Mushroom Grow Kits
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.