium-sized edible mushrooms. This smooth, gold-orange colored variety is pale white internally when snapped in half. These edible mushrooms have a fruity aroma and an earthy, woody flavor with hints of pepper. They’re prized for their velvety consistency and spectacular flavor.
The ideal time to start chanterelles is in the fall, but you can grow them all year round, either indoors or outdoors, with the correct management.
All the edible mushrooms on our list are easy to grow. This means that with just a little time and effort, you’ll be enjoying a crop of flavor-filled, nutritious fungi. As you begin to further explore the wonderful world of mushroom growing, you’ll find that there are many other attractive varieties to grow and enjoy.
Growing edible mushrooms can be a fascinating, enjoyable process. Additionally, growing edible fungi is a fantastic compliment to an already thriving vegetable garden. It can also be a great way to introduce children to the joys of vegetable gardening.
If you would like to try a different type of gardening, try growing a delicacy like a mushroom. Cathy Isom tells you about some of the best edible mushrooms you can grow at home. That’s coming up on This Land of Ours.
Best Edible Mushrooms You Can Grow
Growing your own edible mushrooms may seem difficult, even for an experienced gardener. However, it’s not that strange a crop to grow. It’s also quite easy to grow a healthy, great-tasting crop at home. You don’t even need to spend hours in a dark, damp cellar tending to them!
If you’re a complete beginner, consider a mushroom-growing kit. They’re easy to use and provide you with everything you need. If you’re slightly more experienced—or brave—you can order mushroom spawn and inoculate a log or a purpose-built mushroom bed. Whichever option you choose, you will find that growing edible mushrooms is a rewarding and fruitful process.
Mushrooms are also incredibly good for you. Virtually fat-and calorie-free. Mushrooms are full of vitamins and minerals.
Some of the best edible mushrooms to grow at home include: white caps, brown caps, Portobello, Shiitake, Morels, Oyster mushrooms, Pearl Oyster mushrooms, Enoki, Maitake, Lion’s Mane, Wine caps, and Chanterelles.
I’m Cathy Isom…
Grow Your Own Mushrooms
More than 14,000 species of mushrooms have been identified, but only about 250 species are delectable edibles. Of the best-tasting mushrooms, many species defy cultivation and must be found in the wild rather than grown. But some can be grown using an approach that parallels the one we use to grow plants. Start with a vigorous strain appropriate for your region (most often sold as spawn, which is young mycelium), provide it with a suitable substrate upon which to feed and a moist, shady site, and be ready to furnish water or a change of temperature at critical times.
The reward for your efforts will be some of the freshest, tastiest mushrooms you’ll ever eat. Don Simoni of Mushroom Adventures, a San Francisco kit company, says, “A lot of the mushrooms at the market are three to five days old before you buy them, but they’re really good for only two days and then there’s a flavor change.”
You also need patience to grow mushrooms because they fruit only when they are good and ready. Stamets says, “It is my belief that fungi take a very long-term view of their habitat, and they are community-based,” which means fruiting is intended to serve both the fungus and the ecological system it calls home. Edible mushrooms are a minor byproduct of this process.
The easiest culinary mushrooms to grow at home are oysters, shiitake, wine caps and portobellos, but many more possibilities exist. Here’s a closer look at the four named above:
Oysters vary in flavor but generally are considered milder than shiitake, and they have a delicate texture that makes them difficult to ship, so they are rarely seen in stores. The stems are slightly tough, but oyster caps are delicious sautéed and served on a sandwich. In the wild, oyster mushrooms are primary decomposers of newly dead trees, especially low-density hardwoods such as cottonwood and poplar. Fast-growing and versatile, oyster mushrooms also will thrive on partially decomposed straw or sawdust. Color varies with the strain; oysters may be white, gray, pink or yellow.
Oyster kits are usually a mass of sticky white mycelium that has fully colonized a small tower of wheat or oat straw, which is enclosed in a perforated plastic bag. Kept moist and humid, the tower soon explodes with oysters, and most kits will produce two flushes. After that, you can use the almost-spent mycelium to inoculate a compost heap or stuff it into cracks between pieces of wood.
You also might try this: Mix it with damp sawdust, coffee grounds and a little straw, stuff it into paper milk cartons with holes punched in the sides, and stash those in plastic bags in the basement. A few months later, you’ll probably have several nice fruitings.
