This month we are delighted to welcome guest writer Richard Clayton, who says, “I’m an owner of a small gardening shop. I love gardening, especially lawn care. I spend all of my free time taking care of my lawn and discuss lawn care experiences with my friends, who have the same hobby as I. My website (mygreenerylife.com) is a playground for us, where we talk everything about lawn care techniques.” In this blog post, he shares how to grow your own delicious mushrooms at home—a surprisingly easy project that yields huge quantities of a tasty food that is otherwise high-priced in stores.
Useful Tips for Growing Oyster Mushrooms at Home
Mushrooms can be beneficial to health, potentially reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer because of their high levels of antioxidants and vitamin D. Although some people see them as a kind of vegetable, the fact that they’re rich in protein and have a firm, substantial texture makes them a good meat substitute for vegetarians or those who follow a low-meat diet. Out of all the different types of fungi, oyster mushrooms are especially abundant in potassium, iron, and protein. You can easily grow this type of mushroom at home, since they do not require a large space, expensive equipment, or much experience on your part to thrive. Just follow the tips below to produce your own oyster mushrooms for your family to enjoy.
STEP 1: Preparation of the Materials
You need to prepare a few things for your first oyster mushroom growing trial:
- Straw: This can be pea, rice, or wheat straw.
- Plastic bags: These are used for packing the straw into. Your bag size will depend on how many mushrooms you’d like to grow in a single bag, as well as the room you have in your growing area.
- Spawn: These are the mushroom “seeds.” You’ll find them from either local suppliers or online stores.
- Water sprayer bottle: This will be used to maintain the humidity of the air around the mushrooms and to keep the bags moist.
- Growing space: It should be a clean area that can maintain a certain level of moisture and with a low level of light. If you’re growing outdoors in a greenhouse space and the grass is high in this area, you should cut it down carefully with a mower. This will help cut down the incidence of lawn pests.
Before you start any of the mushroom growing steps, make sure you have thoroughly cleaned up your growing area because proper hygiene is the key to success. Otherwise, you could be growing diseases or bad fungi rather than your oyster mushrooms!
STEP 2: Pasteurizing the Straw
Pasteurization is the process of reducing harmful microorganisms while leaving beneficial bacteria alive to nurture the mushroom growth. There are several pasteurizing methods, such as steam heat, dry heat, or the addition of chemicals. But the commonest and easiest way is to do a water bath. Cut the straw into lengths between 2 and 4 inches, fill a large cooking pot with water, heat it on the stove until the water reaches between 70 and 75°C (158 to 167°F), and submerge the straw in the water for about an hour. Ensure that you maintain the water temperature while soaking the straw. After the time is up, take the straw out, let it drain, and cool it down to room temperature before bagging it.
STEP 3: Bagging and Inoculating
The main thing here is to ensure proper hygiene. Wash your hands or wear sterile gloves. Make sure anything touching the bag, straw, or spawn has been sterilized, or else contamination may occur and you’ll ruin your mushroom growth. The pasteurized straw should still be moist enough for bagging. Pack the bags pretty tightly with the pasteurized straw, then spread the spawn throughout the bags and mix it up. (More spawn in the bags means quicker colonization; as a rule of thumb, 1 liter of spawn can be used for 10 bags.) Close the neck of the bag with a rubber band, and jab some holes along the sides of the bags to allow for air circulation. Next, you need a growing room for those spawn-inoculated bags.
STEP 4: Colony Nurturing
The inoculated bags should be placed in a clean room with no direct sunlight. It should be a shaded space that can maintain humidity levels and allow proper airflow. Seal any holes on the walls, ceiling, doors, and windows in your growing room with plastic sheets to prevent insects from invading. Depending on the type of oyster mushroom you are growing, the temperature should be adjusted accordingly. The winter oyster mushroom strain (Pleurotus ostreatus) develops well in temperatures between 10 and 24°C (50 to 75°F), while the summer strain (Pleurotus pulmonarius) grows best between 10 and 30°C (50 to 86°F). With appropriate humidity, temperature, and air ventilation, it may take from 1 to 3 weeks for the spawn to fully colonize the bags. Check the bags regularly for any abnormal growth; if any bags are infected with other fungi or mold, you’ll need to remove them to prevent contamination spreading to the healthy ones.
STEP 5: Encourage Mushroom Formation
Once the mycelia (the vegetative parts of the fungus, characterized by multitudes of fine white threads) have colonized the bags, the very first mushrooms will start to form. You’ll need to make some larger holes along the bags for the mushrooms to grow out of. Low light and high humidity (95 to 100 percent) are crucial for their growth, so, if necessary, spray water onto the bags to keep them moist. Temperature is also important, and it varies for each type of mushroom you can grow. After 1 or 2 weeks, you should see fully developed oyster mushrooms of a good shape and size.
STEP 6: Harvesting
From 3 to 5 days after you have noticed the first mushrooms starting to form, they should be ready for harvesting. The best time to harvest is when the mushroom caps are still slightly curled under. Ones with caps that have opened flat should be harvested as soon as possible. You can twist the mushroom cluster to break it off, or use a sharp, clean knife to cut whole bundles off at the base. Be careful not to tear the bags because you may harm the mycelia, which will still be growing and will produce the next flush. Harvest the first mushrooms and keep maintaining ideal moisture, temperature, and airflow for the second, third, fourth, or fifth crops, which will occur approximately every 2 or 3 weeks. Keep in mind that later crops will not be as productive as the first ones.
The bags should smell of straw. When (or if) any mushrooms start to decompose, they will have the smell of rotten meat. Eventually when the straw wears out and stops fruiting, it can be used as compost for gardening.
You may find that oyster mushrooms taste even better after putting in the time and effort into growing your own. It’s worth trying and you should get good results if you follow the cultivation tips above. Don’t worry if you’re not successful the first time. Trial and error will bring you valuable experience, and one day you’ll be able to enjoy the oyster mushrooms that you have grown yourself. Just give it a try!
Bet you’re hungry now … time to go make some Basmati Rice with Mushrooms, Broccoli, and Onion!