I love mushrooms and wish they were the kind of thing I could just plant and harvest right from my garden. I know that mushrooms can be cultivated and grown in your own backyard or even inside your house, but it’s not quite the same as planting some seeds in the dirt, which is what I’m used to. Mushrooms are like the fruit of a fungus, except that the "seeds" it produces are in fact millions of microscopic spores that form in the gills or pores underneath the mushroom's cap (source).
Mushrooms can be fun to forage too, as I found out a few years ago when I went on a guided foraging hike in our local South Mountain Reservation. I will admit that foraging on my own, particularly for something like mushrooms, makes me nervous that I will misidentify things and end up with something poisonous. Luckily, Dan Lipow, who was our foraging guide back then, also supplies foraged items at our local farmers markets, through his business, The Foraged Feast. I think this is becoming a more popular option at farmers markets around the U.S.
Cultivating mushrooms has been of interest for a while. My husband grew up in northern New Jersey, where the property his family lived on naturally had tons of morel mushrooms growing in season. (Morels are very expensive to buy fresh.) The conditions were just right there. We’ve done a little research here and there on what we can do on our own to start growing mushrooms, but it’s felt like that “thing” for which we never have enough time and attention. (It’s on the long list of things we’ll do when we retire.)
When my husband’s birthday was approaching, I looked for ways I could “gift” growing mushrooms. I knew it needed to be easy to start and maintain, or it would never get done. I found a great solution — mushroom grow kits. There are several companies who sell these kits, but the one I settled on was Fungi Ally. They had a great selection of products and supporting instructional videos, ebooks and more, that it seemed within reach. They were also very responsive when I posted a question to them through their website — a good sign you’ll get good support if you need it. They also have a lot of options if we want to continue to expand out from the kits. (Time will tell.)
So, how did it go? First, let me just say that the satisfaction from growing these is almost immediate. You know that impatient feeling you have for the first few months of the spring/summer garden, when you just keep staring at dirt and vegetable flowers, waiting for things to really “happen.” That’s not the case with mushrooms.
Here’s the timeline of what happened:
April 27: Put both the shiitake and oyster mushroom kits outside in a cold frame.
April 30: Saw the first signs of shiitake mushroom growth.
May 7: Saw first signs of oyster mushroom growth.
May 12: Harvested both Oyster and Shiitake mushrooms.
That’s only TWO WEEKS! Truth be told, we probably should have pulled the shiitake mushrooms earlier, but well…..we just didn’t get around to it and wanted to harvest close to when we would cook them. Also - the cold frame wasn’t necessary, but we chose to put them there to keep them out of the direct sun and hoped it would help keep the humidity in (mushrooms need LOTS of moisture). Mushrooms don’t contain chlorophyll and aren’t capable of photosynthesis. The sun won’t “hurt” them, but I wanted to prevent them from drying out with too much sun. The cold frame was located right next to our garage, so it reminded me to keep spraying them with water 2-3 times a day.
Progression of Shiitake (shown first) and Oyster mushroom growth:
This was a fun thing to grow, especially during a time when there’s nothing but chives to harvest in my garden. The process is easy and rewarding. We should be able to even get a “round 2” out of the mushroom blocks. Will try to get things to grow in a week or so.
I highly recommend a mushroom grow kit if you’ve been thinking of growing mushrooms, but aren’t sure how to start. This gave us a small taste of mushroom growth and a big taste in the kitchen.
I'm Catherine, a small-space urban gardener in New Jersey (Zone 7a) who started gardening out of upcycled wooden wine boxes. For years, I wanted to try gardening, but didn't know where to start. I got up the nerve to give it a try - starting small with a single wooden wine box that turned an idea into reality. That reality quickly turned into my filling every sunny inch of space of my postage-stamp size lawn and turning it into a garden oasis. I grow mostly vegetables and herbs with some exception for fruits (when the squirrels and rabbits don't get to them first). I love learning from gardening communities (and lots of trial and error).
I hope one day to take all that I'm learning and apply it to a larger plot of land. To help me get there, I'm extending my learning through the University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge School of Agriculture's, Sustainable Food & Farming program. (I'm addicted to learning as much as I am to gardening.)
This blog isn't just for gardeners (although I hope it inspires some of you to try growing a plant or two). The recipes (food & cocktails) in theRecipes section of this blog contain ingredients that don't have to come from your own backyard. If you like visiting your local farmer's market(or even your grocery store) and would like to get some new recipes you can use with the fresh produce and herbs you get from your local growers, this blog will have plenty for you too.
In addition to gardening and cooking, I also love to visit and photograph my surroundings. I feel fortunate to have so many amazing places here in New York/New Jersey, where I live and work. Visits to local farms, farmer's markets, and cycling through rural farming areas help me feel connected and refreshed. share these experiences in theExploring section of the blog so that you might visit through proxy or be inspired enough to visit yourself.
With very few exceptions, all of the photographs on this site are ones I have taken myself. (For the photographers out there, I shoot with a Canon 7D and sometimes with my Lumix DMC-ZS15 compact camera.)
I hope this blog inspires you to grow, create, explore, and try something new. The best way to stay up-to-date is to follow me using the social buttons above, or click Subscribe and sign up for my email newsletters.
Happy Gardening and Healthful Living!