Sure, you've seen mushrooms growing in the wild. Maybe you saw some on a tree in the forest while you were hiking, or you saw a phallic fungus sprouting in your yard after a heavy rain. Wild mushrooms are very common, but it's hard to know how to identify them, let alone which ones are deadly.
It's easy to grow delicious mushrooms at home to have for your risotto, pasta and more. And you don't need a garden bed or even a yard or direct sunlight. (Actually, the darker it is, the better.) All you need is a mushroom growing kit. Sure, it's a little more work than buying shrooms from the store, but they'll taste better because you grew them.
What Is a Mushroom Growing Kit?
Mushrooms reproduce by spreading their spores. The spores eventually change into mycelium, which is the mass of branched, tubular filaments of fungi. Sometimes it looks like white fluff. These are the actual colonies.
Mushroom growing kits just recreate this in a box or block that is easy to set up at home. You don't need any experience to use them. The box or block comes prefilled with the spores already colonized, so the mushrooms are ready to "fruit." You'll see your growing medium covered with it. Kits like these allow you to understand more about mushroom life cycles and what environments they like without a ton of upfront costs.
"Growing mushrooms is fairly easy," says Evan Vatave, owner of SouthernCap Mushrooms in Atlanta. "The most exciting thing about mushrooms is watching them grow. My favorite to grow is lion's mane. And of course, cooking them."
The biggest downside to kits is once the mycelium is spent, you won't get anymore mushrooms. That means you'll likely get one or two harvests, at most. Keep in mind that while it's easy to get started, not every mushroom has the same difficulty level. Some take longer to develop than others or require special care.
You also can grow mushrooms on a log outdoors, but it's a little harder. You have to find the right log and inoculate the log with mushroom spawn plugs. You drill holes in the log, insert the plugs and seal the holes. You'll get more mushrooms because logs can produce continuously for years, but they can take as long as a year to produce the first harvest.
What Mushrooms Can You Grow From Kits?
Currently there are thought to be about 10,000 species of mushrooms. But numbers vary on how many of those are safe to eat. What is certain is the many varieties in kits are safe and easy to grow, including oyster, shiitake, lion's mane, button (which includes cremini and portobello), and reishi (which is used for tea).
For the impatient grower, Vatave recommends pink oyster mushrooms, which grow very fast. "If you buy a grow kit, you'll be ready to harvest them within the week," he says.
Here's the breakdown on mushrooms that beginners can grow at home.
Oyster: This is the easiest mushroom to grow at home. It's available in several varieties, including gray, white, yellow, pink and king trumpet.
Button: Button mushrooms like portobello are also pretty simple to grow. They thrive in pasteurized compost at 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius) rather than on a box or log. You'll see your first shrooms as buttons within about 10 days; they'll become portobellos in their most mature state at about four to six weeks.
Shiitake: These shrooms take about 10 days to mature with a grow kit, but a few months to take off on a log. Shiitake blocks are prone to drying out, so they should be kept moist at all times.
Lion's mane: These shaggy white mushrooms are hard to find in the supermarket, so growing them at home is the best option. They're a little harder to grow than button or oyster, but you should have delicious mushrooms in about a month from a fully colonized and ready-to-fruit block.
"Other species of mushrooms, like maitake, take much longer [to mature], nearly five months," Vatave says. Morel mushrooms also take a long time, sometimes between three to five years.
When growing your mushrooms at home, keep them in a dark, humid room like your basement if you have one. They prefer temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celcius) and good airflow.
Most mushroom growing kits will produce a couple of harvests at most. Providing the best growing conditions will lead to better shrooms.
Now That's Interesting
Mushrooms don't contain chlorophyll, so they don't need sunlight to grow like most other plants. Instead, mushrooms absorb nutrients from organic matter, making them closer to animals than plants.
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