Growing wine cap mushrooms

Growing Mushrooms Indoors: The 4 Most Important Parameters

Growing mushrooms indoors: From Psilocybe to shiitake, some things remain the same

There are many different methods that you can use for growing mushrooms indoors with hundreds of different species that can be cultivated. Sometimes it can become overwhelming and confusing with all the different material available on the internet. With this post we will break down the easy methods for growing mushrooms using a grow kit, toilet paper, or using straw. We will cover some basics that will apply to indoor mushroom growing, regardless of the method or species you choose. There are many little tweaks and specifics to be aware of for individual species but if you follow these basics you are bound to be successful as a beginner. These concepts lay the foundation to become a pro at indoor mushroom growing.

The process of indoor mushroom growing can be broken into these 7 different steps as discussed in this post. The most vital part regardless of the species or method is fruiting the mushroom. Typically the point of indoor mushroom cultivation is to produce large flushes of beautiful medicinal, spiritual, or edible mushrooms, so let’s go over indoor parameters for fruiting.

The most important parameters for growing mushrooms indoors

The big four:

  • CO2-below 800 ppm, depending on species
  • Humidity–above 80%
  • Lighting—Enough to comfortably read a book
  • Temperature–is ideally between 55 and 75 degrees depending on the species

Now if you are doing a small grow in your house, it is not necessary to measure these parameters. In fact, my favorite way to tell if these are in the right range is looking at the mushrooms. The mushrooms and how they are fruiting should really be the main factor that you watch to adjust environmental controls. If the substrate or pins are drying out or slightly browning you need to increase humidity. If the mushrooms have long stems and little caps, it’s likely that they either have to high CO2 or not enough light. If bacterial growth is proliferating, it is likely too hot for the mushroom to properly fruit. To create a really nice area for growing mushrooms indoors, place the fruiting substrate into a plastic bin, fish tank, or 18 gallon tote with the top on at a diagonal. Mist inside the bin twice a day and watch the mushrooms to see how they look. You may be able completely leave the top off, increasing CO2 and light levels, depending on the moisture content in your house

Growing mushrooms indoors using a grow kit

This is probably the easiest way to grow mushrooms indoors. All the substrate prep and inoculation has been complete. All you need to worry about is following the directions to get proper fruiting. This is a good video about using grow kits. If you are interested in getting a grow kit, you can buy them now here.

Growing mushrooms indoors: Prepping and inoculating substrate

If you are ready to go to the next step of indoor mushroom cultivation and preparing and inoculating your own substrate, you will first need to decide what species you want to grow and how you want to do it. If you are just starting, growing oysters on toilet paper is a very easy, fast way to begin. Toilet paper can be easily consumed by the mycelium and hard for other microorganisms to grow onto. By inoculating with oyster mushrooms the mycelium will inhabit the paper very quickly and be ready to fruit within three weeks. Yields are not amazing but this gives you a basic concept of how indoor mushroom cultivation works. If you want a little more support check out this blog on the process.

Growing mushrooms indoors on straw

Growing mushrooms on straw is a great step for many growers to grow on a higher-yielding, faster substrate that needs a little more preparation. This method of indoor mushroom growing becomes more economical to continuously cultivate mushrooms and produce a good yield that can be eaten or sold commercially. This is not the most effective way to commercially cultivate mushrooms but it can be a good starting point. This method is relatively straight forward.

  1. Treat the substrate using either heat or lime.
  2. Inoculate and pack the straw into plastic tubes that the mushrooms will fruit from.
  3. Wait three weeks and then place the mushrooms into proper fruiting conditions.
  4. harvest let the bags rest and then harvest again in about 3 weeks.To see way more detail on this check out our guidebook or this blog post about growing on straw.

You can grow mushrooms with our help

You can rely on our tips, guidance, and supplies to produce more mushrooms, whether you want to grow mushrooms inside as a hobby or as a commercial activity. We offer an array of grain spawn, which is a great medium for growing indoors. You can also select from an entire array of mushroom growing kits, which makes growing mushrooms inside easier.

How to Grow Oyster Mushrooms Indoors

Add oyster mushrooms to the list of food that can be grown indoors! This fungus can grow almost anywhere from a log to a straw. Plus, you can pick the size of your oyster mushrooms from a wide variety, both big and small.

