If you’re interested in growing mushrooms at home, there has never been a better time to do it as more and more products are becoming readily available.
Mushrooms belong to a kingdom of their own. They are neither plant nor animal, though they intake oxygen and release CO2 as humans do. Currently, fungi with psychoactive properties are getting much attention, because they are showing outstanding results in treating some of the most difficult mental health disorders that exist. Besides their medicinal uses, they are one of the healthiest foods, rich in nutrients such as vitamin B, D, potassium, and selenium. On top of that, some species can even eat plastic and radiation.
Mycologist Paul Stamets purports that there were two cataclysmic events in our planet’s history. The life forms that teamed up with the fungi survived. At this particular moment in time, then, no wonder there is a mushroom craze sweeping the world, though, in many parts of it, mushrooms have long been used as medicine.
There may be one to two million fungi in the world, of which 150,000 form mushrooms and 200 kinds of psychedelic mushrooms, if not more. Who knows what potential we will uncover about these intelligent lifeforms? If you don’t know enough about mushrooms to feel confident foraging through pastures and forests, growing mushrooms at home has never been easier.
How are Mushrooms Grown?
When the mycelium, or the underground root network of a mushroom (but they are not roots!), reaches a certain stage of maturity, it begins to produce spores—the fruiting bodies that appear above ground. It’s a similar process to how plants spread their seeds, but mushrooms function differently than plants or animals do.
A couple of common methods for growing mushrooms include filling up plastic bags with sanitized sawdust and wood chips, and log growing—which China has been doing for centuries. In commercial farming, they tend to spring up from the pasteurized, nutrient-rich substrate. They don’t need a lot of space because they can grow in dense clusters.
If you’d like to grow mushrooms at home, mushroom growing kits are becoming more popular and streamlining what can be an involved process, though it’s relatively easy to grow mushrooms. Mushroom growing kits are often complete packages that only need moisture and a dark place to store them. It’s also a more convenient and mess-free option than using tubs or tents.
Where Can Mushrooms be Found Growing in Nature?
Most mushrooms can be found growing in dark, damp, and humid environments such as forests, meadows, grassland, and pastures. They can grow on leaf litter, logs, animal dung, soil or compost, or decaying organic matter. Luckily, mushroom foraging is a time-honored activity, so it isn’t hard to find forums and literature to guide you if you’re interested in finding them in nature. They may even be mushrooms growing in your very own yard.
Though mushrooms, it is believed, tend to prefer dark, damp environments, there are species of mushrooms that sprout on beaches (Psathyrella ammophila) and in more arid environments like deserts (Podaxis pistillaris). There are even mushrooms that grow underwater such as the Psytherella aquatica which has gills. Fungi grow in space, too. The International Space Station is constantly dealing with mold, so it’s just to say that mushrooms grow everywhere.
Can Mushrooms be Grown at Home?
Growing mushrooms at home has never been easier, and you don’t need a lot of space. Mushrooms may already be growing in your yard. There are poisonous mushrooms, but there are very few species in the million or two that are. Exercise caution, nonetheless.
It is often more effective to grow mushrooms inside than outside because inconsistent growing conditions can delay the process. Time to harvest can take anywhere between 3 weeks to a few months, but growing mushrooms outdoors tends to take longer if you’re inexperienced or don’t do the proper research on the individual species you’d like to cultivate.
What Is the Best Environment for Growing Mushrooms?
First, do your research on the species of mushrooms you intend to grow to educate yourself on their life cycles and if they prefer warm or cold temperatures or wood versus straw. Not all mushrooms are alike, in other words and you can choose to grow mushrooms indoors or outdoors. The substrate, whatever the mushroom will grow on, needs to be rich in nutrients, and different mushrooms prefer different materials. They don’t tend to require sunlight or a lot of space, so as long as you have a damp, cool spot, or can keep the mushrooms consistently moist, anyone can grow mushrooms at home.
What Types of Mushrooms Can Be Grown at Home?
Button mushrooms are believed to be the easiest ones to grow at home. Pink oyster mushrooms tend to be the fastest to harvest. You can grow most, if not all, of them at home except morels. There are plenty of resources available to help budding mushroom lovers successfully grow their first batch of mushrooms. That includes medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi and Lion’s Mane, and psychoactive fungi such as Penis Envy, a type of Psilocybe cubensis. Read our article on if growing mushrooms is legal to learn more.
What Supplies Are Needed to Start Growing Mushrooms?
To start growing mushrooms, the individual species will dictate what is needed. It depends on how much time you would like to spend growing mushrooms, and how much space you have. Mushroom kits are available that facilitate the process: ensure proper airflow, provide nutrient-rich substrate, etc.
- Receptacle (plastic bags, mason jar, a bucket, a planter)
- A spray bottle
- Thermometer (to check the temperature of the room and soil)
- A heating pad (if necessary, to raise the temperature of the soil for the mycelium to grow)
- Spore syringe
- A glass
- Piece of paper
Whereas plants grow on soil, mushrooms grow on substrate. Depending on the type of mushroom, that might mean sawdust, wood chips, manure, logs, banana leaves, straw, soil, or coffee grounds. You may be be able to use paper or cardboard. You’ll want to check what the mushroom prefers. You’ll need to pasteurize or sterilize your substrate.
Mushroom spores are microscopic, reproductive cells. A mature mushroom can contain up to 16 billion spores, so obtaining a spore print is easy. All you need is the top of a mushroom with the gills exposed. Remove the stem. Place the cap down so the gills are on the piece of paper. Put a glass over it for 24 hours to obtain a spore print. Then, keep the print in a sealed bag and a cool, dry, dark place until you’re ready to continue onto the next step. Consider the pros and cons of using mushroom spores vs liquid culture before you decide.
If you have a spore print, you can inoculate the substrate or growing medium. Rehydrate the spores with sterile water—distilled. Make sure to boil the water a few times to kill all bacteria. Sterilize the needle of the syringe over a flame. Draw clean water into the syringe, scrape the spores from your print with the needle, and put them into a sterilized glass. Release half the water from your syringe into the glass. Draw the spore water back into the syringe. Then, you can inject the inoculated water into the growing medium.
They require moisture, but not too much, so educate yourself on how to properly care for your mushrooms at this stage. You might need to raise the temperature of the soil, but again, it depends on the type of mushroom that you’re growing.
When they begin to sprout, you can harvest them, but you might want to allow them to keep growing before you do.