Obviously, you can be pretty creative growing oysters, though it’s best to not forget that these guys really want to be growing on a tree. (Commercially, oysters are grown on columns of sterilized straw, which are hung from ceilings like punching bags.) The mycelium will run horizontally in a sawdust bed, but it might not fruit until it encounters a vertical surface. For inexpensive, low-maintenance oyster production, you can buy plugs of spawn that you tap into holes drilled in newly felled logs. Inoculated with oyster mushroom spawn, the logs are handled just like those used to grow shiitake, but oyster mushrooms are faster to fruit. Kept outdoors, they typically fruit from mid-spring to early summer, and again in the fall. Spells of cool, damp weather trigger fruiting sprees, but the exact timing varies with the climate in which they are grown.
The full, smoky flavor of shiitake mushrooms is matched by their texture, which is so dense that they’re downright meaty when cooked; together, the taste and texture make them especially well suited for use in stronger-flavored dishes. Shiitake also dry well, which is fortunate because they often produce in large flushes. These mushrooms can be grown on blocks of sterilized sawdust, either plain or enriched with cottonseed meal, or on freshly cut hardwood logs. The mycelium runs faster in sawdust because the abundant surface area between sawdust particles provides such easy opportunities for colonization. However, growing shiitake on logs produces a better mushroom, and shiitake logs also can be pretty. “In China, people may find a river and partially bury the inoculated logs vertically on the sandbank, so they become a beautiful landscape feature,” says Frank Michael, producer of shiitake spawn at Mushroompeople in Summertown, Tenn.
In your own yard, you can stack inoculated logs into tipis, angle them against a fence or lay them on the ground on a bed of straw to create what Stamets calls a “land raft.” After three years or so, when fruiting falls off, you can lay the logs in the woods where they may continue to produce a few mushrooms. “We have piles of old, ruined logs that sometimes produce after 10 years,” Michael says.
An ideal inoculated shiitake log is a 40-inch-long chunk of oak or other dense hardwood, 4 to 6 inches in diameter, cut in late winter or spring when the wood is rich with natural sugars, and with the bark left intact. Use a drill to make 1-inch-deep holes 5 to 6 inches apart all around the log. Into these holes insert plugs of spawn, which can be tapped in with a hammer. Each hole is then capped with a thin coat of melted wax to prevent drying and seal out contaminants. Once inoculated, the logs are stacked in a shady place where they can be watered heavily twice a week to keep the internal moisture level of the logs at about 50 percent.
One summer must pass before the logs are ready to fruit. If you inoculate logs in the spring, when fall arrives, you need to immerse a few of them at a time in cool water for 24 hours — the best way to induce fruiting. You can put them in a water trough or old bathtub, or tie them to a concrete block and place it in the shallows of a creek or pond (make sure the logs are completely immersed). And sometimes, if you’re lucky, heavy fall rains will take care of the mandatory soaking for you.
Two to four days after the logs’ soaking, mushrooms will appear. Harvest them with a sharp knife. By rotating a few logs at a time through 24-hour soakings followed by six to eight weeks of resting, you can have fairly reliable, daily harvests of shiitake.
Michael says you can keep shiitake logs fruiting through winter in a greenhouse by strategically soaking a few along and putting the soaked logs in the shade of taller plants. For steady home production, the best strategy is to inoculate 12 to 25 logs, and rotate them so that small groups of two to four are being soaked and brought into production at six-week intervals. Start a new crop every year or two, whenever good logs become available, and you never will be without shiitake.
This all sounds quite straightforward and simple, and it is, but it’s best to start small — with a kit — and see how the shiitake do in your conditions before progressing to a more ambitious enterprise.
You can exclude wild contaminant fungi if you inoculate heavily enough with the right strain, but there is much to the art of growing shiitake. “We read everything, visited successful growers, and still it took us years to learn how to grow shiitake right,” says Sondra Williams, who with her husband, Doug, owns Lost Creek Mushroom Farm in Perkins, Okla. Among the challenges for the Williamses were the length of the incubation period (15 months in Oklahoma), finding the proper tools and learning how to grow the mushrooms in their hot, dry summers.
To help shorten the learning curve, Mushroompeople rents and sells videos on various aspects of shiitake culture, including how to grow them in such extreme climates as Florida and as they are traditionally grown in China and Japan.
