There are many types of culinary mushrooms you can grow, such as shiitake, oyster, lion's mane, and white button mushrooms. Today, I will outline a basic process using oyster mushrooms as an example, as they are quite beginner-friendly.

Materials Needed

To get started, you will need the following materials:

  • Oyster mushroom spawn: This is the mycelium of the mushroom, similar to the root system of a plant. You can buy this online or at a garden center.
  • A growing medium: This is what your mushrooms will grow in. Oyster mushrooms prefer straw or coffee grounds, but you can also buy specialized mushroom compost.
  • Containers or bags: You can use anything from a plastic bucket to a grow bag. Just ensure that it's clean and has a way for gas exchange.
  • Spray bottle for misting
  • A non-transparent bag or cover to block light and retain humidity

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Prepare Your Growing Medium

If you're using straw, you'll want to pasteurize it to kill any competing organisms. Do this by submerging the straw in hot water (around 70°C or 160°F) for about an hour. If you're using coffee grounds, they are already pasteurized from the brewing process.

Step 2: Inoculate the Growing Medium with Spawn

After your growing medium has cooled, mix in your mushroom spawn. You should aim for a spawn to substrate ratio of about 1:10. Make sure to mix thoroughly so the spawn is distributed throughout the medium. This will help the mycelium grow faster.

Step 3: Place the Substrate and Spawn Mix in Your Container

Put your substrate and spawn mix into your chosen container. Don't pack it in too tightly; you want it to be airy enough for the mycelium to grow.

Step 4: Incubation

Cover your container with a non-transparent bag or place it in a dark place. This is the incubation phase, where the mycelium will grow and fully colonize the substrate. This process usually takes 2-4 weeks. Maintain a temperature around 20-24°C (68-75°F). Keep the substrate humid by misting it regularly but avoid making it soggy.

Step 5: Fruiting

Once the substrate is fully colonized, it will appear white and fluffy. Now, it's time to stimulate fruiting. Move your container to an area with fresh air, indirect sunlight or fluorescent light, and a temperature slightly lower than the incubation period, around 15-20°C (60-68°F). Keep misting the substrate to maintain humidity. If you live in an area with high humidity you may not need to mist at all. You should start to see mushroom primordia (baby mushrooms) forming within a week or so.

Step 6: Harvest

When the edges of the mushroom caps begin to turn upwards, they're ready to harvest. Simply twist and pull them off gently. Don't wait too long, or the mushrooms will begin to drop spores, which can create a mess and potentially affect future yields.

After the first harvest, continue misting and another flush of mushrooms will likely grow. You can typically get 2-3 flushes from each batch before you'll need to start again with fresh substrate and spawn. Look closely for gray mold on your 2nd and 3rd flush. The mycelium will begin to weaken and other competing molds can start to become present. It is important not to eat or breathe in mold spores as they can be harmful to your health.

Remember, cleanliness is very important at all stages of the process to avoid contamination from competing organisms. Good luck with your mushroom growing project!