How to (consciously) grow your own mushrooms at home (2023)

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How to (consciously) grow your own mushrooms at home (1)

As an avid gardener and (very) amateur cook, learning how to grow edible mushrooms at home seemed like a no-brainer.

He didn't know how little he knew.

I ordered the definitive book from mushroom guru Paul Stamets, "Cultivation of gourmet and medicinal mushrooms“, a thin volume with many photos and tips awaits. Instead I received a thick and detailed tome like a biology textbook.

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Books on growing mushrooms and mushroom jerky bags made by Eric Mueller of Mueller's Mushrooms in Guatay, California.

(Alan Nakkash / Para The Times)

And there I learned my first overwhelming truth: mushrooms are not plants at all. They actually resemble more of a fruit or flower, the reproductive part of a branched, root-like organism known as the mycelium.

Sothat isnot the plant? Wrong again.

Mycelium, like yeast, mold, and fungi, are neither animals nor plants. In the 1960s, scientists decided that the mycelium and its fruit are actually part of a kingdom of their own: the kingdom of fungi. — mostly because of the way they eat, said environmental biologist Rudy Diaz, resident mycologist atMycological Society of Los Angeles.


“Animals obtain food by ingesting other organic and sometimes inorganic materials, and plants obtain food by photosynthesis; basically they produce their own food," Diaz said. "But mushrooms are unique in that they use an absorptive diet."

Like plants and animals, fungi need oxygen, water and light to live. But they eat by secreting enzymes and acids that break down organic matter so they can absorb the nutrients they need, making them the "primary recyclers" on the planet, Stamets writes in his foreword.

How to (consciously) grow your own mushrooms at home (3)

Shiitake mushrooms grow at Mueller's Mushrooms in Guatay, California.

(Alan Nakkash / Para The Times)

"Fungi are essential for recycling organic waste and efficiently returning nutrients to the ecosystem," writes Stamets. “They are not only known for their importance to the environment, but also for their impact on evolution and human health. To date, however, the inherent biological power embodied in the fungal mycelial network remains largely a vast and untapped resource.

In fact, some researchers say fungi are actually more closely related to animals than plants, but before you start embracing your inner mycelium, know that this family link was severed millions of years ago when both fungal animals were single. unicellular creatures. Said Diaz.

"People took that information and went the wrong way," Diaz said, "and said things like, 'We come from mushrooms,' even though 'we' (humans and other animals) didn't exist yet."

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Some researchers say that fungi are actually more closely related to animals than plants.

(Alan Nakkash / Para The Times)


But that's part of the passionate, almost religious fervor surrounding mushrooms these days. It emerged during the pandemic, fueled by new research (and claims) about the culinary, medicinal, and psychological benefits of some mushrooms and the ability of other fungi to cleanse and rebuild depleted and/or toxic soil.

Díaz, 25, said he was a memberMycological Society of Los AngelesSince he joined the group in 2017, the number has more than doubled to around 600 people. "Interest has exploded in the last two or three years," he said.

"The 'Shroom Boom' is real," said Sam Shoemaker, a Los Angeles artist and member of the Los Angeles Mycological Society (LAMS), who cultivates and preserves a variety of sculptural mushrooms for use in hisunusual art.

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"I became interested in mushrooms in 2015 because it was an excuse not to be with art people all the time," Shoemaker said. "Eight years later, it's become my whole life. ... If you go to a vernissage you don't hear people talking about art the way people talk about mushrooms at meetings of the Mycological Society.

Zapatero, 31, used to sell mushrooms but now focuses on his art andworkshopsin growing mushrooms, which are currently out of stock (although he will be offering some courses during the Mycological Society's company)39. Wildpilzmesseat the South Coast Botanical Garden on February 5). It also produces and sells tinctures of lion's mane, a hairy, brain-shaped mushroom, and reishi mushrooms, which grow as brightly colored half-plates on stems or as antlers with suction cups. Many mushroom advocates claim that these two boost immunity and reduce inflammation (in the case of reishi) and fight depression and even dementia (in the case of lion's mane).

How to (consciously) grow your own mushrooms at home (6)

Eric Mueller from Mueller's Mushrooms with red reishi mushrooms.

(Alan Nakkash / Para The Times)


However, Shoemaker doesn't stop at these claims and says there is still a lot more research to be done. He's more excited about research using mushrooms to break up diesel-soaked soils and restore habitats ("It's very, very new territory") and finding ways to sustainably grow nutritious edible mushrooms in Los Angeles because it's so few local producers in Los Angeles there region. . Mushroom kits come in heavy blocks, he says, so the further you buy, the higher your shipping costs.

