If you've read my blog before, you know that I tend to be a do-it-yourself-er. This past spring, I wrote about foraging for mushrooms. While doing a little research, I got struck by a proverbial bolt of lightning (which in retrospect might have been my wife).
Why not just grow my own mushrooms?
The idea sparked a few weeks ago when we went to our local farmers' market, and I saw some beautiful Blue Oyster mushrooms. Without hesitation, I told the gentleman to pack them up for me. He stuck out his hand and said “That will be $10, please." I don’t think he could see it on my face, but in my head I was saying “Are you kidding me?!” After I paid the man, my wife gave me a look that said “Those better be some damn good mushrooms,” and I have to say, I was thinking the same thing. We went home and made a delicious meal with them, but I was still stuck on the $10. I am not a cheap-skate by any means, but I was shocked at that price tag. I mean how hard can it be to grow mushrooms? After doing a bit of research, I found out that it is not that hard at all… with the right mushrooms.
If you are thinking Morels, keep dreaming. Many a brave soul have tried to “grow” these lovelies in their backyards or small gardens with very little success. They need very specific conditions that are very hard to recreate and many years for the mycelium to develop. We’ll get to mycelium in a moment.
On the other hand, there are quite a few mushrooms, like Oyster mushrooms, that grow very well and easily in our climate. Not only that, there are several types! Blue ones, pearl ones, pink ones, silver ones, yellow ones, and the list goes on. So how does one grow these tasty woodland treats? It's all about the mycelium.
Mycelium are essentially the root system of the mushroom. Now for all of the fungi-files out there, I know that is not exactly what they are, but it is the easiest way to explain them. For the tech-ies, here you go:
Mycelium - Mass of branched, tubular filaments (hyphae) of fungi that penetrate soil, wood, and other organic matter. The mycelium makes up the thallus (undifferentiated body) of a typical fungus. The mass may be microscopic in size or developed into visible structures. The mycelium produces spores, directly or through special fruiting bodies.
Guess what those fruiting bodies are? Mushrooms. That’s right, what we know and love to eat is actually the “fruit” of the fungus, not the fungus itself. Weird, right? Well the reason that I go through all of this technical jargon is because you can purchase mycelium for a lot of your favorite mushrooms right over the interwebs (which in my mind look like mycelium), and of course, I did.
There are basically two types of mycelium, those that prefer wood and those that prefer soil. Some mycelium in the ground can be as large as a couple of square miles! For growing at home, I think the wood loving ones are a bit easier and less condition specific to grow. Oyster mushrooms grow best on wood, but not just a 2x4 that you picked up at the lumber yard. You need a tree stump or a log that was cut a few months ago. The mycelium that you get will come in the form of inoculated wooden dowel plugs. To “plant” them all you need to do is drill some holes in said stump about 3-4 inches apart, give them a bit of water and wait… a year.
We will see how it goes! I will give you an update next summer or maybe even sell you some $10 mushrooms.