Finally, keep in mind that oysters and several other types of “wood loving” mushroom such as lion’s mane (Hericium) and hen-of-the-woods (Grifola) can be grown just like shiitake, and logs are not the only game in town. If you keep a home woodlot, you can cut stumps high and then inoculate them with shiitake, oyster or other wood mushroom spawn. Or, if you have huge, fresh hardwood logs that are simply too big to heft into a soaking tank, cut them into 6-inch “wafers” and stack them into a totem, with sawdust spawn in between the layers. Wet it down, cover the whole thing with a plastic bag to retain moisture and, with a little luck, you’ll eventually get mushrooms.
You can grow the fascinating and delicate-tasting wine cap stropharia (Stropharia rugoso-annulata) right in your garden, just like a regular food crop. Also known as king stropharia, garden giants and several other folk names, these edibles grow on many types of decaying organic matter, from garden soil to piles of wood chips and even compost heaps. Young wine caps grown in shade boast pretty wine-red caps, which quickly change to beige in higher light. Vigorous and persistent in a wide range of climates, these mushrooms fruit lightly in spring, heavily in fall and intermittently through the summer in cool, moist climates.
To establish wine caps in your garden, order a kit or patch in late winter and give it a head start indoors, the same way you might grow tomatoes from seed. Follow the directions included with your kit or patch, and let the mycelium grow at room temperature for a few weeks. Robert Hess, who sells wine cap kits through Spore Works in Knoxville, Tenn., says to “plant” chunks of mycelium wherever you want the mushrooms to grow anytime after the soil temperature has reached 50 to 60 degrees. “It won’t be hard to see the mycelium taking off, because it develops into stringy strands, almost like plant roots,” Hess says. If you want to establish multiple colonies in different parts of your landscape, simply dig a chunk of soil (or compost or wood chips) that’s nicely marbled with white mycelium, and “plant” it where you want a new batch to grow. Be sure to harvest these mushrooms early, when they are still young buttons, to preclude having to share them with insects.
Hess grows wine caps among hostas in his Tennessee shade garden. Volk, in Wisconsin, recommends wine caps as the easiest mushrooms to grow in a pile of wood chips or compost, and in coastal Washington, Stamets has grown wine caps that weighed in at nearly 5 pounds!
You can grow your own button mushrooms indoors, including the common white buttons and the more flavorful portobello or criminis (baby portobellos), too. It’s fun and rewarding, and it lets you enjoy organically grown mushrooms (many commercial growers use pesticides to control insects and diseases) that taste succulent enough to make great roasting mushrooms. A good kit will yield its first crop three weeks after you start it, and will continue to fruit for eight more weeks. When the kit is done, you can use the spent compost to enrich your garden soil.
It’s possible that a mushroom or two eventually will pop up in your garden but it’s not likely because these mushrooms, which are all strains of Agaricus bisporus, need “live” compost (just over halfway decomposed) as their base of operations. Simoni says making a good batch of “live” compost is a labor-intensive, 30-day process, and he has posted his favorite recipe for it on his company’s Web site. “There is no easy way of bypassing the compost part,” he says, noting that if people knew of the large quantities required to get a good yield, they would better appreciate what they’re getting in a kit, as well as the price of good mushrooms in the store.
Mushrooms for Your Health
Mushrooms are surprisingly nutritious while being low in calories, with very little fat and cholesterol. An average serving of five small mushrooms contains 2 grams of protein, almost as much potassium as a banana and three important B vitamins. Mushrooms also are a valuable source of selenium, a nutrient found in meats that may be in short supply in vegetarian diets.
The same mushrooms you enjoy for dinner may have important medicinal properties, too. Several studies are now evaluating the effects mushrooms may have on breast cancer in postmenopausal women and on prostate cancer in men. Other studies are looking into the use of nutritional supplements made from shiitake, oyster and reishi mushrooms as a natural way to lower cholesterol.
Making a Living with Mushrooms
Let’s say you start small, learn the art of growing mushrooms and decide to try growing culinary mushrooms for profit. Gourmet mushrooms are definitely a high value crop, but the world will not beat a path to your door if you grow them. As with other crops that appeal to sophisticated palates, your mushrooms probably will interest only such buyers as chefs or upscale food markets; members of the general public usually do not appreciate why gourmet mushrooms cost more than $6 a pound. The Williamses did well selling shiitake from 2,000 logs to friends and neighbors, but they couldn’t find adequate markets when they added another 4,000 logs. “Doug wanted to grow something that was not harmful to the environment and that would help people,” Sondra says, “but he discovered he was not cut out for getting gussied up and selling to chefs.”