The following is an excerpt from Fresh Food from Small Spaces by R. J. Ruppenthal. It has been adapted for the web.

Oyster mushrooms are probably the easiest kind of mushrooms to grow.

Though they are accustomed naturally to growing in wood, you also can raise oyster mushrooms in a variety of other growing media, including straw or sawdust. The easiest way to begin is with a kit. If you want to experiment on your own, then oysters give you a greater chance of success than other mushrooms. There are dozens of varieties of oyster mushrooms, from pin-sized to trumpet-sized, so check with your kit or spore supplier to see which kinds are available and recommended for your climate. Most grow in an ideal temperature range of about 55 to 65 °F.

Most oyster mushroom growing kits consist of either a small inoculated log or a holey plastic bag filled with sterilized, inoculated straw or sawdust. You can make your own kit using any of these materials, but I will recommend one other method that has worked well for many indoor mushroom growers. For this you will need two milk cartons or small waxed-cardboard boxes, enough sawdust to fill them, 2 cups of whole grain flour or coffee grounds, and some oyster mushroom spawn. The basic steps are as follows, but feel free to improvise. If sawdust is unavailable, you could also use straw for this.

  1. Cut out the top of the milk cartons so that their edges are of even height. Punch several small holes in each side of both cartons.

  2. Sterilizing (optional): If you are using sawdust that has already been inoculated with spawn, then do not try to sterilize it or you will kill the fungi. If you are using additional sawdust that has not been inoculated yet, then you may want to sterilize it. The easiest ways to do this are by boiling, steaming, or microwaving it. If anyone else in your household might object to cooking sawdust in the kitchen, then you might want to try this step when no one else is home. To sterilize with a microwave oven, fill a microwave-safe bowl with sawdust, plus the flour or coffee grounds, and wet down this mass with enough water so that it is the consistency of a wet sponge. You may need to do several successive batches to sterilize all of your sawdust. Nuking the sawdust on high for two minutes or until the water begins to boil off will kill any unwanted organisms and leave your kitchen smelling like either a wood shop or coffee shop. You also can boil or steam the growing medium in a pot of water in the kitchen or over a campfire, with or without a steamer basket. After it has boiled for a few minutes, turn off the heat, keep the sawdust covered, and let it return to room temperature.

  3. Using non-chlorinated water, wet the sawdust until it’s thoroughly damp.

  4. Then mix in your spores or inoculated material.

  5. Tightly pack this damp growing medium into your milk cartons and leave them in a cellar, garage, storage locker, or dark cabinet. You can put some plastic underneath the cartons and cover them loosely with plastic if desired. If insects are a problem, then spray cooking oil around the plastic to trap them.

  6. Keep the sawdust mix moistened regularly with non-chlorinated water, and in a few months your fungi should fruit repeatedly. To harvest mushrooms, twist them out gently so that their stems do not break.

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Wine Cap Mushrooms:Boost Your Edible Landscape Beds!

If you haven’t already been convinced to avoid landscape fabric in your ornamental and edible beds, then here is yet another reason: Mushroom cultivation! That’s right. Have you ever observed bizarre mushrooms and molds growing in your landscape after a rainfall? It happens, naturally. The forces of nature creep in, trying to break down that woody mulch, the cellulose and lignins. The resulting fungi may appear interesting. But certainly we don’t view them as a real asset. Are they toxic, poisonous shrooms??? Who knows? So we let them be.
This is a natural process that wants to occur no matter what. Instead of fighting nature, why not work with it? We can skip the fabric, allowing our cultivated varieties to thrive, optimizing their benefits in our landscape. If shrooms will grow anyway, why not pick the ones we want? We can select edible, gourmet mushrooms that are prized for good eating!
WINE CAP MUSHROOMS are also known as Garden Giant or King Stropharia. Their scientific name is Stropharia rugosoannulata and this cultivar is ideal for garden and landscape beds alike.


WHY? Why should you grow wine cap mushrooms? They’re easy to inoculate through the use of peg or sawdust spawn. Once they pop up, they can be safely identified. They’re not picky about their substrate. People will use both old and new wood chips. Straw will work too. And these can be used in tandem with a layer of cardboard for initial weed suppression. The best part? King Stropharia is regarded as a prized gourmet mushroom. As a guy who avoided all mushroom consumption for over 3 decades, take it from me. Wine caps are the perfect “gateway” mushroom!
WHERE? Wine cap mushrooms are perfectly suited for ground level cultivation in temperate climates. They can be grown in raised beds. Or their substrate can be partially buried to match the existing grade. They’ll grow in conventional beds under the canopy of trees, shrubs and other perennials. Wine caps should do fine in full or partial shade. A little direct sun is ok. Look for areas that retain moisture in the landscape.

