Growing your own mushrooms at home is a great way to save money and eat healthy! Mushrooms are fat-free, low in calories, and loaded with tons of essential vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants, making them an ideal snack or side dish. One thing you need to know about growing mushrooms, is that it is unlike other types of gardening you might have experience with. Fortunately, with a bit of knowledge and the right gardening equipment, you can be growing your own mushrooms in no time!
How Mushrooms Grow
Unlike other things you’ve probably grown in the garden, mushrooms are different in that they do not grow from seeds, they grow from spores. What’s even more interesting is that these spores are so small they can’t be seen with the naked eye.
Since spores do not contain chlorophyll to begin germinating, (as seeds do), instead they rely on other substances for nourishment. Including:
- Wood Chips
- Wooden Plugs
A blend of these nutrients and spores are what is known as spawn. Spawn supports the growth of mushroom’s mycelium– tiny, white, threadlike roots. A mushroom’s mycelium is what grows first. Your chances of having a better mushroom harvest will increase when the spawn is applied to a substrate or other growing medium.
Where Mushrooms Grow
Now that you know how mushrooms grow, it is important to know where mushrooms grow, so that you can get it right the first time. When growing your own mushrooms at home, it is important to consider the type of environment, mushrooms prefer:
If you are growing mushrooms indoors, a basement is ideal. Another option is under the sink.
Testing The Location
Once you have found a preferred area to grow your mushrooms, it is important to test the temperature. Keep in mind that most mushrooms grow best in temperatures between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, away from drying, direct heat and drafts. Some mushrooms such as Enoki, prefer cooler temperatures of about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Another thing to consider is the season you are growing mushrooms in. Winter is often ideal. If you are planning on growing your mushrooms during the summer, a basement might be too warm.
While mushrooms can tolerate a little bit of light, the place you choose to grow your mushrooms should stay mostly dark, and/or have very little light.
Types Of Mushrooms
There are many different varieties of mushrooms to choose from. One of the advantages to growing your own mushrooms, rather than harvesting them from the wild, is not having to worry about accidentally picking a poisonous mushroom.
The most common types of mushrooms grown from home include:
- White Button
Each type of mushroom has its own specific growing needs:
- Crimini, Portabella and White Button mushrooms should be grown on composted manure.
- Shiitakes and Maitakes should be grown on wood or hardwood sawdust.
- Oyster mushrooms should be grown on straw or agricultural and wood waste products.
- Enoki and Beech mushrooms are often grown in plastic bottles filled with substrate like ground corn cob pellets, wheat bran, or soy meal.
When growing mushrooms from home there are a few different options for materials:
One of the easiest options for growing mushrooms at home is to purchase a mushroom kit. These kits come already packaged with a growing medium that’s inoculated with mushroom spawn. Buying a kit is a great way to begin expanding your knowledge about growing mushrooms. I’ve seen a few kits where the mushrooms grow straight from the box, by Espresso Mushroom Company at my local Whole Foods market in the produce section, but they can also be purchased online.
Trays & Heating Pad
Button mushrooms can be grown using 14×16 inch trays about 6 inches deep. These trays, which resemble seed flats, can then be filled with compost material and inoculated with spawn. To raise the temperature to the preferred growing humidity, a heating pad can be used. An ideal soil temperature is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature should be kept for about 3 weeks, or until you see mycelium. At this point, the temperature can be dropped down to 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover the spawn with an inch or so of potting soil. Crucial to promoting a strong growth, is keeping the soil moist. This can be done by spritzing some water and covering the soil with a damp cloth. Keep spritzing as the soil dries.
Within 3 to 4 weeks, your button mushrooms should begin to appear. Once their caps open, they can be harvested by cutting the stalk with a sharp knife, from the stem. Never pull the mushrooms, as this risks damage to surrounding, developing fungi. Harvesting mushrooms everyday should result in a continuous crop for about six months.
Mushrooms are typically harvested by hand throughout a 16-35 day cycle, but the time really just depends on the type of mushroom you are growing. A few good ways to tell if your mushrooms are ready to harvest are:
- When the mushroom caps are large or a perfectly formed size
- When the mushroom caps are slightly turned down or opened
- Caps are at least 2 to 3 inches across
Your mushrooms can be harvested by cutting the stalks from the stem, with a sharp knife. Never pull the mushrooms, as this can damage them.
When harvesting mushrooms, it is best to put them into some kind of container, so they have air circulation as they are being picked. After harvesting your mushrooms it is very important to get them cleaned up so that they can be stored into refrigerated storage as soon as possible. (within an hour of picking).
Cleaning & Storing Mushrooms
The best way to clean mushrooms is to wipe them with a clean, barely damp cloth or paper towel. Another option is to rinse them very lightly, and then dry them off immediately and gently with a paper towel. Never soak fresh mushrooms, it will make them soggy.
Mushrooms can be stored in a paper bag or a damp cloth in the refrigerator. This allows the mushrooms to breathe so that they stay firm and fresh, longer. Never store mushrooms in a plastic bag, it will cause them to deteriorate.
Mushroom Info: Growing Mushrooms
How To Clean & Store Mushrooms: Better Homes & Gardens
Harvesting Shiitake Mushrooms: University of Kentucky Edu