Whether a gourmet mushroom lover or a beginner who just can’t get enough of them on anything from steak to pizza, the taste of a homegrown mushroom outshines any grocery store product. With a little effort and the right conditions, you can grow multiple crops (flushes) of mushrooms for your edible delight.
The soft caps and stems of mushrooms that we enjoy are really the top portion of a mushroom (called the fruiting body). The working part of the mushroom is a mass of feathery mycelia that absorbs food, nutrients, and water for the fruiting body to form. Mycelia are what are needed to grow your own mushrooms.
There are many kits on the market that contain the varying types of mushroom mycelia. Most kits range in price from $20-$30 dollars and will start growing within a week with a harvest of 1-2 pounds per flush. Two or three flushes from a kit are normal, perhaps more if the kit is placed on a composite pile after the last indoor flush; a much better bargain than the local store.
Mycelia require an uncontaminated food source (hay, dirt, sawdust, manure), moisture and temperatures between 60-80F. The food source will depend upon the mushroom type and once the mycelia have colonized it, pins (budding mushrooms) will form and grow to the mushrooms we commonly recognize.
Once a kit is purchased, it should be inspected for different colored molds â€“ there should be nothing but fresh mycelia and the food source. Return the kit if a fungus is present. As the mycelia colonize, uses, and absorb the food source (7-10 days), all that is needed is constant moisture and temperature.
Once colonized the mycelia need to be forced into fruiting, usually by placing the kit in the refrigerator. As pins form the kit will need to be opened and exposed to natural light for a period of time; each mushroom exposure time varies so read the instructions that came with the kit. The best place to keep the kits is in a garage or a sheltered place outdoors.
If outdoor temperatures dip, place the kit in a Styrofoam cooler for insulation and protection. Indoor locations that fluctuate with temperature and humidity usually result in annoying fungus gnats and bad growth. An empty closet will work well, but clear clothing and fabric out first as the food source and growth odor can permeate.
As the fruiting bodies appear, the humidity needs to be kept high. Most kits come with a plastic tent but a plastic garbage bag accomplishes the same thing. This makes a daily spray of water and humidity control simple. Any trace of chlorine will destroy mushrooms so be certain water used is either spring, well, or rainwater. If none of these are available, leave a bucket of water to stand overnight to allow the chlorine to evaporate.
Given time and care the fruiting bodies will grow and develop into healthy, homegrown mushrooms. Since the popularity of gourmet mushrooms like Shittake, Oyster and Enoki are expanding so is their cost.
With these instructions you can continue to love and enjoy mushrooms while on a budget; and, as an added bonus, get the health benefit adding mushrooms to your diet offers – a stronger immune system and a lower cholesterol level.