Mushrooms are a popular food across the globe. They come in a wide variety, and there’s a mushroom for just about every meal. You can go to the gourmet grocery store and find a whole variety of mushrooms. And, if you’re more adventurous, you could try foraging for wild mushrooms. But if you want the best mushrooms, consider growing some for yourself. Growing mushrooms for beginners is surprisingly easy, even for dummies.
While the process does present challenges, there’s no reason you can’t have a nice little farm, full of your favorite mushrooms. This beginner’s guide has everything you need to get started.
Pick Your Poison . . . Or Food
If you’re going to grow mushrooms to eat, the very first decision is picking which ones you want to grow. If you’re undecided, here’s a short list of commonly cultivated mushrooms to get your wheels turning:
- Lion’s Mane
We recommend, however, that you can start with oyster mushrooms. You can make many delicious dishes with them. More importantly, they’re the easiest mushroom to grow.
Think of them as the cactus of the mushroom world. They’re hardy, easy to get started and they don’t need a whole lot of maintenance.
As we go through the steps of growing mushrooms in this guide, we’ll be assuming that you picked Oysters, and will show you the entire process of how to grow oyster mushrooms.
Now the best way to get started is with an oyster mushroom grow kit. They will come with everything that you need. We recommend some of the best ones toward the end of this article.
But here’s an overview of the process. Take a look through it so that you understand it when your kit arrives.
It Starts with Spawn
Anything you grow must come from something. Chickens come from eggs. Plants come from seeds. Mushrooms? Well, their creation involves spores. Growing mushrooms directly from spores can be complicated, so the typical starting point for home growers is mushroom spawn. We can think of spawn as a sapling plant versus a seed. A sapling is easier to grow than a raw seed, and spawn is easier to work with than spores.
Mushroom spawn, however, looks nothing like a sapling. Mushroom spawn looks a lot more like discolored mold (which is also a fungus). The spawn will sprout into the more familiar forms in time, and you’ll be able to harvest and eat them at your pleasure. Acquiring spawn isn’t difficult. You can buy it from retailers. If you don’t have a mushroom emporium down the street, you can order your spawn online. It’s a reliable process, and it’s not expensive.
If you’re feeling hardcore, you can start from spore instead of spawn. But remember, the spore requires more care to cultivate into a mushroom harvest than if you start from spawn. Also, the spore is difficult to ship, so you’re better off learning how to extract it yourself from live, mature mushrooms. Fully extracting and cultivating spores is beyond the scope of this guide, but soon we will post our guide to growing mushrooms from spores.
Picking the Substrate
Once you have chosen your spawn, it’s time to pick a mushroom substrate. You can think of the substrate as the soil for your mushroom plant. It is the fertile substance in which the mushroom will grow.
Substrates are made from many substances, and the type of mushroom you’re growing will help you choose which substrate to use. Some mushrooms prefer wood, others prefer dirt. Oyster mushrooms will grow on almost anything. Growers use wood pellets, shavings, corn cobs, and even cardboard. This is one of several reasons why Oyster mushrooms are so easy to grow.
You will need to treat the substrate before cultivation. Depending on which mushroom you choose to grow and which type of substrate it requires, some of the steps can include sterilizing on the stove, cold fermentation, and even lime baths.
Planting the Shrooms
You don’t plant mushrooms like you would a ficus. Instead, you inoculate the spawn into the treated substrate. This is a bit of a process, but it isn’t all that complicated. For most mushrooms, you use a heated syringe to inject the substrate with the spawn.
Luckily, the process of inoculating Oyster mushroom spawn is a bit easier. You just mix your moist substrate and spawn, scoop the mixture into bags, and spread the bags out on your growing surface. You then let the spawn/substrate mixture incubate in a moist area with indirect light until the bag has turned completely white.
Fruiting the Mushrooms
Once your substrate has incubated, it will be time to “fruit” your mushrooms. The “fruits” are the stems and caps that you think of as a mushroom.
Cut a slit in the bag to allow air to come into the substrate, and then put the bag in an area with indirect light. The temperature should be from 55 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
This fruiting stage takes a different amount of time for different types of mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms mature quickly and should begin to fruit within a week.
When you see the caps start to appear flat, it’s time to harvest. All you need to do is to grab the mushrooms that you wich to harvest by the base and then cut or twist them free.
After you have harvested the first mushrooms, you will leave behind viable spawn. Thus, you can get repeat harvests from your mushrooms. For a perpetual growth cycle, refresh your substrate after every harvest. You’ll be restarting with immature spawn, but you can keep growing new mushrooms until the nutrients in the substrate are gone.
Conclusion: Growing Mushrooms for Beginners
Growing edible mushrooms at home for beginners can be challenging. But certain mushrooms, Oyster mushrooms, for example, are easier to grow than others. As you experiment with Oyster mushrooms, you’ll gain the knowledge and insight to try some of the more challenging mushrooms. If you stay patient and keep at it, you can have a thriving little mushroom farm and no shortage of delicious food.
Here are some Oyster Mushroom Grow Kits that we recommend:
Root Mushroom Farm’s Golden Oyster Grow Kit is one of the better ones out there. Everything you need to grow your mushrooms comes in one simple box, and the instructions are clear. You can also get multiple harvests from this kit.
Root Mushroom Farm’s King Oyster Grow Kit. I have also had success with Root Mushroom Farm’s King Oyster grow kit.
Forest Origins Oyster mushroom kit. If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, or have a bit more money to spend, Forest Origins Oyster Mushroom Kit comes with three types of Oyster mushrooms that you can grow simultaneously: Pink Oysters, Brown Oysters and White Oysters. It’s like getting three Oyster mushroom grow kits in one.
When you’re ready to graduate from oyster mushrooms to some other types, like shiitakes and morels, read our article The Best 8 Mushroom Grow Kits to Grow on Your Own.
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