If you're dying to grow mushrooms in L.A., this is where it gets tough. Experts don't even seem to agree on how many species of fungi there are in the world, with numbers ranging from at least 10,000 to several million. Suffice it to say that mushrooms come in many shapes, colors, and digestibility levels, and require different mediums or substrates to grow. It's not like you can buy a bag of potting soil and a packet of seeds. Some strains prefer to grow in manure, others like live trees, and still others thrive in rotting hardwoods like oak logs.

OfmayGo into the woods and find good edible mushrooms, collect their spores and try growing mycelium at home, but this requires at least a minimal laboratory with sterile conditions and a pasteurized substrate to remove contaminants such as bacteria associated with would compete with fungal growth.

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On the left, a picker labeled "Mushroom" and leftover plastic bag lids at Mueller's Mushrooms.

(Alan Nakkash / Para The Times)

Or you can skip the lab and buy a mushroom "kit", usually a mycelial-enriched substrate such as B. shredded straw or wood pellets packed in a plastic bag.

Some kits grow out of the box: all you have to do is open the box, poke a few holes in the bags and keep spraying until the mushrooms come out a few weeks later.

Or you can take the kit and mix it with a pasteurized substrate to make multiple kits, a relatively easy way to get the most bang for your buck, said Eric Mueller, a mushroom grower in central San Diego County who cultivates and sells mushrooms. for over 20 years.


How to (consciously) grow your own mushrooms at home (8)

Eric Mueller holds up a handful of mushroom kit material: mycelium mixed with a substrate.

(Alan Nakkash / Para The Times)

Müller mushroomis one of the few companies in Southern California that sells mushroom kits. include otherslong beach mushrooms,With mushroomin Los Angeles uMini-Fonds, a New York-based company thatexpanded to Los Angelesin 2022. Other California-based companies includemushroom adventure, in Marysville, north of Sacramento;Mushrooms from the Wild West, in the San Francisco area;origins of the forest, in Windsor, north of San Francisco;Gourmet mushroom productsin Sonoma County; AndFungaia-Farmnot Eureka.

Wherever you shop, Mueller recommends beginners start with blue oyster mushrooms because:

  1. They're delicious, but hard to find in stores because they're brittle and will wilt if handled too much.
  2. They cost about $4 to $5 a pound at farmers markets.
  3. They grow faster than other varieties. For example, shiitake, another delicious mushroom, takes many months to "flush" (i.e., produce a crop), while you should get an oyster mushroom rinse within two to three weeks, and at least another rinse or two after that.
How to (consciously) grow your own mushrooms at home (9)

Eric Mueller holds a blue oyster mushroom grow kit.

(Alan Nakkash / Para The Times)

Müller, 41, was a budding entrepreneur and alpine high school student when he came up with the idea of ​​selling locally grown mushrooms to local restaurants. He found wild oyster mushrooms growing in a creek near his home, so with encouragement from his family and the help of Stamet's book, he built a small laboratory outside his home and began growing it.

Hey,Müller mushroomoperates from a warehouse in Guatay in the Cleveland National Forest. He grows many strains and still sells them at local farmers' markets, but his mainstays these days are making delicious jerky from dried shiitake and oyster mushrooms, as well as medicinal tinctures from lion's mane and reishi. It also hopes to offerMushroom cultivation coursesin the spring.


How to (consciously) grow your own mushrooms at home (10)

Here are Mueller's recommendations for expanding your oyster mushroom kit to two or three homegrown kits:

What you need to grow mushrooms

  • Oyster mushroom "kit" (mixture of mycelium and some substrate, i.e. growing medium like straw) sold by various manufacturers
  • Disposable gloves (for handling and mixing the mushroom seed)
  • Clear or translucent plastic tub, at least 54 rooms
  • Spray bottle with a weak bleach mixture (a tablespoon of bleach mixed with a quart of water)
  • Paper towels (to dry the bathtub)
  • 10 pound pre-sterilized ice packs (Availableonlineor in smart & final stores)
  • Twist the straps to close your bags (they can come with the bags)
  • Large bag (about 20 pounds) of freshly used coffee grounds, preferably used that day and discarded
  • Drawing pin Drawing pin to quickly poke air holes in bags
  • Water spray bottle for spraying your kits

Step 1: Gather All Your Materials.Speed ​​is important when it comes to creating mushroom kits. The longer your seeds are exposed to air, the more likely they are to become contaminated with bacteria that will compete with your fungi for space and nutrients. It's best to move as quickly as possible to mix and pack the seed with its substrate, in this case coffee grounds.

