Growing gourmet and medicinal mushrooms indoors is a fast-growing hobby. A colleague used to grow them in her bathtub.
The North American Mycological Association (NAMA) says, “You too can grow mushrooms at home. It’s easier than you think!” It recommends beginner growers buy a “mushroom cultivation kit.” A kit comes with spawn — the “seed” for new mushrooms and a sterilized growing medium called a substrate.
NAMA recommends the oyster, shiitake or maitake mushrooms for indoor growing. Although the kits do come with substrate, oyster mushrooms will grow on straw, corncobs, sawdust, newspaper, cardboard and even on rolls of toilet paper.
Fungi Perfecti, a supplier of mushroom growing supplies, rates its mushrooms for ease of growing with one diamond for the easiest to five diamonds for hardest. Oysters rate one diamond. Shiitake, which are grown indoors on hardwood sawdust blocks, rate two diamonds. Maitake, also grown indoors on sawdust, rate four diamonds.
After deciding which mushrooms to cultivate, obtain the spawn from a supplier. While growing your own spawn successfully is possible, it is difficult because it requires a pressure cooker and a sterile workplace to create a clean spore print, probably a bit much for a beginner. Once the spawn arrives, follow the growing directions carefully. Mushroom spawn is alive; and it should be started soon after arrival. Following watering instructions is equally important.
Mushrooms require high humidity of 80 to 90 percent. Oyster and shiitake mushrooms have both cold and warm weather strains, so temperature requirements vary. Good air circulation is necessary as is keeping carbon dioxide levels low. Indirect sunlight works best for most species.
At The Greenhouse Project, they grow oyster mushrooms under the benches in plastic bags of moist straw cut with air holes. The growing area is then enclosed with clear plastic sheeting, which maintains humidity, but also lets in light. Initially, the bags are misted several times daily to start the growing process. When the mushrooms appear, the bags are watered daily.
You can make a greenhouse-type environment perfect for mushrooms in different ways: a cart covered with clear plastic to hold a few bags of spawn; a clear plastic bag over an individual mushroom ‘patch’; an entire room or house for the mushrooms; or grow them in clear plastic containers with lids and sides vented with air holes.
Be adventurous. Try growing your own mushrooms. Check out the NAMA website for additional information — http://www.namyco.org/.
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at email@example.com or 887-2252.