Believe it or not, it is now possible to grow your own edible mushrooms quite easily at home. And, no, you don't need a dark, dank cellar to be successful!
How to grow mushrooms
Mushrooms are grown from spores, usually referred to as mushroom spawn. They need an organic substrate to grow on and there are a number of different ones that are suitable - including mushroom compost, horse manure and straw - depending on the types of mushrooms you want to grow and the growing system you want to use.
You can also buy pre-spawned mushroom plugs and dowels. All you need are some freshly cut logs, drill holes in them and push the plugs or dowels into the holes. Most growers prefer to use beech, birch or oak, but alder, aspen, hazel, maple, poplar and willow can also be used. Cropping usually starts after 4-10 months and should continue up to 5 times a year for up to 5 years.The suppliers will provide all the necessary growing instructions.
Without doubt, the easiest way to grow your own mushrooms is to use one of the pre-spawned mushroom growing kits, which are available from some of the major seed companies. There are even kits suitable for growing mushrooms on your windowsill.
Mushroom spawn, pre-spawned plugs and dowels and mushroom growing kits are available to grow the following types of mushrooms: white button, chestnut, brown cap or portobello, shitake, oyster, yellow oyster.
How to care for mushrooms
Mushrooms are best grown indoors, but can be cultivated outside – you can even add mushroom spawn to the soil under the lawn to make an edible lawn!
Most mushrooms grow best at an even temperature of about 15-16C (60-61F). They don’t grow well below 10C (50F) or above 20C (68F).
When using a mushroom kit, usually all you do is place the kit in a suitable place, keep it reasonably warm and add water. Place it somewhere out of direct sunlight and keep the substrate moist by daily misting.
The first crop should be ready to pick in a few weeks and you should get at least another 2 croppings after that.
Mushrooms are usually ready to harvest when the cap shape is perfectly formed. Don't harvest them all in one go – leave the smaller ones to grow on. But don't leave them too long or to grow massive, otherwise they will start to produce spores, by which time they will have gone past their best.
You can either harvest them by cutting with a knife, or by grabbing the mushroom at the base, and performing a twisting, counterclockwise motion. Pulling the mushroom straight out of the mycelium (the main white body of the mushroom) with too much force can damage the mycelium and reduce cropping.
Mushrooms may be susceptible to the following pests, diseases and problems.
Compost or sciarid flies