Video: How To Grow Wine Cap Mushrooms Identification, Cultivation, Preservation

You can easily grow edible wine cap organic mushrooms with just wood chips or straw in your garden beds!


Permaculturalists love to talk about the principle of stacking functions. The more you can accomplish from a single element or action, the more you stand to benefit. Cultivating stropharia rugosoannulata offers multiple benefits and is certainly worth the effort.
SALVAGE WASTED MATERIALS: Wine cap mushrooms are not too picky about their substrate or food source. Some mushroom cultivation, like shiitake, involves the selection of particular varieties of logs that have been aged appropriately. Wine caps are so simple in comparison! You can use straw. I’ve used straw that covered my strawberries all Winter long. It was not an issue. You can use wood chips from freshly trimmed trees. Or it could be from an old pile of chips. Perhaps a local arborist could hook you up with some free chips. Take those wasted materials and put them to good use!
BUILD RICH SOIL Often the cultivation of a garden can result in the depletion of nutrients. To continue to build good soil we must add inputs like compost. With mushroom cultivation, the end product is richer and more nutrient dense than when you began. The high cellulose chips or straw is broken down into a rich, black soil that adds nourishment to the surrounding plants. It’s really a form of on-site composting that produces a harvestable yield.

BOOST SOIL BIOTA In addition to nourishing the your landscape plants, growing mushrooms also improves the life of your soil. Many of our urban landscapes have been stripped of their topsoil, leaving only infertile, lifeless dirt. Bringing in mushroom substrate and feeding those hungry mycelium kick starts the soil food web. Beneficial bacteria, fungi, and arthropods repopulate the land. And the happiest of all such guests? The earthworms! Yes, earthworms absolutely love working in harmony with stropharia as they break down organic matter.
A BONUS HARVEST! Let us not lose sight of our end product – the mushrooms! Because wine caps occupy the lowest level of your edible landscape, they don’t really interfere with the overstory plants. Ground covers, small shrubs, vines and trees are already in place offering a variety of yields. Adding wine caps requires no additional space, but it DOES offer an additional harvest within that space. It truly is win, Win, WIN!

These wine caps were colonizing the exact same spot as some alpine strawberries!


SITE SELECTION: You don’t need heavy shade. Dappled sunlight can work great. A naturally moist location is ideal. Cultivation can be scaled to any property size. I’ve successfully inoculated wine caps in a patch that was a mere 12″ by 12″ -just one square foot. You can select spots under fruit trees, berry bushes or edible perennials. Some people find asparagus patches to be a good option. Do you have wood chip pathways between your raised garden beds? Trying adding spawn!
SUBSTRATE: Wine cap mushrooms will grow well in either wood chips or straw. Both new and old wood chips will work. You can even use a combination of chips and straw. Straw-grown wine caps grow quickly, but may deplete their food source in a year’s time. Wood chips take longer to break down, allowing you to get an extended period of harvest, much like a short lived perennial.
Straw should be soaked in water for 3 days before application. Wood chips can be soaked or they can be moistened on site. Be sure to keep the substrate moist for 2 or 3 weeks after inoculation. Water by hand if you don’t experience regular periods of rainfall.
SPAWN APPLICATION: Wine cap mushroom spawn is available in two forms, as peg spawn and saw dust span. Peg spawn is not advised for straw substrate. But in very small wood chip patches it works well. It is easy to divide and is not quick to dry out. Otherwise, sawdust spawn is very versatile and grows quickly. Just be sure to keep it moist during and after application.
Field and Forest Products is my preferred supplier and they offer both spawn options. They even suggest what application rates to use depending on your substrate. Their 5.5 lb bag can cover 50 square feet when using a 4 inch layer of wood chips. With straw though, the same size bag covers 30 square feet.
In my edible landscape, I experimented with multiple patches ranging in size from 1 square foot to 4 square feet. I opted for the sawdust spawn. I used a hybrid of both wood chips AND straw. Layer 1 was wood chips + spawn, followed by straw + spawn, then more chips + spawn. Finally some bark mulch was applied on top as a protective skin. This also blends in with regular landscape beds making it look very nice. Be sure to watch my video for more details!


