How to Grow Mushrooms
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WANTING to learn how to grow mushrooms at home? Do you feel like you are simply in the dark about it? Unlike most fruits and vegetables, you eat, mushrooms are more commonly grown indoors in the dark. However, depending on the variety, you can grow them outdoors as well.
Learning how to grow mushrooms at home can be challenging, mostly due to the incredible range of varieties you have to choose from. Each of which has their own growing requirements, some of which you might find overly difficult to replicate in your home. However, before you can grow mushrooms at home, you need to decide which ones you are going to grow.
Finding the Best Mushroom to Grow
The first step in learning how to grow mushrooms at home is deciding which variety or varieties you are going to grow. Among the most common varieties to grow at home are:
White Button (Agricus bisporus)
Also known as a pizza mushroom, this is the most commonly grown mushrooms in North America. It also flies under the name Crimini and Portabello according to the USDA whose figures show it to account for 90% of all mushroom production.
Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)
Oyster mushrooms are among the least expensive varieties found in most supermarkets. The lowly oyster mushroom is revered for its sweet flavor and ability to add subtle flavors to many dishes. These delays fungi come in a range of colors.
Unlike many “shrooms” the stems of these are just as flavorful as the rest of the mushroom. While most you find in the stores are smaller, cultivated oyster mushrooms can reach 18-inches in diameter with caps that are thick and meaty.
Shiitake Mushrooms (Lentinula edodes)
The Shiitake mushroom is the third most widely used variety in the world, especially in Asian foods. They can be eaten raw, dried, and cooking. They are very rich in many vitamins and minerals. Bear in mind the high level of nutrients is significantly reduced the more you cook these mushrooms.
Choosing Your Substrate
The substrate is the medium in which you place the spores so that they will grow into your favorite fungi.
If part of your learning how to grow mushrooms includes one of those ready to go mushroom growing kit, it should come with everything you need to get started, including the spores or spawn and the substrate. But if you are starting from scratch and creating your own substrate, here are a couple of types for you to consider using. No matter whether you plan to use cardboard or straw for your substrate, it must first be pasteurized.
- Using corrugated cardboard, cut it into small pieces of approximately the same size.
- Put cardboard pieces in a bucket with a brick on top or something else to weigh them down.
- Cover the cardboard completely in boiling water.
- Cover the bucket with a lid and leave it to cool down for eight hours.
- Wash your hands using an antibacterial soap.
- Squeeze as much of the water out of the cardboard as you can.
Image courtesy Barefoot Foods
- Use wheat or rye.
- Cut into lengths of 3 to 4 inches (put grain in a metal trash can and use a weed whacker to shred).
- Place in a nylon mesh sack or pillow case and tie off.
- Place in a pot of water on top of the stove.
- Heat with water at 160 – 170F (70 to 75C) for one hour.
- Drain thoroughly and let it cool to no more than 80F (27C) Before using.
Inoculating Your Substrate
Inoculating the substrate is a fancy way of saying “adding the spawn to the substrate,” which is a little like saying you are going to plant seeds in your garden. As you might imagine, there is more than one way to inoculate the substrate based on which one you are using. Always be sure you thoroughly wash your hands before you start to kill off any germs on your hands that could kill the spores.
For Those Who Chose a Kit
Follow the instructions included in your kit. Most start with sterilizing the included syringe and then using it to inject the mushroom spawn directly into the bag through a tiny hole or into several locations on the substrate.
Using a large food-grade plastic bag, stack layers of the wet cardboard with a small amount of spawn on each new layer before covering it with the next. Do not overfill and then tie off the bags.
Using isopropyl alcohol (minimum 70%) wipe down a table and cover it with straw. Break up your spawn and sprinkle it over the straw. Mix it all together and then place in food-grade plastic bags. It is okay to fill the bags, just don't overfill them to the point where the contents are compressed. Tie off the top of the bags.
After you have tied off the tops of the bags, use a sharp tool to poke holes in the bags every 2 to 3 inches. Be sure to poke a few in the bottom to let the contents drain. This is important as the mushrooms need plenty of ventilation to grow properly.
The Right Location
One of the most important things about growing mushrooms is having the right place to grow them. There are a couple of things you need to take into consideration as you search for the proper spot to raise your shrooms.
After you have completed inoculating your mushroom spawn, it must be given time to colonize your substrate with mycelium. Most strains of mushrooms require a temperature of between 60 and 75F (16 to 24C).
Even the slightest deviation from this could adversely affect your yield or lead to a variety of different types of contamination.
Images courtesy of Mississippi Mushrooms
Light is an important factor when it comes to growing mushrooms. While most people are under the impression that mushrooms are like vampires and prefer to do their thing in the dark, in most cases this simply isn't true. The mycelium will grow in virtually any level of light, with the exception of direct sunlight.
- Many growers prefer to put low lights on a timer to simulate the cycle of the typical day.
- One thing to keep in mind is that if you use too much light on a straw substrate, it may actually cause the grain to sprout. This will make it much easier for your mycelium to grow.
- Since the perfect temperature varies by strain, make sure you read the directions that came with your spawn.
It can take anywhere between two and five weeks for the mycelium to spread throughout your substrate. The mycelium will form large areas of white feathery roots. The only thing you need to do during this is a check to make sure the substrate is not dry. If it feels dry, simply use a water spray bottle to mist it through the holes you made in the bag. Do not overwater, add more drainage holes as needed.
- Keep in mind that the only color for mycelium is white, if you see any other color growing in your substrate, it has probably molded. In which case, you would need to start from the beginning.
On to the Real Thing
Time to turn all of your hard work growing mycelium to work. You need to wait until your efforts have produced a nice thick mat.
Once you reach this stage, the mycelium will need a change in the environment in which to fruit (produce your crop of mushrooms).
Your mushrooms will not grow without light. You should keep the level of light at approximately the same level as you would use to read a book. Use a timer set to simulate normal daylight hours.
Along with a timer, you should use indirect daylight bulbs, grow lights, or LED lighting.
Open the top of the bag and make sure the area you are growing your shrooms in has a steady changeover in fresh air. Use a fan to keep the air moving.
Drop the temp to around 55 to 61F (13-16C) for optimum reproductive conditions.
Increase humidity using a humidifier or hanging sheets of plastic around the bag. You need 90 to 95% humidity for optimum results.
You can both under over water mushrooms at this stage of the game. The best way to avoid doing is to simply spray water on the inside of the bag. DO NOT soak the substrate or any mushrooms that are beginning to pop up.
If your mushrooms start turning brown in color or you see new mushrooms sprouting out of old brown ones, you're not keeping the substrate moist enough.
On the other side, if you touch the caps of your mushrooms, and they are sticky or slimy to the touch, you have been getting a bit carried away with the water.
Harvest and Enjoy
Your mushrooms will start out as tiny little “pins” when they first come up out of the substrate. Not to worry, they will grow into fully edible sizes within just a few days.
To pick them, press down on the substrate with one hand and with the other twist the mushroom stalks off at the base.
You can eat them immediately, store them in the fridge for a few days, or dry them for future use.
Continue harvesting and enjoying the fruits of your labor through two “fruitings” over the course of three to four months.
Keep the substrate nice and moist, and you can keep picking until you no longer have any to pick.
I hope this has encouraged you to try farming your own mushrooms. You can use a corner of your basement or your shed. The spot you choose just needs to be able to properly climate controlled and have the right level of light.
If you are looking for more information on how to grow mushrooms then take a look at this guide
If you like learning how to grow mushrooms and what we have presented here, wait until you see your first mushrooms popping up! Also, let us know if you like it!