I am in no way an expert at anything, but this may be one of the most fun things to learn about! The world of mycology is going to save us one day, you heard it hear for the millionth time folks! It’s no secret that the health benefits associated with mushrooms is endless and critical to healing different ailments. It is also no secret that they are the very purpose of everything with their underground world both in death and life. For me they have become a great inspiration to use in craft! We will go into that as well. But for now, let’s grow some mushrooms!
What you will need:
-1 5 gallon plastic bucket with lid (that can be reused again and we all probably have laying around)
-a vessel you can boil water in
- straw or wood chips
-a power drill with a 1/4” bit
-large plastic tote
-oyster mushroom *grain* spawn (I love the grain spawn from north spore mushrooms and Farwest fungi and will out links to both below!)
north spore grain spawn: https://northspore.com/collections/grain-spawn/products/pink-oyster-mushroom-grain-spawn
far west fungi grain spawn: https://www.farwestfungi.com/collections/farm-cultivation-products/products/mushroom-spawn?variant=33359484682371
not necessarily a must, but also a humidifier!
making your growing vessel
Okay now that you have all your materials, it’s time to create the farm vessel for your mushrooms to colonize and fruit in! That is the plastic 5 gallon bucket! We are going to drill holes into the bucket (I like 3 holes spaced vertically and about every 4-5 inches apart). I think it’s important to drill these in a cardboard box, or somewhere that plastic parts aren’t going to get into the grass or outside to blow away. A box keeps them tidy so you can dispose of them safely. You will want to drill holes in the bottom for drainage as well as the top for more oxygen to get into the fruiting chamber. Ooooo so fancy!
Once my growing vessel has its holes, its time to sanitize that baby! I like to pour boiling water into the container to seep through the holes, get all around and kill any bacteria that could compete with your mushrooms, the idea is to make the perfect growing environment for your mushrooms, but ya know? If I’m honest... I wasn’t that sanitary ever! I don’t wear gloves or a hazmat suit or spray everything down. Just some good ole boiling water and a relatively clean starting area. I usually pour boiling water into the bucket in my shower so that the water can drain out easily.
preparing your straw or wood chips
this is where your large tote comes in handy! I like to fill an old pillow case with straw and tie a knot at the top and put it in the tote. From here I use our smeg hot water heater and boil several containers of hot water and pour it over the pillow case until the entire pillow case is submerged. You want to pasteurize the straw or wood chips to kill off any bacteria and seeds to give the mushrooms a fighting chance at growth without having to compete with anything else! I let the water sit with the straw until it cools to room temperature and you want to do this and not move forward until it is cool so that you don’t also kill your spawn from too hot of water. Once two hours have gone by, I take the entire tote into the bathroom and line the tote up right with the bath tub. The pillow case will be fairly heavy from so much water, so lift with those knees and not your back y’all! Lift the pillow case out of the tote and into the tub let it rest in your bathtub until a significant amount of water has drained. From here, I open up the pillow case and bring the 5 gallon bucket and my bag of grain spawn into the bathroom and slowly begin filling my bucket! Your ratio of grain spawn to straw should be a minimum of 10%, but I use my entire bag of grain spawn for one bucket and let them fruit several times! You will want to start with a layer of straw, then layer in grain spawn, straw, grain spawn, straw all the way to the top of the bucket! Once it is filled, put your lid on and forget about it! In 7-14 days you should have mushroom growth and celebrate your victory! I like to keep my mushrooms in our bathroom with a humidifier going and the door shut to keep a consistent humidity and warmer temperature. Pink oysters like warmth and humidity so if you don’t have a humidifier, spritz them daily (but don’t oversoak, just a light mist) so they don’t dry out along the way.
when to harvest and how to dry
harvesting your mushrooms is so satisfying. All that work paid off! To harvest, simply grab the entire fruited body and lightly pull and twist, or take a knife and lightly cut them off. To dry pink oyster mushrooms, I simply lay them in a sunny windowsill and let the sun dry them over a few days! If you don’t want to use them for art, they are edible and delicious and should be eaten with 2 days of harvest! Usually after a first harvest, the spawn will rest and in about 2-4 weeks you may begin seeing a new flush of mushrooms fruiting! Once they have fruited and I know I will not get anymore activity, I take the spent straw and pour it into the garden! Who knows? Maybe you will get some outdoor mushrooms too!
in a healthy growing vessel, there should not be any foul odors or dark coloration. The straw will start to look like it has spider webs all over it which is the mushrooms colonizing the straw and means you’re on the right path. If you start to see green mold or smell something off, you will want to start again and get rid of that batch, as those are bad molds. All lessons we learn along our mycology journeys!
once your bucket is emptied I will scrub it out with a vinegar solution and set it to the side to be ready for the next growing time!
other options for growing: both north spore and far west fungi make smaller farm kits if a 5 gallon bucket isn’t ideal! They’re colonized spawn that fit on a countertop and can be a great way to start just to get a feel for the growing cycle and what to expect! They also offer a variety of mushroom options from pink oyster, shiitake, lions mane and more!