Also, timing can be tricky in a commercial operation. Shiitake can be made to fruit on a schedule, but oysters require intense management. “It’s a lot like dairy farming,” says Glen Babcock of Garden City Fungi in Missoula, Mont. “You have to stay with it all the time.” Babcock started growing certified organic specialty mushrooms in 1995 and now has five climate-controlled mushroom houses. He says diversifying protects you from economic ups and downs, which are part of any agricultural endeavor. He and his wife, Wendy, also have created a teaching module they use to educate groups of science teachers about fungi, and they teach workshops on mushroom culture. In addition, they sell kits and spawn for hobby mushroom growers.
“You don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to get into the business,” Babcock says, “but you do need patience, a willingness to learn and a certain passion for the work.” If you like the process, you can build more of an equipment inventory as you go along.
Demand is increasing for specialty mushrooms, and developments in medicinal mushroom research may make organically grown medicinal mushrooms hot commodities, too. “The folks who get the most satisfaction out of growing mushrooms share a natural fascination with fungi,” Babcock says. If the market heats up, it’ll be the perfect world for such loyal fungi fans as himself.
Mushroom Kit Resources
In addition to the seven regional suppliers listed below, many other sources are available for mushroom culture and spawn. The easiest and most rewarding way to locate local information on mushroom culture is to join a club or mycological society. You can find a club list, organized by location, at the North American Mycological Association’s Website.
Garden City Fungi
P.O. Box 1591
Missoula, MT 59806
Certified organic kits for three types of oyster mushrooms, indoor shiitake and lion’s mane, along with excellent educational materials for teachers.
Summertown, TN 28483
An assortment of wood mushroom kits, four types of shiitake for inoculating logs and rental of educational videos.
5201 Kingston Pike, Suite 6-324
Knoxville, TN 37919
Wine caps, oyster and shiitake kits to grow from inoculation to fruiting, along with pure cultures of numerous other gourmet strains.
Lost Creek Mushroom Farm
Perkins, OK 74059
Shiitake log kits and various gift boxes.
355 Serrano Dr., Suite 9-J
San Francisco, CA 94132
Kits to grow button, oyster and portobellos.
Field & Forest Products, Inc.N3296 Kozuzek Rd.
Peshtigo, WI 54157
Starters for oyster, shiitake and wine caps.
Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.
Connect With Us!
PHOTO: ep_jhu/Flickrby Jesse Frost January 18, 2016
Mushrooms can make a great addition to your urban farm’s arsenal, and they’ve been grown in cities for centuries—in the 1800s, Parisian biointensive farmers grew meadow mushroom (Agaricus campestris) in underground caves. Growing mushrooms makes sense for small areas because their growing environments highly versatile. Mushrooms make themselves comfy alongside veggies, in unused basements, or in specifically designated mushroom beds placed on on front porches, balconies, rooftops or forest floors.
If growing mushrooms is on your garden bucket list, here are three styles of mushroom beds that you can build yourself and adapt to your situation. Let’s face it, space is limited and mushrooms will often grow where nothing else will.
1. Outdoor Mushroom Beds
Pick the location for an outdoor mushroom bed carefully based on the mushroom species you wish to grow. Think about shade and sunlight, and make sure you have access to the required growing medium, aka substrate: fresh wood chips, manure, compost, etc. Once you have the logistics figured out, the fun can begin, and in some cases, last for years.
Build the Bed
What’s fun about outdoor beds is that the combinations and styles are entirely up to you. You can simply build raised beds with standard lumber, as you might for a vegetable raised bed, or you can use logs inoculated with other mushroom species as your framing lumber, which is not only fun but economical space-wise. Consider, for example, of making a log-cabin-style bed frame out of logs inoculated with reishi mushrooms and filling that bed with compost to grow almond portobellos. The reishi logs require soil contact to fruit, and the almond portobellos only grow in compost—think of it as intercropping mushrooms.
No matter what design you go with, regard your spawn purveyor’s recommendations for depth, which is generally more shallow than veggie beds, and keep the width of each bed under 4 feet for easier harvesting. Also, take seriously the recommendations for spawn run temperatures, time of year and substrate, or you’ll be wasting your initial investment on spawn.
