Adding just a fist-sized portion (100g) of mushrooms to your diet can provide a laundry list of important vitamins and minerals – they are a natural source of protein and vitamin D, and contain many B vitamins such as niacin and riboflavin, as well as fibre and potassium.
Mushrooms are low in fat, carbohydrates, sugar, sodium, cholesterol and are easy to add to any dish.
They are also the only vegetable that can be grown under your kitchen sink!
Many mushrooms species, though not all easy for the gardening novice to grow, can be grown indoors with a little time and patience.
Many feel that growing mushrooms are beyond their abilities. This article focuses on how to grow and at what time of the year is best.
How do mushrooms grow
Because mushrooms, unlike green plants, do not extract nutrients from the sun, they can be grown in the dark- like all fungi, they thrive in warm, moist environments.
They are a parasitic plant and will extract the nutrients they need from the organic material present in their host.
Unlike most other plants, mushrooms grow from spores instead of seeds. The spores need substances such as grain, straw, wood, sawdust, woodchips – or even used coffee grounds for nourishment.
When the spores are combined with their nutrient, we obtain mushroom spawn – a substance that, like the starter for sourdough bread, will be used to begin the growth process.
First, the mycelium will grow; they are the tiny, threadlike roots of the mushroom plant. Later, the plant will begin to fruit. Depending on the species, this can take as little as 3 weeks or as long as a year or more before the plant produces fruit.
Where do mushrooms grow
Though it may seem like mushrooms sprout overnight in the wild, and grow to full-size in a matter of days, they can actually be quite finicky.
Some mushroom species, such as white or button mushrooms, grow best in manure compost. Others require a host log.
The easiest mushrooms to grow on a log are the oyster species, though shiitake are also a good choice for a first-time cultivator.
As mushrooms prefer dark and moist environments, a basement can be a good place to grow mushrooms indoors.
Outdoors, it’s important to choose a consistently shady spot – to the North of a structure or large tree is best.
You may need to control the temperature of your indoor growing environment, raising it slightly while the mycelium form, then lowering it until fruiting.
The soil should remain humid; it’s recommended to cover it with a damp towel and spritz it regularly with water until the fruit appears.
What time of year do mushrooms grow
The mushroom body – the mycelium – grows year-round but fruiting will only occur during certain periods.
Different mushrooms fruit at different times of year – so, depending on the growth period, you will have to consider fruiting times when planning your mushroom bed.
Keep in mind that if the ground freezes in your region, an outdoor species that fruits in the spring may not be the best choice!
Even the indoor grower must simulate the proper seasonal conditions for their chosen species: a mushroom that fruits during the summer might prefer warmer temperatures.
Oyster mushrooms fruit from spring to fall whereas shiitake produce fruit only in mid-summer. Chanterelles and button mushrooms fruit from late summer through the fall.
What is the growing process of mushrooms
Once you’ve chosen the mushroom species to grow and obtained the proper substrate, the first step will be to introduce the spawn, and provide the optimal conditions for the formation of mycelia.
Mushrooms are extremely susceptible to competing fungi or viruses, so it highly recommended to inoculate the spawn and maintain a sterile growing environment.
Initial stages of mushroom growth
During the growth period, there is little maintenance to be performed, other than to keep the environment at the appropriate temperature and moisture level for your species, and wait.
For some compost- or manure-based species, a layer of soil should be added on top of the mycelia once they are thriving.
After enough time has passed, pinheads will begin to appear – the sprouting fruit is barely visible to the naked eye but can grow to maturity in just days.
The fruit of some mushrooms doubles in size every day.
How do I harvest mushrooms
The fruit is ready to harvest when the caps begin to open – in most species this is when the edges of the cap turn up or curl back.
It’s best to separate the fruit with a sharp knife cut to the stem as pulling up the mushrooms can damage the still-developing fungi around them.
Most species will yield multiples harvests.
If growing on a larger scale, you may need to harvest mature fruit daily – even a small mushroom bed can be harvested once a week up to 6-8 times per fruiting season.
How do I collect the spores
While it is easiest to work with purchased spawn, some experienced growers may wish to collect spores and form their own spawn.
An excellent way to collect the spores is by creating a spore print.
As the fruit matures, you will notice the cap opening, or the edges curling back. At this point, cut the stem quite close to the fruit (try not to touch the fruit itself as this may contaminate the spores) and place the cap on a clean sheet of paper, then cover it with a glass.
This will prevent air currents from dispersing the spores.
The spores can also be collected on a glass plate that has been thoroughly cleaned and wiped with alcohol to prevent contamination.
Leave the cap in place for 12 to 24 hours, then seal the spore print; a paper print can be stored in a plastic baggie (remember to use clean tweezers to pick up the sheet) while a glass print can be covered by another glass plate and sealed in with duct tape.
Can i buy a mushroom growing kit
Many kits are available online and in supply garden supply stores; these kits include a container, substrate and spawn.
It can be easier for the first-time mushroom farmer to begin with a kit; however, some kits may have lower-quality spawn and therefore may not thrive.
Alternative mushroom compost
Recently, some growers have turned to used coffee grounds as a growth medium.
The grounds must be fresh, and it’s easiest to obtain them from a local café as you will need enough grounds for the amount of spawn you have on hand.
Each container should be large enough to hold 2.5 kg of grounds at two-thirds full.
After washing your hands and lower arms, distribute the spawn into the individual containers, the seal them – leaving 3-4 small holes for air circulation.
The spawn will develop into mycelium over the course of a few weeks.