I think that Spring is the ideal season for inoculating wine cap mushrooms. I applied my sawdust spawn in mid-April. After 8 weeks of rainy weather I got my first harvest of mushrooms! Then all through the month of September I foraged a larger more continuous supply of delicious edible mushrooms.

Identification: A Young Stropharia Rugosoannulata Mushroom with an Unopened CapIdentification: Opened Wine Cap Mushroom – Ideal for HarvestingIdentification: A Mature King Stropharia with a Fully Opened Cap
Small Red Wine Cap Mushroom Buttons: Popping Up Under ComfreyIdentification: Cluster of Wine Cap Mushrooms with Reddish Copper CapsA Large Harvest of Edible Gourmet Wine Cap Mushrooms!

IDENTIFICATION: Stropharia rugosoannulata are very easy to identify and are less likely to be mistaken for other mushroom varieties. The trademark traits include a red-wine colored cap, grey-violet gills and a creamy-white colored stalk that displays an annulus or ring. If spotted soon after emergence, the cap may still be tightly closed, hiding the gills and perched at the height of the annulus. Over time the cap opens up exposing the gills which then darken with spores.


Sautéed wine caps with tofu scramble makes for a wholesome Fall time treat!

PREPARATION: Wine cap mushrooms are fairly versatile in cooking recipes. Many people suggest preparing them in the same fashion as portobello mushrooms. They work very well in sauté recipes. They have a slight nutty, earthy flavor. We’ve added them to homemade soups. And we’ve even stuffed the caps and baked them.
PRESERVATION: The mushrooms store well in a paper bag in the fridge for several days. Just be sure not to wash them. They also dry very well with a food dehydrator. This methods allows for long-term storage. Then they can be rehydrated and used in stocks and soups.


Do you have a small piece of land? Do you have access to free wood chips? Would you like some free organic mushrooms? Growing wine caps allows you to use existing resources to produce healthy food. At the same time, you build rich soil and soil biota. A perfect example of stacking functions. The technique in my video can work even in HOAs (home owners associations) where people often have major restrictions on their garden activities. Wine cap mushroom cultivation is the solution!

#193: Stropharia rugosoannulata, The Wine Cap

Stropharia rugosoannulata grows almost exclusively in mulch and similar artificial habitats. When young, it has a distinctive wine-red cap. Photo by Ann B. at Mushroom Observer , via Wikimedia Commons

Many mushrooms like growing in mulch, but none enjoy that life more than Stropharia rugosoannulata. Commonly known as “the Wine Cap” or “the King Stropharia,” S. rugosoannulata is easily recognized by its habitat and wine-red cap – at least when young. The mushrooms quickly lose their color, so identifying older mushrooms hinges on other features, like the cogwheeled ring and dark purplish spore print. This mushroom is considered edible; mushroom hunters often collect and eat the Wine Cap and some even cultivate it.1–4


S. rugosoannulata is a medium to large umbrella-shaped agaric. Like most of its relatives, it has a circular pileus and a central stipe. The mushrooms grow 8-20cm tall and 4-15cm wide, but can get much bigger; the larger specimens can weigh three pounds or more! Other than that, S. rugosoannulata is typical of its genus.1–4

The most distinctive feature of the Wine Cap is its pileus, which is a deep shade of red reminiscent of red wine. Other than that distinctive color, the cap is boring; it is smooth, starts out convex, and ends almost flat. Unfortunately, the cap’s wine-red color fades as the mushroom ages. By the time it is fully grown, the cap is light brown to whitish. Sometimes, partial veil material sticks to the edge of the pileus. This material is thin and not very noticeable until it gets colored by the mushroom’s dark spores.1–4

Underneath the pileus, S. rugosoannulata produces attached gills that start grayish but become blackish purple as the spores mature.1–4 The gills deposit a purple-black spore print. These features are standard for Stropharia species and can help you identify the mushroom’s genus.