Mushrooms to Grow
In the bed:
- Wine Cap
- Inky Cap
- Almond Agaricus
On the logs:
Make sure you have reliable access to the required growing medium for the mushroom species you want to grow. If it calls for manure, ask yourself how easy it will be to find. (That being said, locating a farmer who will let you clean out a horse stall in exchange for the manure probably won’t be the hardest thing in the world.) Also, if you choose to build with inoculated logs, make sure they are fully colonized before constructing the bed as to avoid any competitive fungi that might come from your soil.
A raft is a good choice if you have a small, shady area against a fence or under some trees where nothing else is fit to grow. It’s another form of log cultivation in which logs are laid side-by-side, forming a “raft.”
Start by inoculating your logs with the chosen substrate—this may take several months. Once the logs start to show signs of white mycelium on the ends, you can begin raft construction. Select your growing site, and lay the inoculated logs shoulder to shoulder in a small bed. Once in place, bury the logs with fresh wood chips or straw, and wait for flushes. As an alternative, you can follow the same process but bury the logs slightly underground in trenches. Remember, each mushroom variety has its own growing requirements that you should read carefully and understand before construction.
- Brick Top
Make sure the soil where you place your raft isn’t contaminated—the same rules apply to urban mushroom beds that apply to urban vegetables. Mushrooms tend to hyper-accumulate heavy metals, so if soil is high in lead or other heavy metals, lay down plastic and then fresh soil before laying the logs.
3. Grown in the Garden
If you’re a fan of no-till gardening or have a few crops you always mulch (garlic, tomatoes, peppers, etc.), then adding mushrooms to the mix is almost a no-brainer. In fact, fungi and plants have a very ancient and important relationships. In many cases, plants rely on fungi to grow, and adding mushroom to gardens has even been shown to increase yields among certain vegetables. The small upfront cost and workload of growing mushrooms can actually boost the quality of everything else: The soil will love it, the worms will love it, the other veggies will love it, and you will get mushrooms—symbiosis at its finest.
Luckily, if you plan to grow your mushrooms with your veggies, the chances are that you’ve already made the bed! If not, this raised-bed tutorial will help. Mulch is all that is pretty much all you need to grow these mushrooms, so mulch the crops you’d like to, then add the mushroom spawn in the spring overtop of the mulch. Harvest will soon follow.
- Wine Cap Stropharia
Be sure you can identify the mushroom you wish to grow. This is not that difficult, especially if a thousand of the same mushrooms pop up that look similar to what you’re trying to grow, but always double check. Take a spore print and make sure you know what you’re dealing with.
4. Indoor Mushroom Beds
Indoor mushroom cultivation is decidedly the most involved type of mushroom production, but it can also be the most consistent and financially rewarding if conditions are met and maintained well.
Construct your bed to the size of your space. It can be constructed out of wood, trays or another available. For indoor production, consider each species of mushroom individually—the growing requirements of portobello, say, are not exactly the same as nameko, which may desire a cold shock to fruit. These variances in mushroom species will play into the design of your indoor bed, so it’s advised you pick your mushroom before you make your fruiting room.
- Button and Crimini ( the same variety harvested at different stages of maturity)
- Wine Cap Stropharia
Indoor cultivation takes some preparation and education. You must consider the temperature, gas exchange, casing soil, substrate, surface area and light requirements of each species of mushroom before building your beds. That being said, once a bed is established it can be very, ahem, fruitful.
If you are one of the many people who love to include mushrooms in your meals, you have undoubtedly wondered how to grow mushrooms yourself. With a little patience and the right conditions you really can grow mushrooms yourself. Soon, you’ll be able to enjoy varieties that you have never seen in your local grocery store.
There are around 14,000 species of mushrooms in the world. While only about 250 of these varieties are actually edible, that still sounds like a huge number compared to what you are likely to find in your local grocery store. When you learn how to grow mushrooms yourself, you can experience a wider variety of culinary pleasures.
Mushrooms are not really plants; they are actually the fruiting part of fungi. Mushrooms do not grow from seeds as most plants do. Instead they are propagated through spores. A single, mature mushroom can produce up to 16 billion spores. These spores are collected and used to impregnate “seeds” that in turn are used as spawn by growers.
Spawn is then used in the growing medium which can be sawdust, logs, straw or a number of other materials. In a few weeks, the spawn will form roots called mycelium. After a time, tiny white “pins” form in the growing medium which will eventually form the caps of the mushrooms.
