There's a Fungus Among Us - Growing Your Own Gourmet Mushrooms
Want fresh, beautiful flavor-filled mushrooms? Grow them yourself
Mushrooms are something we are always told to be careful about. Foraging in the wild can yield amazing variety and amazing flavors. My grandparents in the North Carolina mountains outside Asheville used to take us on walks through the forest to collect them. Like most things when they are fresh, the flavors don't compare at all to something picked, packaged, shipped and sold at a store. That said...BEWARE!
Just as great a find a wild edible mushroom can be, picking and ingesting the wrong one can be highly dangerous.
For that reason most of us won't venture into the woods to pick our own without the guidance of an expert. But if you want fresh gourment mushrooms that you can grow yourself and pick and eat fresh, there are many options - and it isn't as hard as growing so many other garden options. It's actually easy once you get started. They take care of themselves for the most part and need very little of our interaction or help.
Mushrooms can grown in a variety of mediums. Logs, wood chips, hay or wheatgrass or coffee grounds to name a few. You can buy kits of all types, you can buy spores or starter tissue and create your own medium or substrate, or, like we did in a couple cases, buy an innoculated log from a local grower.
We tried a kit we ordered from online. The mushrooms grew in sawdust packed tightly in a plastic bag (photo below) with oyster mushroom spawn. It was great and grew mushrooms quickly, but once it was done after a couple of weeks it was done. We tried taking the remaining contents of the bag to create a new one with coffee grounds. It didn't work and ended up developing mold. I've been told by many others that the process isn't difficult, and we only gave it one shot, so if you are so inclined try it - it might work better for you!
What we have done, and it's worked well, was purchasing pre-innoculated logs from a local source (check Microfarm Organics to order or purchase - they're local). Right now we have a few logs out in the back - we've hung a few in the branches of trees and shrubs in our landscaping. They don't like direct sunlight and they like to be kept from drying out completely. If they do dry out, or if temps get really low, the mushrooms simply go dormant - we are essentially keeping them in what is their natural environment so they can handle our weather overall.
A couple of the logs we purchased have not produced mushrooms yet. This is normal. Another we bought began producing beautiful shittake mushrooms within 2 months. Each one is different, and even two years before producing isn't abnormal. Some logs can also produce for 1, 2 even 3 years.
We also discovered that bringing in any of them as they are dormant during the winter, and keeping them inside for a week or so, may trigger them to produce (the heat within the house) so from time-to-time we'll bring one in for a mid-winter fresh feast.
Below: Shittake mushrooms growing on a log we purchased from a local supplier who sells at the Atherton Farmers Market - he normally just sells the mushrooms themselves, but one day last fall was selling these - I think the log was $10 or $15.
Above: Oyster mushrooms from a kit we bought online. They produced this amount (and it grew a bit larger) twice
Below: Oyster mushrooms growing on a large log in our side yard