The Wine Cap has a distinctive cogwheeled partial veil. This simplifies identification, as long as the veil hasn’t fallen off! Photo by apa3 , via Wikimedia Commons

The stipe is also uninteresting. It is straight and whitish but yellows with age. The bottom of the stipe attaches to white cords of mycelium that extend into the substrate. Sometimes, the base of the stipe enlarges to form a small bulb-like feature. The most useful feature of the stipe is the ring. Located about halfway up the stipe or higher, the ring is thick and white. The upper surface of the ring is covered in gill-like radial ridges; these are easiest to see when the dark spores are released and begin collecting on the ring. On the bottom of the ring there are raised rectangular areas of tissue arranged in a cogwheel pattern. Unfortunately, the ring is not very well attached to the stipe and easily falls off. As a result, you can’t rely only on the ring for proper identification of S. rugosoannulata.1–4

Inside the mushroom, the Wine Cap produces firm white tissue that has no distinctive scent or flavor. The flesh does not change color when injured and is therefore not very useful for identification purposes.1–4


The Wine Cap is primarily found in mulch beds, gardens, and similar artificial habitats.1–4 Where it appears in the wild, you usually find it where mulch has washed down and collected with sticks and other plant debris.1 These areas, often along stream beds, are nature’s equivalent of mulch piles. In central Europe, there are areas where the fungus has adapted enough to the environment that it is regularly found growing in the wild. S. rugosoannulata has a worldwide distribution, thanks to plant imports. It is now possible to find the Wine Cap almost everywhere that mulch and similar plant products are used. Because of this human-mediated distribution, mycologists do not know where the fungus came from originally.3 It was first described from America in 1922,4 but it seems likely that S. rugosoannulata already had a global distribution at that point. Wine Caps appear any time the conditions are right from spring through fall.1,2,4

Similar Species

A very large umbrella-shaped brown mushroom growing in mulch? It’s probably S. rogosoannulata. Small mushrooms growing in mulch with dark red caps? They’re most likely Wine Caps. A medium-sized brownish mushroom growing in mulch… that’s a bit trickier; there are many mushrooms which fit that description. If you find a mushroom like that, take a spore print to help narrow down your options. Agrocybe spp., for example, produce a medium brown spore print,5 which helps distinguish them. Even if you get a dark brown spore print, you will still have to use a field guide to separate out all the similar stropharioid mushrooms.

Edibility and Uses

The Wine Cap is considered edible, and some even say it is choice.2,4 This is good news for mushroom hunters, since S. rugosoannulata frequently fruits in abundance and you often find more mushrooms than you can eat. On top of that, some people are probably happy that you want to get rid of the mushrooms in their garden.

The Wine Cap is a good edible when fresh. However, it soon gets buggy, making older specimens unappetizing. Photo by apa3a , via Wikimedia Commons

Because the King Stropharia likes growing in artificial habitats such as mulch piles, it is a very easy mushroom to cultivate.6 Numerous companies sell Wine Cap spawn, but it is easy to cultivate on your own as well (see for detailed cultivation instructions).

S. rugosoannulata is also used for its ability to release nutrients into the soil. In Europe, it was widely used to help break down mulch and thereby support the growth of corn crops.3 So, even if you don’t like the mushrooms in your garden, they are actually beneficial to your plants!


Although the King Stropharia’s name is officially S. rugosoannulata, various authors spell it S. rugoso-annulata or S. rugoso annulata. The mushroom also has many common names, which is not surprising given the Wine Cap’s widespread distribution. In addition to variants on “Wine Cap,” S. rugosoannulata sometimes bears the names “Burgundy Mushroom,” “Garden Giant,” and “Wine Roundhead” (British).2–4,7

Kingdom Fungi
Division (Phylum) Basidiomycota
Subdivision (Subphylum) Agaricomycotina
Class Agaricomycetes
Subclass Agaricomycetidae
Order Agaricales
Family Strophariaceae
Genus Stropharia
Species Stropharia rugosoannulata Farl. ex Murrill8

This post does not contain enough information to positively identify any mushroom. When collecting for the table, always use a local field guide to identify your mushrooms down to species. If you need a quality, free field guide to North American mushrooms, I recommend Michael Kuo’s Remember: when in doubt, throw it out!