Step 2: Put on the gloves.Gloves protect your hands and the mixture from possible contamination. It's easy to spray gloved hands with the bleach solution, Mueller said; It's not as comfortable spraying your bare hands with bleach or getting nail fungus.

Step 3 - Clean your bathtubjGloves with bleach solution.Use paper towels to dry the tub and your gloved hands.

Level 4: Start mixing.Pour the coffee grounds (about 20 pounds) into the sterilized tub and quickly begin mixing the mushroom seed into the coffee seeds, adding a few handfuls of seeds at a time.

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Work quickly as you begin to mix the mushroom seeds and coffee grounds in the vat.

(Alan Nakkash / Para The Times)

Step 5: Quickly pack up the bags of mixture.Begin adding the well-mixed coffee grounds and mushroom seeds to the ice packs and pack the contents tightly into the bag. We fill about 2¾ bags with the mixture.

Step 6: Tie the bags and poke holes for air.When the bags are full, squeeze out as much air as possible, then twist the lids shut and secure with zip ties. Then poke holes in the pocket with the thumbtack. Mueller punched about four or five holes in a row on each of the four sides of the bag.

How to (consciously) grow your own mushrooms at home (12)

One method for growing mushrooms (left) is to pour the mixture into a plastic gallon jug. The other method on the right uses plastic ice packs.

(Alan Nakkash / Para The Times)


Step 7 - Find a place to store your kits and don't move them.If the conditions are right, Mueller said, the mycelium should fruit (i.e., produce mushrooms) within a few weeks. Proper conditions include filtered light, humidity, a comfortable temperature (in the 60s or 70s), and airflow. It's best to store your kits in a translucent tub - stand the tub on top of kits without a lid, or cut a hole in the tub and fill with "teddy bear guts" (polyester fiber) for air. no impurities. And remember, once you've created your kits, the less you move them, the faster they will fruit. The mycelium is very sensitive to environmental changes. "Every time you move them, they have to be recalibrated," Diaz said.


He dreamed of mushroom mountains and got what he wanted

Picking isn't the only way to bring freshly picked mushrooms to your kitchen table. You can easily grow varieties like oyster, shiitake, and lion's mane in your home.

Step 8: Cut some holes once the kits start to whiten.If you see moldy white matter in your coffee grounds, be glad! This means the mycelium is growing. Using a very sharp razor blade or knife, carefully cut 2-4 slices into the foil to allow the mushrooms to come out. The more cuts you make, the smaller the mushrooms will get, Mueller said, so take it easy. Replace the tub, make sure it stays hydrated, and wait for the fungus to appear.

Step 9 - Harvest when the top is flat but the edges are still slightly wavy.Wait much later and the fungus will sporulate. You can still eat them, Mueller said, but they get dirty.

Alternate Method: Use an empty gallon jug of water.

  • If you're a regular coffee drinker, you can try a more modest technique, slowly filling an empty gallon jug of water with a handful of the mushroom kit, then the day's coffee grounds, and storing the kit in a clean place and fresh each day until the glass is full.
  • Mueller suggests cutting off three-quarters of the top of the jar so the lid swings backwards and you can easily get into the jar.
  • Add a handful of the mushroom kit to the soil along with the cooled coffee grounds, then seal the jar with plastic (to keep out contamination) until you can add more soil and mycelium mixture the next day.
  • Between fills, keep the unused mushroom set in a clean, cool place, and when the jar is full, seal the hinged lid with waterproof tape and unscrew the jar lid to let air in (you can also use your thumbtack , to poke some holes in the glass plastic).
  • Cover the jar with your translucent container (you can set the jar on its side) and mist occasionally to keep the humidity high. Once the mycelium begins to grow, remove the screw cap to allow the mushrooms to grow out at the top. In this way, subsequent plantings can also be easily created.
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Growth of blue oyster mushrooms.

(Alan Nakkash / Para The Times)

Last tip: thinkabout your mushrooms, but don't worry about them, Mueller said. "Sing them songs about squirrels...or whatever," he said, laughing. "Think about it a lot, but don't think about it too much, because everything has an effect, and belief and intention are powerful things."

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