Grow Your Own Mushrooms

Find out how to grow delicious mushrooms at home with a kit, an inoculated log or easy-to-find-online supplies.

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May 21, 2020
Mushrooms on a Cutting Board

Sliced Mushrooms

Mushrooms are delicious and good for you, and some are easier to grow at home than you might think. These tasty fungi grow quickly and don't need much space.

Photo by: Shutterstock/kodis

Shutterstock/kodis

Mushrooms are delicious and good for you, and some are easier to grow at home than you might think. These tasty fungi grow quickly and don't need much space.

Mushrooms aren't just delectable; they're good for you, high in antioxidants and fiber and low in calories, sodium and cholesterol. They're also fun to grow at home with or without a kit. Read on for information about the many ways to grow mushrooms at home.

How to Grow Mushrooms From a Kit

You can order online kits to make growing mushrooms easy. You'll usually get a mushroom block filled with oat bran, sawdust or other materials and coated with mushroom spores.

Directions may vary from kit to kit, but in general, mist the block three or four times a day with spring or well water or collected rainwater. You can also use boiled tap water, but don't use water straight from the tap, because it contains chlorine that will kill the spores. Distilled water won't work either, because it lacks nutrients the mushrooms need.

Cover the block with plastic after each misting to hold in the humidity. Many kits come with a plastic humidity tent. Only white button mushrooms need to grow in the dark, so your block will be fine in bright, indirect light. In a few days, little blisters will develop and mushrooms will pop up. They'll be ready to harvest in a week or so.

To re-use the block, let it dry out for a week. Then soak it in water for 24 hours. Wait one more day, and it'll be ready to go back under the humidity tent to produce more mushrooms, although not as many as before. Repeat this process to get several harvests from the same kit.

Dry your mushrooms if you want to store them and soak them when you're ready to cook them into your favorite dish.

$17.99

Elizabeth Millard's book, Indoor Kitchen Gardening, explains how to grow mushrooms and other edible crops in your own home.

Buy It

How to Grow Mushrooms Without a Kit

Without a kit, cultivating mushrooms can be tricky because some have special growing requirements. Oyster mushrooms are relatively easy to grow, however.

mushrooms

Growing Mushrooms Beauty1

Growing mushrooms at home is fun and rewarding.

Photo by: Mark Wolfe

Mark Wolfe

Materials Needed

  • 5-gallon plastic bucket or bin with lid
  • substrate, which is dry organic material such as straw or paper (mushrooms grow on substrate instead of soil)
  • 1 pound brown oyster mushroom spawn, available from online sellers and some garden centers or nurseries. *
  • large pot or outdoor cooker
  • outdoor fire or stovetop to cook on
  • cooking thermometer
  • wire scoop
  • colander
  • bleach wipes
  • clean plastic tarp

*Editor's note: Brown oyster mushrooms are just one type of mushroom you can grow. If your weather is very hot or cold, you may have to use a different kind of mushroom spawn recommended for your climate. Enokis, for example, need a temperature that stays around 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Shiitakes like 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Do some research to learn how to grow these mushrooms, if you opt to use them instead of brown oysters.

Gather Materials for Growing Mushrooms

Collect enough paper-dry substrate to over-fill your bucket. The material you use, and its texture, will determine the amount you need. It will compress significantly when you pasteurize and pack it, so collect more than you think you'll need. We used dried weeds and other garden debris in this example. Virtually any dry organic material will work for this project. The particles should be shredded to something resembling the texture of a bird's nest (Image 1). Fill the pot approximately half full of water and heat it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Carefully pack the dry substrate into the hot water and weigh it down with a brick inside a colander. Allow the substrate to pasteurize at 160 degrees for two hours. Then remove it from the heat source. While the substrate is pasteurizing, clean the bucket, lid and tarp with bleach wipes. Once clean, keep surfaces free from any contaminants including unwashed hands (Image 2). Strain the pasteurized substrate using the wire scoop and colander, and spread it on the cleaned tarp to cool. Keep it covered while it cools to avoid contamination. Once cool, sprinkle the substrate evenly with sawdust spawn, mix together and pack into the bucket. Put the lid on it and place the bucket in a dark, cool, humid location (Image 3). Depending on the mushroom strain and growing conditions, the substrate will be completely colonized by the mushroom mycelium in two to four weeks (Image 4). When the colonization period is complete, tiny mushrooms will begin to grow (Image 5).