A ring is a circle of tissue around the stipe left after the breakup of the partial veil, a membrane that covers the developing gills. A spore print is the pattern produced when the cap of a mushroom is allowed to drop spores onto a piece of paper. Spore prints are taken to assess the color of the mushroom’s spores. An agaric is a mushroom with true gills. The pileus (pl. pilei), also called the cap, is the sterile upper surface of a mushroom. Spores are produced from the fertile tissue below the pileus. The stipe is the stalk that holds up the cap of a mushroom. 3-8in 1.6-6in The partial veil is a membrane that extends from the stipe to the pileus margin and serves to protect the developing gills. Attached gills meet the stipe but do not run down it. A mycelium is a network of fungal cells. The mycelium is the main body of the fungus. Stropharioid mushrooms belong to a morphological group of agarics characterized by a dark brown spore print, attached gills, and the presence of a partial veil.


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Wine Cap Mushroom Identification, Look-Alikes, And More

Some mushrooms are extremely difficult to locate, blending in perfectly with the environment and thus shrewdly escaping the foraging basket. Other stealthy fungi thrive in unique niche habitats, far away from our most frequented locales. Fortunately, not all edible mushrooms behave in these ways. Take, for instance, the wine cap.

The wine cap belongs to the genus Stropharia — a group of saprophytic fungi that break down dead or decaying organic material. The particular species of interest, Stropharia rugosoannulata, is one that is frequently found in urban and suburban wood chips, making its discovery a much more manageable endeavor.

The wine cap is characterized by its medium size, though oftentimes you’ll find rather large specimens with caps up to 6 inches or more in diameter. The caps are wine-red at first and fade to duller shades with age. In maturity, the caps will be straw-colored or tan. The gills are crowded and attached to the stem, starting out white and eventually turning dark purple/black in maturity. Therefore, depending on when you find wine caps, colors may vary substantially.

A partial veil can be seen on wine caps, especially in younger specimens. This partial veil covers the gills and breaks away as the mushroom matures, leaving a toothed ring around the stem. The stem is whitish and can typically appear bulbous at the base. However, there is no membranous sac or volva at the base of the stem (as seen in species of Amanita). Wine caps deposit dark purple-brown, almost black spore prints.

Wine caps may be confused for several Agaricus species, though the latter typically contain pinkish gills and deposit chocolate-brown spore prints. Agrocybe is another genus of fungi that may be found in mulch. However, Agrocybe species deposit a brown spore print and typically do not contain reddish-purple hues on the caps.

Wine caps are indeed edible and they typically fruit in large numbers starting in spring, all the way through autumn. Here in Pennsylvania, however, they’re most frequently found in the spring months — especially after a few good rains. Though spring may be their preferred season, no one I know considers them a consolation prize for anything, as they consistently lend a nice, meaty flavor to a foraged meal.

Interested in learning more? Check out the video!

Identification check list:
Cap: 2-6” across; bell-shaped, becoming flat with age; reddish-purple, becoming tan and cracked with age
Gills: white when young, becoming grayish purple with age; crowded and attached to stem
Stalk: up to 6” tall and 1” thick; typically with bulbous base; whitish-yellow; contains toothed-veil near top
Spore print: dark purple-brown/black
Habitat: Wood chips and lawns
Range: Northern North America
Look-alikes: Agaricus sp. have pinkish gills, chocolate-brown spore print; Agrocybe sp. have brown spore print
Edibility: Edible

King Stropharia identification

I’m a bit shocked by my own mycophobia — I almost threw away the first King Stropharia mushroom that popped up from our graywater mycoremediation project. This is our first year growing Stropharia rugosoannulata, but that’s really no excuse. I was the one who researched and chose the species and personally inoculated the wood chips. But the mushroom that sprang up didn’t look all that much like the pictures I’d quickly browsed on the internet, and I thought a wild fungus had invaded my mycoremediation project.

After a more lengthy perusal of the internet (and my field guide to mushrooms), I decided this lovely specimen was indeed a King Stropharia. We ate it sauteed in garlic last night, so I assume I was right. Here are the top tips I’ve run across for King Stropharia identification.

First, take a look at the ring around the mushroom’s stem. Several other mushrooms have rings, but the ring on a King Stropharia mushroom has indentations from the gills along the top, giving it a lined appearance. The lined ring is probably one of the most diagnostic features of King Stropharia.

Next, take a look at the gills on the underside of the cap. Notice that they are attached to the stem and are a purply-gray in color. If the gills are free, then you might have an Agaricus, so beware! Some Agrocybe mushrooms can look similar too, but have brown gills.