Learn How to Grow Mushrooms
Mushrooms need a cool, dark, humid growing environment to grow successfully. They also need a carbon-rich medium to grow on. This is because, unlike plants, mushrooms need to consume carbon and oxygen. Rotting wood and other carbon-rich materials are ideal for mushroom because they provide the nutrients that a mushroom needs to grow.
The easiest way to get started in mushroom cultivation is to purchase a kit that already had spawn inoculated compost. Usually you will wet the medium and then place it in a cool, dark location until mushrooms form.
You will probably be able to find several places to purchase a mushroom growing kit. Once you feel more confident, these same places can offer you an abundance of other supplies so you can progress to other varieties and cultivation methods. Once your mushrooms have become established, you can often harvest mushrooms for years.
Two excellent sources for mushroom growing supplies are Mushbox.com and Fungi Perfecti.
Types of Mushrooms
The most commonly grown mushroom is the button mushroom. This is likely the first mushroom you have ever tried. You can easily find it at any grocery store.
Crimini mushrooms are also fairly common. They are grown in a way similar to button mushrooms. Brown coloring and a denser texture are what differentiate them from the white buttons. They are actually grown from a different strain of spores.
Oyster mushrooms need more humidity than buttons. There are actually different types of oyster mushrooms. Why don’t you try them all?
Portobello are the steak of the mushroom world. Many people enjoy them by grilling and serving them like a hamburger. They are grown just like button mushrooms but have caps that can be as large as six inches in diameter.
There are many more varieties that the home grower can try. Some can be grown indoors as a nice winter gardening endeavor. Others are grown outside. Once you try one you will certainly be hooked on the superior taste of fresh mushrooms. Soon you’ll be looking all over your yard for another growing location.
The best way to learn how to grow mushrooms is to read as much information as you can about them. Here are a few books to get you started:
- Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms
- Mushroom Cultivator: A Practical Guide to Growing Mushrooms at Home
- The Book of The Mushroom-Growing & Harvesting
You can also find mushroom growing information by attending workshops. Fungi Perfecti offers seminars that will provide you with an abundance of in-depth information on the cultivation of several varieties of mushrooms.
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Whether it’s microdosing with psychedelic mushrooms, seeking biodegradable alternatives to polystyrene, or mycologist Paul Stamets’ TED talk (over 5m views on ted.com), fungi is a hot topic. Mushroom gardens are spaces to grow gourmet delights such as oyster or shiitake mushrooms: think elegant woodland dwellings with logs and woodchip beds. Fungi are the perfect solution for slightly damp, shady city gardens, or that spot under a tree where nothing grows. Instead of battling to get plants to take hold, inoculate your ground with mushrooms instead.
Oyster mushroom kit from Gourmet Mushrooms. Photograph: Gourmet mushrooms
This is a dedicated form of gardening that needs to be studied; I suggest you start with Home-grown Mushrooms From Scratch: A Practical Guide To Growing Mushrooms Outside And Indoors, by Magdalena and Herbert Wurth, a comprehensive guide to everything from oyster mushrooms to medicinal reishi. Growing from scratch, or more accurately spores, requires care, so start with a kit and go from there. I got a recycled plastic pot oyster mushroom kit for just under a tenner (from gourmetmushrooms.co.uk. It’s perfect for the uninitiated, as oyster mushrooms grow in a wide range of conditions.
A packet of grain spawn arrives in a neatly sealed packet with straw and instructions: all you have to do is get handy with an old pot, or in my case, a recycled industrial mayonnaise tub with a lid that I got from the local chippy. Cut holes in the pot for the mushrooms to grow, wet the straw, gently massage the grain spawn to break it up, mix it about, pack it back in the tub, and wait. Oh, and mist the holes as often as you can remember, ideally twice a day. I failed at this, which is probably why I waited much longer than four weeks for mine to appear.
‘Home-grown mushrooms are silken and plump.’ Photograph: Diez, Otmar/StockFood
Just when I was about to give up, my first batch of oysters appeared overnight. They grew so fast that it felt as if they would gain an inch if you turned your back on them. What I wasn’t expecting is how different a freshly picked mushroom would taste. Home-grown mushrooms are silken and plump, unlike anything I’ve ever bought.
With luck, the pot is capable of producing a flush of mushrooms every fortnight for about 10 weeks. Once the pot has finished, the straw can be used as spawn to create an outdoor bed using woodchip, or mixed into an open compost bin, where it may continue to produce.
This easy kit has worked: I’m hooked and already planning my mushroom garden.
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