Mushrooms are delicious and nutritious. Unfortunately, they can be rather expensive as well, which makes it tough to make them a regular part of your diet. It seems like you spend a small fortune for a little tub of mushrooms at the grocery store that when cooked, end up barely being enough for two people.
Many people opt to go mushroom hunting, which is great if you know exactly what you are looking for and live in an area where edible mushrooms are plentiful. It is no secret mushrooms can be either really good or really deadly. There are over 14,000 different kinds of mushrooms, but less than 300 are actually safe to eat. It is a risk most of us would rather not take, especially when we are feeding our kids. By growing your own mushrooms, you are taking out the guesswork and you don’t have to go traipsing through the forest to find them.
What You Need to Grow Mushrooms
It doesn’t take much to grow mushrooms. You don’t need any fancy tools or a large space. The following list includes the tools you will need to get started.
- Plastic tubs
- Mushroom spores: Portobello or the white button are the most common mushrooms grown by the home gardener. The more experienced gardener can experiment with shiitake mushrooms.
- Cow manure/compost
- Spray bottle
You can buy kits that include everything you need. If you are just starting out, the kits are a good idea. However, you are going to pay more for very basic supplies that you could buy for a fraction of the price of the kit. If you have your own compost heap and/or horses, the only cost you will need to worry about is the tubs (if growing indoors) and spores. With that said, there are plenty of folks who don’t particularly care for composting and manure, which is fine. The kits are the way to go for you. To be honest, they make growing mushrooms a breeze.
Where to Grow Mushrooms
Plastic tubs are ideal. They contain your mushroom garden and you can move the tub into the ideal environment for your mushrooms to thrive. Mushrooms need different temperatures and humidity at various stages of growth. You can find an area in the backyard, your basement or garage to place your tubs.
Mushrooms love compost! They like lots of organic stuff. The area around your compost heap is going to be nice and fertile for mushrooms. Mushrooms will not do well in your garden. They need an area that has lots of actively fermenting compost. New compost piles that are too “hot” to be put around your plants are ideal for mushroom spawning. They like it hot! Simply use a pitchfork or rake to loosen the compost up and toss in some spores and let nature take its course.
To grow mushrooms indoors, you will need a tub that is at least 6 to 12 inches deep depending on the type of mushrooms you are growing. Those tall plastic totes are perfect. If you have a root cellar, your mushrooms will do well in it. Mushrooms need lots of humidity with a temperature around 50 degrees. Think of a walk through the forest. It is damp and just a bit chilly. This is the perfect environment for mushrooms, which is why we look for mushrooms in the forest. You could even use a dark closet as long as you can keep it cool. Some kits will come with bags that allow you to simply inject your spores into the bag and do nothing more for a few weeks. It really is that easy.
Planting Mushroom Spores
Planting your spores is fairly similar to planting seeds in the garden. You can use a syringe to inject the spores into your substrate (compost – not dirt) or use your hand to put the spores into the compost and bury it a few inches down. The spores need to be kept in an environment that is about 70 degrees in order to spawn. It is important you don’t let your spores get too warm. This will kill them and keep them from spawning.
Within a couple of weeks you will start to see white stringy things on the surface. This is the mycelium that will eventually produce your mushrooms. When the mycelium appears, it is time to drop the temperature to the cool 50 degrees your mushrooms need to sprout. To protect the delicate mycelium, place a single layer of newspaper over the top of the substrate.
Use a spray bottle to mist the layer of newspaper at least once a day, being careful not to over water. If the environment is warm or dry, you may need to spritz the paper several times a day. The mushrooms need a moist environment, but not too soggy. You will start to see small mushrooms forming within about 10 days. Remove the paper at this point and allow the mushrooms to blossom.
Mushrooms are actually the fruit produced from the spore. You can compare it to planting pepper seeds. The seeds grow into plants and the plants produce fruit or in this case, peppers. The caps of the fungi are the part you eat. Just like with your pepper plant, you would leave the plant in the ground and harvest peppers as they ripen. It is the same theory with mushroom caps.
Pinch off the caps and leave the “plants” in the substrate. Your mushrooms will produce for three to four months. The second harvest will likely yield more than the first. Mushrooms are best when they are served within days of being harvested. You can dehydrate the mushrooms if you find you are growing more than you can possibly eat fresh. Is that even possible?
Whether you buy a kit or use your own compost, you will soon discover growing your own mushrooms is fun and rewarding. One of the great things about growing mushrooms is you can do it all year round. They don’t need the warmth of the summer sun, which makes them an excellent crop for those who live in areas with cool climates.
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