The top of the cap is often maroon in young specimens, but can also be plain old brown (especially as the mushroom ages), so cap color isn’t so diagnostic.

I find it interesting that our mycoremediation patch has fruited while the patches I inoculated at the same time under the canopies of nearby fruit trees have not. Clearly, the bit of bleach in the dishwater doesn’t hurt King Stropharia one bit, and frequent soakings are a boon. Paul Stamets has written that King Stropharia mushrooms may actually depend on coliform bacteria for growth — perhaps the bacteria going down the drain have helped our mycoremediation patch come out ahead?

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How to Grow Wine Cap Mushrooms

1. Start by mulching a thick 1″–2″-deep layer of hardwood mulch. (We made our own mulch. As we cleared a spot for the chicken yard and the greenhouse, we cut down the trees and saplings and fed them into the chipper/shredder. We always tried to separate out the black cherry, which we had other uses for, so we’d be left with chips of oak, maple, and beech. If you don’t have the capability to generate your own wood chips, store-bought mulch works just fine too. Or you might look around for local sources of hardwood chips. Just remember: you want natural, uncolored, untreated mulch.)

2. After you lay down a row of hardwood mulch, add a layer of straw.

3. Sprinkle your spawn on this straw layer.

4. Add another layer of hardwood chips, another layer of straw and spawn, and top off with hardwood chips.

5. Water generously, keeping it constantly moist after the first ­thorough wetting. We used drip hoses down the rows on fresh beds to allow a slow drip. We would let them drip before sunset for approximately an hour.

If you till your garden the following spring, do not be alarmed that you will ruin your “lasagna.” Just remember to add a new layer of mulch. Once established in your garden, stropharia will continue for years, as long as you add fresh substrate each year.

Dave developed this method because the spawn can run (“run” refers to mycelial growth, which includes consumption of substrate for energy in preparation for fruiting) fairly quickly through the easily “digestible” straw, depleting its food source too soon. But you can grow stropharia on just wood or straw. Growing on wood chips takes longer for the spawn run, but produces bigger, thicker mushrooms for a longer period of time. Straw-grown stropharia will run and fruit quickly, but the mushrooms aren’t as robust, and the fruitings will not last as long. By employing the “lasagna” method, you’ll get the best of both worlds. If you establish your bed in early spring, you should have mushrooms in the fall — if Mother Nature blesses you with the right weather and conditions. If you don’t get fruiting the first fall, be prepared for them in the spring.

Stropharia only get their rich burgundy color when they are shaded. When they are exposed to sunlight, they will take on a buckskin or tawny look. In April or May, before our garden has taken off, the wine caps will often pop up with burgundy/red caps that soon fade to the buckskin color. Stropharia are very tasty mushrooms. We prefer them in the button stage, which sometimes means we have to act fast. They will grow to maturity quickly, and once the veil breaks open (cap separates from stem and spreads out flat), the spores will start to mature, rapidly turning to a grey color. Once they hit this stage, we find them bitter. When conditions are right, you can walk out in the morning, gather a bag of buttons, and then collect more again in the afternoon. You’ll also see the ones you missed. Their caps will be lighter in color and flattened out, with the gills turning grey. In the fridge, protected in a brown paper bag, your wine caps will last for a while, probably close to a week.


Reprinted with permission from Mycelial Mayhem: Growing Mushrooms for Fun, Profit and Companion Planting by David and Kristin Sewak, published by New Society Publishers, 2016.

Cooking with Mushrooms #MushroomMonday

Welcome to #MushroomMonday! For the next few weeks, we will be posting an excerpt from Mycelial Mayhem: Growing Mushrooms for Fun, Profit and Companion Planting by David and Kristin Sewak covering growing, cooking, marketing and, best of all, eating, mushrooms. There are a bewildering array of gourmet mushrooms available to eat and it can be a bit overwhelming knowing how to use each one. To assist with your culinary enjoyment of gourmet mushrooms, here are David and Kirsten Sewak’s descriptions of how different mushrooms taste, feel, and look.

Shiitake block in table display

Shiitake: earthy, woodsy, rich, can have a hint of garlic; meaty texture; can be basis for a dish, such as a superior replacement for Portobello sandwiches; long used for its medicinal qualities.

Oyster: most have a mild flavor, but the tastes differ; these are unique and versatile mushrooms, the deeper the color, the richer the flavor (we’ve found).

