Growing mushrooms indoors at home is incredibly easy. They don’t need much light, which is perfect for winter when the days are short. Some of the most delicious mushrooms grow on scrap wood chips or saw dust, including oyster and shitake. There are lots of online growers that supply everything needed to grow your own, and I couldn’t wait to try them.
Using a Grow Kit
I started with shiitake and cinnamon cap mushroom grow kits from Cascadia Mushrooms and Sno-Valley Mushrooms. They send a brick of developed mycelium, a network of white filaments growing in a substrate. It is a living organism that is ready to grow. I covered it loosely with a plastic bag and misted a few times a day. It takes just a couple of days for shiitake mushrooms to start to appear, about 7-10 days for cinnamon cap. Within a week, the mature mushrooms are ready to harvest. At final count, each of the kits produced about one pound of mushrooms. The cost of the kit is more than what you would pay for shiitake mushrooms in the grocery store, so this is for fun, not for saving money.
Starting My Own Mushroom Kit
The premade mushroom kits I purchased contain mushroom spawn, sawdust, a bit of food source and water. Seems pretty straightforward, so could I make a kit myself? Turns out that developing mushroom spawn takes some care and time. First, mushroom spores are carefully collected from fresh mushrooms. Then fungi develop into spawn when combined with a grain base. The challenging part is that the growth must take place in a completely sterile environment so that the spawn isn’t contaminated with bacteria or other fungi. To have a healthy spawn, jars must be boiled and the substrate must be pasteurized.
Instead of making my own spawn, I made my own oyster mushroom kit with premade spawn, thanks to the Puget Sound Mycological Society. You can find them at their annual Wild Mushroom Show or at one of their many classes. They supplied the already developed grain spawn, alfalfa pellets (which are optional, providing an additional nutrition source for growth), and cat litter, specifically Purina’s Yesterday’s News unscented. Cat litter, really? This particular brand contains recycled newspapers, which is a source of woody fiber that these particular mushrooms like. The fiber has been sterilized in its manufacturing process, and the company declares that there are no toxic chemicals. Since mushrooms absorb toxic chemicals, it is vital that the substrate that it grows in is non-toxic.
Instructions for DIY Mushroom Kit
- 4 cups declorinated water (tap water that sits out overnight will do)
- 4 cups cat litter
- 2/3 cup alfalfa pellets
- 2/3 cup oyster mushroom spawn
Mix it all up and put into a plastic bag. Cut a few slits into the sides of the bag and let it sit for several days in a dark place, until the bag has been fully populated by white mycelium. Then put it in a well-lit place outside of direct sunlight, mist it a couple times every day, and watch it grow. The first growth will be small “pin heads.” After the first harvest, the bag can rest for a few weeks then restart for another mushroom flush.
For more ideas on how to do home grown mushrooms in coffee grounds, GroCycle has a great video here.
The life of mushrooms is fascinating and complex. Growing my own mushroom farm is fun; discovering wild chanterelles and other mushrooms in their native forest is like finding hidden treasure. A great resource for mushroom hunting and identification of Pacific Northwest mushrooms, the Puget Sound Mycological Society has classes and identification sessions to get you off to a good start. Happy mushrooming!