magnificent mushrooms

They are small, they are cute, they are Super Mario’s worst enemy and they make an amazing pizza topping. They are the magnificent mushrooms of course. It’s hard to believe that mushrooms (often called toadstools) are the fruiting body of a fungus, something we usually try to avoid at all cost. But as mushrooms, we can’t get enough of it.

From mushrooms found in the wild, to the home grown variety, they are considered one of the most versatile ingredients. In fact, one variety of mushrooms called Truffles, just happens to be the third most expensive ingredient in the world (just behind Saffron and Japanese Wagyu Beef). A single ounce of black truffles is sold for roughly $200 while the white truffles can go as high as $450. Yikes! Makes you want to be grateful for the generic varieties.

Mushrooms are not only super delicious but amazingly healthy as well. They are filled with Niacin, Thiamine, Folic Acid, Riboflavin, Vitamin B and the ever useful Vitamin D. If that wasn’t enough, they also contain Phosphorus, Selenium, Copper, Iron, and Potassium. All together they help to prevent diabetes, cancer, and heart related issues. They have also been known to boost immunity. If this extensive list doesn’t endear you to mushrooms and entice you into growing them in your home garden, then nothing will.

1.    Varieties

Literally speaking, there are hundreds of types of edible mushrooms. And an even more fun and frustrating fact: most of them, you can grow in your own home garden very easily. Selecting the right mushrooms might consume a lot of your time. That is why to save you from that hassle, here is a list of the most commonly grown varieties of mushrooms for home gardens.

  • White Button Mushrooms: These mushrooms are the mature form of Agaricus bisporus (the immature form is called the brown button mushrooms). Despite being native to Europe, White button mushrooms are perhaps the most widely cultivated variety of mushrooms in the world, and today they are cultivated almost everywhere. White button mushrooms are known for their smooth texture and rich flavor.
  • Shiitake Mushrooms: This variety is native to Eastern Asia and a very popular ingredient in Asian cuisine, especially in the Miso soup and most vegetarian dishes. In most Asian cultures, shiitake mushrooms are also used for medical purposes.
  • Oyster Mushrooms: You will find oyster mushrooms in just about every restaurant you walk in. This variety of mushrooms is an active ingredient to make soups even more rich and flavorful, but they are also delicious when grilled or sautéed.

2.    The Best Time to Grow Mushrooms

Mushrooms grow well in dark and moist environments. You have the option of growing them outside the house, near the garden or inside the house in a box. This means that just about any time can be considered the best time for growing mushrooms. As long as you are willing to wait for them to mature, weather shouldn’t prove to be that much of a problem. However, if the weather outside is simply too hot then you might consider growing the mushrooms in the basement or in a very dark and secluded room.

3.    Spawn

Mushrooms don’t have any type of seeds. They grow out of spores present inside the mushrooms. Veterans of mushroom cultivation can grow mushrooms directly from spores. But that is a very long and tiring process that can easily go wrong if you don’t know what you are doing. If this is your first attempt at growing mushrooms then you should most definitely buy Spawn online to start the growing process. The spawn is basically just a mixture of nutrients and the vegetative part of the mushroom called mycelia. Online varieties of spawn will offer the right combination of both.

4.    Substrate

Depending on the type of mushroom you have chosen to grow, you will need to buy the substrate in which the spawn will be injected. The wrong substrate for the wrong variety of mushrooms will severely affect its taste and hamper the growing process. You need to buy a deep plastic container or a large, but deep, wooden tray to fill the substrate with.

  • For White Button Mushrooms the substrate you need should be composed of compost and manure.
  • For Shiitake Mushrooms you will need sawdust (if you are growing them inside) and a long log (if you want to grow them out in the garden).
  • For Oysters Mushrooms you will need straw substrate.

5.    Environment

The perfect environment for rapid growth of mushrooms is very dark, moist and chilly (if possible). There are two places that would be ideal for mushrooms. In the dark shaded corners of your garden (preferably under the most shaded part of a tree). Or you can opt for the dark corners of your basement. Neither environment will affect the taste or the growth of mushrooms. The ideal temperature for the growth is considered to be between 12 to 15 °C.

6.    Inoculation

Once you’ve prepared everything, you will be ready for the inoculation of the spawn in the substrate. Even though the spawn will arrive in an injection, make sure to be wearing gloves when you take it out. Take out the previously prepared plastic container or the wooden dish filled with substrate and inject the spawn in the substrate multiple times randomly. Cover it up and leave it alone for at least two weeks. When you see white roots in the container, know that the vegetative part (the mycelium) is ready.

7.    Pouring the Soil

Take the lid of the container and pour in about an inch of soil in it. It doesn’t matter which type of soil as long as it is loose. Use your hand to spread it around and to cover up the substrate completely from the top. You can also use peat moss instead of soil but it’s completely optional.

8.    Moistening

Whether you chose soil or peat moss, cover it up completely with a newspaper or a cloth. Use a spray bottle filled with water to spray the top of the newspaper or the cloth. Make sure that the upper layer is constantly moist as mushrooms thrive on moisture. Repeat this process multiple times a day.

9.    Harvesting

You can go ahead and remove the cloth or the newspaper after the first ten days but don’t stop the spraying. You will notice that the tops of the mushrooms will start poking out of the ground about three weeks after soiling. Within a week of that, the mushrooms should be ready to harvest. But the fun thing about mushrooms is that you can reap the harvest about two to three times. That is because once you bring in the first harvest, another one will grow soon after.

10.    Alternate Growing Method

You can actually buy a mushroom growing kit online. The kit comes with a container, substrate, spawn and a growing bag. You can inject the spawn directly in the growing bag (which will be filled with substrate) and cut off the top of the bag when the mushrooms are ready to harvest. Either way you choose to grow them, in a few weeks you will be able to enjoy home-grown mushrooms any way you want.