Pink Oyster Mushrooms

Pink Oyster: a lot of people say that it has a mild seafood flavor (we’ve never tasted that, but we eat lion’s mane for its seafood flavor); short shelf life; beautiful pinkish/salmon color, which can be somewhat preserved with very fresh oysters sautéed over low heat.

Italian Oyster: thick caps; rich, woodsy flavor; crunchy texture; supposedly awesome with wild boar, but we’ve never tried it.

King Oyster: big, meaty, rich mushroomy flavor; great in creamy mushroom soup; use the stem also.

Lion’s Mane: seafood-ey, firm texture, sweetish; looks really unique and cool; long used for its medicinal qualities.

Pioppino: the best, great classic mushroom flavor; a bit of a crunchy texture; full of umami.

Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods: tastes like frog legs (just kidding), therefore tastes like chicken; firm texture, rich aroma; can be basis for a dish — a great replacement for hormone-infested industrialized chicken.

Maitake: very woodsy, great in soups, great with long grain rice; usually, specimens are big enough to serve as base for a couple of dishes; long used for its medicinal qualities.

Black Chanterelles

Black Chanterelles: earthy, great complement as a dehydrated seasoning, awesome in crème (i.e., our cream of watercress and black chanterelle soup, see recipe to follow); presentation mushroom, as they are small and shiny black.

Nameko: slimier than eel skin until you cook it, then it’s awesome; nutty, crunchy.

Wine Cap Stropharia

Wine Cap Stropharia: meaty, mild, woodsy flavor, great steak topping, great cooked with wine and sherry, which bring out its sweet side; can use entire mushroom (cap and stem), so great presentation, especially because of the burgundy cap.

Morels: there’s a reason they’re the most sought after!

Reishi: tastes like sucking on a dirty sock (worse than bitter), learn to add honey, lemon, ginger, flavored teas (like raspberry), or a mixture of spices or spiced tea; long used for its medicinal qualities.

In the eastern North America, watercress should just be starting to grow in fresh flowing streams. This recipe for cream of watercress and black chanterelle soup sounds like a perfect way to celebrate spring.

Cream of Watercress and Black Chanterelle Soup

32 oz chicken broth
2 qt heavy cream
½ lb fresh chanterelles
1 tbsp dehydrated chanterelles
1 lb watercress
2 tbsp butter
1 bacon slice
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
2 tbsp dry sherry
½ tbsp thyme

In a pot, brown the slice of bacon without overcooking.
Remove bacon, leaving the drippings. Add the butter.
Sauté onions and garlic until the onions get translucent.
Add the broth, watercress, dried chanterelles, and thyme.
With a hand blender, blend the broth until the cress is chopped fairly fine.
Bring to a slow boil and then turn down heat.
Add fresh chanterelles and sherry. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in cream and simmer. Top off with a sprig of watercress.
Allow guests to add salt and pepper to taste.

For more great mushrooms recipes, buy Mycelial Mayhem from our website.

Sawdust Spawn

Grow your own mushrooms outdoors and have fast results.
The Wine Cap is one of the easiest mushrooms to grow and is nothing but helpful in building soil, retaining water and helping your plants thrive, creating a symbiotic environment. Incorporating this lovely perennial mushroom into your outdoor garden landscape or farm is easy!
The Wine Cap, also called several other common names as: King Stropharia and the Garden Giant. Its latin name is Stropharia raguso-annulata. This mushroom is a easy to recognize edible that naturally loves eating compost, wood chips, straw and other carbon-rich wastes. By planting this mycelium into your soils within your garden and landscape you are increasing the rate of decomposition and thus enriching your soils, for your plants to enjoy & benefit from.
We suggest planting this during the season of Spring to early Winter. The Wine Caps can even be planted in the full sun garden, as long as there are plants during its incubation stage to keep the ground moist for the mycelium to run. If planted during the summer we suggest making sure the area strays relatively moist during incubation. The earlier planted the better, before cold days and nights. Our kit comes with full instructions. Plus we will have a video up soon.
This culture originally comes the Eastern Pennsylvania and is adapted to grow well and best in the Northeast & Mid-Atlantic States. We would like to think this can grow in any climate as long as the right amount of moisture is present. A very resilient mushroom culture
The starter comes in a 5-6lb bag of sawdust spawn!
Thanks and feel free to contact me with any questions

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