How do I Grow Mushrooms?

Sonal Panse

Edible mushrooms are a rich source of protein. As they are best eaten fresh, cultivating them at home is ideal. However, it takes time, patience and care to grow mushrooms.

Handful of peat moss, which is often used for growing mushrooms.
Handful of peat moss, which is often used for growing mushrooms.

To begin with, allot a separate area for the mushroom growing. This ensures sufficient space as well as better temperature and humidity regulation to grow mushrooms. It also guarantees better health. Mushrooms emit carbon dioxide, which, if breathed in too often and in large quantities, can be harmful.

Button mushrooms.
Button mushrooms.

Use a garden shed, a basement room, or any other convenient place. Sophisticated equipment and temperature and humidity controls are nice, but not necessary. An electric vaporizer, a portable fan, plastic bags, a wire basket, wooden trays and regular lights will do just as well to grow mushrooms.

Shiitake mushrooms are a popular, easy-to-grow variety.
Shiitake mushrooms are a popular, easy-to-grow variety.

Select a mushroom variety. Some popular, easy-to-grow types are Button, Oyster, Portabella, Crimini, Shiitake, Enoki and Maitake. These can be grown from spawn or by using mushroom growing kits. Many companies sell both online. The kits usually come with easy to follow instruction manuals.

Morel mushrooms are often picked wild, but they can also be grown from a kit.
Morel mushrooms are often picked wild, but they can also be grown from a kit.

Mushroom spawn is the equivalent to plant seeds. Mushrooms, being members of the fungi family, produce spores. These spores are collected and inoculated into sterilized grain to develop spawn cultures. The spawn is cultivated on an organic substrate or compost. The compost provides the nutrients required for mushroom growing. Mushrooms can't produce their own nutrients as they lack chlorophyll.

Oyster mushrooms are easy to cultivate at home.
Oyster mushrooms are easy to cultivate at home.

The compost needed to grow mushrooms can be bought in prepared blocks to save time. Otherwise it can be made by combining plant waste like crushed straw and corn cobs with coffee grounds, gypsum and nitrogen supplements. Pack the compost into a wire basket.

It's easy to grow enoki mushrooms.
It's easy to grow enoki mushrooms.

Now steam the wire basket or boil it in a hot water pot for a few hours to pasteurize it. Pasteurization is necessary to get rid of any microbes or pests in the compost. Drain water and let the compost cool in wooden trays. Then sprinkle the mushroom spawn over the compost and mix it in thoroughly. Stuff the mix tightly into plastic bags and seal them.

Freshly harvested mushrooms add flavor and texture to chicken Marsala.
Freshly harvested mushrooms add flavor and texture to chicken Marsala.

Cut ventilation holes at intervals in the plastic. Keep temperature at about sixty degrees. Leave on the fan and vaporizer for adequate ventilation and humidity. Switch off the lights. Let the spawn develop in darkness for two or three weeks.

When next viewed, the compost in the plastic bags will be covered with white filaments. These are mushroom roots, known as mycelium. Peel off the plastic and cover the mycelium-filled compost with peat moss.

The mycelium soon gives rise to tiny, pin-like growths that poke out through the covering peat moss. About ten to twenty days later, these pins have developed into mushrooms and are ready to be harvested. Recycle the compost and reuse to grow mushrooms again.

Scotch bonnet mushrooms can be grown almost anywhere in North America or Europe.
Scotch bonnet mushrooms can be grown almost anywhere in North America or Europe.

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Discussion Comments

KoiwiGal

@browncoat - It depends on the kind of mushrooms you grow. Field mushrooms, for example, start out button shaped and eventually become large and flat. You can eat them at any stage, with the flat ones suitable for stuffing, or grilling like steak.

If you pick your mushrooms, then leave the compost undisturbed (except for spraying with a bit of water) within a week more will start to grow. It should continue doing that for around six months or so.

That's why the mushrooms seem to appear so quickly in a field, because the roots are already there, and it is only the mushroom part of the fungus that has to grow.

browncoat

I had no idea it took so long to grow mushrooms. Button mushrooms seem to appear overnight in fields after a rain, and I guess I thought that mushrooms could be grown at home in the space of a few days. According to this, with the three weeks in darkness and the additional twenty days after that, it could be almost two months before they are ready.

On the other hand, this is much less time than it would take to grow almost any other kind of fresh vegetable.

Does anyone know, when growing mushrooms at home, how long they last from when they were first ready to pick, to when they spore and (I assume) can't be eaten anymore?

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