If you love mushrooms, but are tired of the same half dozen varieties at every grocery store, why not try growing them yourself? With a little research and patience, soon you can harvest fresh mushrooms in your own home. Growing mushrooms can be a simple, convenient culinary project, or a full-time hobby. It’s up to you, so let’s dive in!
Mushroom growth consists of seven basic stages. First, you need to know what kind of mushroom you’re going to grow and whether you want to use spores or mycelium to spawn your mushrooms. The next step is to choose your growth medium. Choosing what substrate you want to grow your mushrooms in is important, but luckily, there are a lot of choices. All mushrooms require nitrogen, humidity, and a slightly acidic pH. Different varieties need different levels of nutrients, so make sure you choose one suited for your fungus.
Third, you will need to have a sterile growing environment for your new mycelium block. When you’re just starting to cultivate a mycelium block, it is important to keep your equipment and substrate sterile. Otherwise, the substrate can be invaded by other fungi than the one you’re trying to grow. Keeping in mind that mushrooms need a damp place to thrive, you can start your mushrooms in a variety of different systems from Mason jars to buckets to plastic bags.
Step four is to introduce your mushrooms to their new, sterile habitat. This is called inoculating the mushroom substrate. The fifth step is the waiting game. Once you’ve inoculated your growth medium and gotten your growing setup ready, it needs to remain in a dark, warm place for a while. This process is called colonizing, and its purpose is to make sure your mycelium block is strong and healthy. Colonizing can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to an entire year depending on a variety of factors from the temperature to the type of mushroom to the kind of substrate.
Once the colony is established, the growth setup needs to be encouraged to start pinning, or developing the part of the mushroom we eat, called the fruiting body. This requires more light, very high humidity, and plenty of carbon dioxide. Happily, this last wait is normally only a week or two.
Finally, all that remains is the exciting final step: mushroom harvest. Be sure to use a knife to harvest your mushrooms instead of pulling off the fruits so that you don’t damage the mycelium block. The better care you take of the mycelium block, the more harvests, or flushes, you can get. You should be able to get a few flushes before you have to switch to a new substrate, but some varieties of mycelium will require a break and a good soak in water before they will fruit again.
Now that you have read this handy primer to mushroom cultivation, we hope you’re excited about growing your favorite fungi right in your kitchen or backyard. Good luck, and welcome to the wonderful world of mushrooms!