Nurture and Protect Your Growing Mushrooms

At this stage, it is important to maintain consistent humidity and temperature. Avoid drafts and sudden cooling or heating of the growing area. The mushrooms will double in size daily until they are mature (Image 1). Harvest oyster mushrooms when the edges of the caps begin to turn up. Leaving them too long will affect texture and flavor (Image 2). After the first harvest, wait two to three weeks, and another harvest may be had. Typically, each ensuing harvest will yield about half the weight compared with the prior harvest. In perfect conditions, four or five harvests may be had before the substrate is exhausted (Image 3).

Enjoy your mushrooms in your favorite dish. When you've harvested all of your mushrooms, compost the used substrate for a wonderful soil amendment.

How to Grow Mushrooms on a Log

Inoculated Log with Shiitake Mushrooms

Inoculated Log with Shiitake Mushrooms

A kit with an inoculated log and good instructions makes it easy to grow mushrooms indoors. You can also start mushrooms on your own log with purchased spores, but that's tricky for beginners, Millard explains. "Spawn gives you a jump-start. It takes longer to grow mushrooms from spores."

Photo by: Cool Springs Press/Crystal Liepa

Cool Springs Press/Crystal Liepa

A kit with an inoculated log and good instructions makes it easy to grow mushrooms indoors. You can also start mushrooms on your own log with purchased spores, but that's tricky for beginners, Millard explains. "Spawn gives you a jump-start. It takes longer to grow mushrooms from spores."

Unlike some mushroom varieties, shiitakes can grow on a hardwood log. You can buy a kit that comes with a pre-inoculated log that usually needs to soak for 24 hours.

Many shiitake kits have plugs that contain spores mixed with sawdust and nutrients. Drill some holes in the log the same size as the plugs and about three inches apart. Put the plugs in the holes and use the wax from your kit to cover the holes.

Take the log outside to a shaded spot, stand it upright and cover it with clean burlap. Keep it watered and watch for pests like slugs or squirrels. Little white bumps will show up in about a week. Take off the burlap and re-cover the log with a clean cloth. When gills form under the caps, and the edges of the caps start to curl down, the shiitakes are ready to harvest.

Popular Types of Mushrooms

Cremini

Baby Bella Mushrooms

Baby Bella Mushrooms

Portabellos (sometimes spelled "portobellos") are simply bigger cremini mushrooms, so you may see creminis sold as baby bellas or baby portabellos, shown here.

©2013, Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

2013, Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

Cremini mushrooms are round and light to dark brown. They have a firm texture and savory taste. Creminis are harder to grow at home than other varieties. If you want to try them, look for a kit or ask your county extension service agent for help.

Shiitakes

Shiitakes are tan to dark brown in color. They're thought to boost the immune system and have a meaty texture, like portabellas. When cooked, they have a smoky flavor. When dried, the flavor becomes stronger. Remove their tough stems to use them in soups, stir-fries and other dishes.

Oyster

Oyster types are the easiest for beginners to grow. They have a mild taste and can be cooked, which gives them a velvety or silky texture, or dried to enjoy later. Look for gray, white or tan varieties. Store fresh oyster mushrooms in the refrigerator in a paper bag, not plastic, so moisture won't accumulate on them.

Enoki

Enoki mushrooms, with their long, slender stems, have a mild, delicate flavor. They can be grown from kits that come with spawn and growing medium. You'll usually be instructed to put the medium in a sterile glass container in a room with high humidity and temperatures around 72 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. For white enokis, keep the container in the dark; the enokis will be brown if they're exposed to light. Once the mycelium appears, move the container into a cooler area so the caps will form.

White Button

White button mushrooms are the ones often sold in grocery stores, and they're usually less expensive than other varieties. You can grow them from kits that contain organic matter inoculated with their spores. White buttons have a mild, slightly earthy taste.

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