NGA Articles: Grow Your Own Gourmet Mushrooms

Grow Your Own Gourmet Mushrooms (cont)

By: Charlie Nardozzi

Choose Your Fungus

The most widely available and easiest-to-grow mushrooms include white button, crimini, portabello, lion's mane, shiitake, and oyster. The simplest kits consist of a bag of sawdust or grain straw already inoculated with spawn. Kits come with full instructions, and for most all you need to do is open the bag, keep it at room temperature in a bright place but out of direct sunlight, and mist daily to keep humidity high. Some kits even provide plastic tents for humidity control.

Most kits start fruiting within 7 to 10 days. You can expect to harvest a total of 1 to 2 pounds of mushrooms from two or three flushes of growth over one to three months. You can store most kinds of harvested mushrooms in paper bags in the refrigerator for five to seven days. When fruiting is finished and it's springtime, bury the kit in bark mulch or your compost pile, and fruiting may continue as weather permits.

Here are brief descriptions of the most popular types of mushrooms you can grow at home.

White button, crimini, and portabello (Agaricus bisporus). These mushrooms are strains of the same species. One- to two-inch-wide white buttons are the most popular and widely available mushrooms worldwide. Crimini, a brown button mushroom strain, are similar except for the color and a more pronounced flavor. The most impressive of this group are portabellos, which produce 6-inch-diameter or larger brown caps with a tender, meatlike texture and woodsy flavor. Portabello mushrooms keep somewhat longer than other mushrooms: 7 to 10 days. Growing these mushrooms requires a few extra steps including mixing the spawn with compost in a cardboard box and waiting one to three weeks for the mycelia to run before mushrooms begin to form. Although this type of kit is more work, yields are higher: 3 to 6 pounds in three or four flushes of growth over three months.

Lion's mane (Hericium erinaceus). These pure white mushrooms consist of multiple strands clumped in a round form, sometimes 6 or more inches in diameter. They have a firm texture and a flavor similar to that of crab or lobster. Growth is a little slower, and fruiting is best at room temperature.

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes). Thick, meaty-textured shiitakes are considered "king of the mushrooms." These 3- to 4-inch-diameter brown mushrooms with white flecks are highly esteemed fresh and dried for cooking and for their medicinal properties. Researchers have found that they reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, stimulate the immune system, and have anti-tumor properties; they are also being used in AIDS research. Kits fruit easily indoors over a wide temperature range (55&deg F to 75&deg F), producing 2 to 3 pounds of fruits total over two to three months at two-week intervals. They store for up to 14 days.

Oyster (Pleurotus). These popular mushrooms are so named because their taste and texture somewhat resemble oysters. All kinds like high humidity and need to be misted two or three times a day for best fruiting. The blue dolphin (P. ostreatus) has a distinctive pewter coloring and fruits best below 65&deg F. Golden oyster (P. cornucopiae) has luminous yellow fruits that are most intensely colored when grown in bright light. The fedora or white oyster (P. ostreatus) is the easiest and fastest of all oysters to grow, fruiting over a wide temperature range (55&deg F to 75&deg F) and producing mild-flavored white fruits.

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