Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many concerned citizens elected to stay inside and stay safe. With the increase of people staying indoors, there has been an increase of interest in growing and harvesting your very own mushrooms. Luckily, this handy guide will give you great insight into the world of mushroom cultivation.
Where to Start
After deciding you want to grow mushrooms, the first step is to determine what type of mushroom you would like to grow. According to the North American Mycological Association (NAMA), oyster mushrooms are the easiest species to grow and are ideal for beginner growers.
The next step is to obtain a clone of the desired mushroom or get a culture started. A culture is just a microbiological environment where organisms can reproduce in specific and controlled conditions. For beginners, NAMA recommends simply purchasing the starting materials. Epicurious writer Wilder Davies agrees with the notion, citing growing kits can range around $16-$20 and is a great way to get your foot in the door, even if you’re a child.
Next, is getting a spawn and deciding what substrate to grow the mushrooms on. By definition, a mushroom spawn is any substance that contains mycelium, the mold-esque vegetative growth of fungi. Mycelium is necessary for growing more than one, singular fungus because it contains genetic material for growing mushrooms, as confirmed by North Spore. Having a spawn full of mycelium is like having a jar of soil full of seeds and will be the key to a successful growing experience.
The substrate is simply the material you want to grow the mushrooms, such as sawdust, newspaper, or toilet paper. It should be noted that oyster mushrooms are aggressive and will grow on just about any dried plant matter.
After the mushrooms are settled into their new home, you should treat your substrate with pasteurizer and lime before placing it in a stable environment. Following the oyster mushroom example again, the temperature should ideally be between 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit. The mycelium will eventually cover the whole substrate and little mushrooms called primoidia will start to appear. If you’re following a kit from a supplier, be sure to follow the instructions to maintain the perfect conditions for the mushrooms to grow. The end result can easily be affected if there are extreme changes to the lighting, the humidity, the temperature, or air flow within the growing environment.
Mushrooms do begin to grow after a temperature shock, similar to the ones that occur in nature when the lingering warm end-of-summer air changes to a chilly autumn breeze. This is called pinning and it’s a process used by professional growers to jumpstart the mushrooms’ growth. Experienced growers like the ones at Global Mushrooms can also use the information from pinning to know the quality and quantity of mushrooms they will get from a particular crop of mushrooms. If you chose to use a log as a substrate, briefly soaking the log will also trigger pinning.
Harvesting mushrooms is the exciting part because it’s one step closer for you to enjoy the fruits- or rather caps- or your labor. With oyster mushrooms, you can begin to harvest them once the largest mushroom cap starts to turn upwards or flatten out. Generally, harvesting occurs three to five days after the mushrooms’ caps start to form. It’s strongly encouraged to wash off the mushrooms prior to eating in order to prevent ingesting any fertilizer or other non-consumable materials.
In conclusion, there’s no reason to be afraid to start growing your own mushrooms at home. Every crop is different and learning the nuances of growing mushrooms comes from experience.