Mushrooms are a tasty and healthy food source with a high vitamin content, low calorie content, and High nutrient and anti-oxidant content. Picking wild mushrooms is not advised, even experts have been known to make fatal errors – many mushrooms are toxic and even deadly.
Properly home grown mushrooms are a safe alternative and are much more rewarding and economical than store bought mushrooms, which are generally not as good , and certainly not always available.
Mushrooms are a gardening project that can be enjoyed even in the dormant winter months. For the most part, they are easy to grow, rewarding and tasty. Patience however is the primary characteristic you’ll need to have in abundance.
An essential element to growing mushrooms at home lies in providing the proper growing conditions, at the right times.
Your first step is acquiring Mushroom Spawn, which is mushroom spores mixed with nutrients, it is the material needed to propagate mushrooms.
Oyster Mushrooms have become quite popular, they have a taste and texture reminiscent of Oysters , hence their name.
Portobello Mushrooms are close relatives of white button mushrooms, they are actually brown crimini mushrooms that have been fully matured.
Portobello’s are very popular, particularly in Italian and Vegan cuisine. If you’re a gardener, who enjoys reaping the fruits of your labor and enjoys an occasional new project to experiment with, you should consider Portobello mushrooms.
Wine Cap Mushrooms can grow up to one foot across , that’s even bigger than Portobello’s , they have a burgundy tint when fully grown. They can be easily grown in outdoor beds.
Growing your own Shiitake Mushrooms isn’t very difficult. It’s low maintenance once you get it started and doesn’t require a tremendous amount of space.
Lions Mane Mushroom taste like a cross between shellfish and squash. They remotely resemble traditional mushrooms. Instead of umbrella caps and stems we usually associate with mushrooms, they grow in rotund cylindrical masses and produce long snaking spines that resemble a lions mane. They are fairly simple to grow, either indoors or out. Starting from kits, fruiting can commence in as little as a few weeks, some have reported buds in as little as a week.
Don’t be disappointed if it takes longer, sometimes considerably longer, there are multiple strains with varying growth habits.
Truffles, are not easy to grow, and they take a tediously long time to reach harvest. Oyster Mushrooms take about 2 – 3 months to begin fruiting. Truffles take up to six years before an inoculated tree will produce truffles even then, it’s hit-and-miss, which is the reason they are so expensive.
There are dozens of varieties of edible Mushrooms that can be cultivated, some are easier than others to grow. See: Mushroom Varieties
How Mushrooms Grow
Mushrooms spores are invisible to the naked eye, they are extremely tiny , like pollen or fine grains of dust. Spores, unlike seeds of plants, need nutrients to begin germinating, in nature this could be a log or tree, animal feces, or even natural mulch on the forest floor. The spores will seek and grow only where the environment is suitable.
In a controlled environment , your garden , be it indoors or outdoors, it’s your job to provide and maintain the optimal conditions and environment to ensure a successful harvest.
The nutrient within the spawn fuels the mushroom’s growth. The initial stage of mushrooms growth is the mycelium – a web-like fungus from which the mushrooms will sprout. You can grow mushrooms with the spawn and moisture alone, but you’ll get much better results when you also use a growing medium.
The best mediums vary from variety to variety. Logs, wood chips, saw dust, straw, manure or compost. Many growers will grow white button mushrooms on composted manure, composted or not manure is not something you want in your house.
Where to Grow Mushrooms
The best conditions for Mushrooms to grow are in dark, moist, humid conditions. At home, a basement or garage is suitable, or any other dark, damp, humid location you may have available.
The optimal temperature range for most mushrooms is between 55 and 60 degrees F, although there are slight variations in varieties such as enoki mushrooms which thrive in cooler temperatures, and some types of shiitake need temperatures over 70 degrees. Some light is tolerable, but the location you select should be predominantly dark.
Other mushroom varieties grow best in prepared beds or logs . Outdoor varieties generally take longer to grow.
Most commonly Home Grown Mushrooms
Crimini / Portobello – Shiitake – Oyster – White button – Wine Cap – Enoki – Maitake
If you have the patience for a project that could take several years to see a harvest, try Truffles. They are also a very lucrative crop.
Related: How to Grow Hydroponic Mushrooms