Growing culinary mushrooms is intriguing and pleasurable, and there are
many different mushroom species that are readily grown at home, in the
garden, and commercially. I teach mushroom cultivation workshops to help
would-be fungus growers to master basic skills, select appropriate growing
materials, and assess what sort of culinary mushroom culture project they
can commit to. Below is a photographic series that demonstrates one of the
easiest mushroom cultivation techniques: growing oyster mushrooms on straw.
Cultivating oyster mushrooms on straw is an easy method that can produce
oyster mushrooms within days.
Cultivating Oyster Mushrooms
This oyster mushroom spawn will be used to grow
mycelium on a combination of coastal hay and bamboo. The spawn is
colonized by mycelium and is made of brown rice and
A combination of coastal hay and bamboo was pasteurized in a hot
water bath for 1.5 hours to make a substrate. Oyster mushroom
mycelium will be added to this mixture so that mushroms can be
fruited from it in a few weeks
Straining out the hot water. Oyster mushroom spawn will be added
once the substrate cools.
Spreading the substrate out on a flat surface will make it easier to
mix in spawn.
A half pint jar of oyster mushroom spawn is cut and split apart to
inoculate the hay.
Substrate and spawn is mixed together by hand to create an even
distribution of spawn chunks in the hay and bamboo mix.
Once the spawn is mixed into the substrate, it is gathered to be
stuffed into a bag to incubate.
The substrate is now packed into a plastic bag with adequate air
exchange so that it can incubate. The mycelium in the oyster
mushroom spawn will grow out onto the hay until it is colonized by
thick, healthy mycelium that can produce mushrooms.
Adding a solution of water and hydrogen peroxide will help keep
contaminants out. Peroxide kills bacteria and spores, but it will
not harm the mycelium. Oyster mushrooms use peroxidases to digest
nutrients, and so it is resistant to peroxide and will not be harmed
by a small amount of it diluted in water.
Tying the bag at the top completes the process. The bag will be
stored in a cool, clean place to colonize.
After incubating in the bag for 10 days, the bag is opened, watering
is increased, and the temperature is lowered. These changes signal
to the mycelium that it is time to grow mushrooms. The primordia
(baby mushrooms) pictured here grew within 24 hours of placing the
bag under fruiting conditions.
12 days after inoculation with mushroom spawn, the bag is bursting
with mature oyster mushrooms to be harvested and eaten!
A sprig of oyster mushrooms, 10 days after inoculation. Spore prints
of these will be made in order to generate more oyster mushroom
Growing mushrooms is a tricky but fascinating undertaking. There are many
good books on the subject of gourmet and medicinal mushroom cultivation, but
in the end a cultivator's success or failure is rooted in experience.
Mushroom cultivation is essentially the practice of helping mycelium grow
and thrive enough to produce mushrooms. Mycelium is a network of filamentous
strands of fungus that grows through its habitat and, from time to time,
produces mushrooms when the conditions are just right. Mycelium is the true
body of mushroom-producing organisms.
Mushroom cultivators introduce spores or mycelium to a suitable growing
medium (like straw or woodchips), and allow the fungus to colonize this
substrate. Next, the cultivator initiates mushroom fruiting by increasing
moisture, air circulation, light, and decreasing the ambient temperature.
Basically, the mushroom grower must give the mycelium what it needs to grow
and eventually produce fruiting bodies: nutrition, water, light, cool
oxygen, and an inviting habitat.