Introduction: Growing Mushrooms!

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Mushrooms are a pretty good source of protein and other nutrients, as well as being pretty tasty. I've chosen to grow shiitake and oyster since I like them best and they are also really different in terms of texture and taste, and prefer different types of growing media. However, there are tons of different types of mushrooms that can be cultivated, and many of them can be grown pretty easily using the same principles (be sure to check though on if the variety you want to grow does better in a particular growing media).

Different growing media can also be used, depending on the space that you have available and the variety of mushroom you select. Since I live in a one-bedroom in the city (which unfortunately lacks outdoor space), I don't have a ton of room to grow things (I do have a pretty nice little setup though). There are a ton of kits and things online that would allow for growing some delicious 'shroomies via (please note: I am totally not promoting any of the companies who's websites are linked below, it's just to show what I'm talking about):

1. Sawdust, corn, or woodchip filled bags
2. Sawdust, corn, or woodship filled boxes
3. Old logs (you can either get pre-inoculated (as shown here) or if you have the time (several months!) and space (lots of space!) and access to cherry or oak logs (I don't, unfortunately) you can inoculate your own logs with spores)
4. Various other media, including (as also shown here) a roll of toilet paper

Thanks so much to giardinaggioindoor for translating this to Italian!

Step 1: You'll Need. . .

I've opted for shiitake and oyster mushrooms, and I'll be growing them using two different growing media - shiitake with a pre-inoculated log (I'll run down how to inoculate your own though, in case someone is lucky enough to have the resources to do so), and oyster with a roll of toilet paper.

For Shiitake:
- a log inoculated with shiitake mushroom spores (I used a 6" one from here) - if you want to make your own logs, check out step two
- a large container for soaking
- a box to keep the log contained and moist, as well as a place to keep the box where it's cool and not too bright (step three explains how to construct a pretty simple plexiglass box, an aquarium could probably also be used)
- though not needed, a lazy Susan or other turntable is helpful for keeping the whole log moist
- a dish slightly larger than the diameter of the log
- a spray bottle
- lots of non-chlorinated water (kept cool) - I prefer to just get some of the big jugs from the grocery store

For Oyster:
- a roll of toilet paper
- a "tee pee kit" (contains oyster mushroom spores, bags, and rubber bands)
- a box to keep the roll contained and moist, as well as a place to keep the box where it's cool and not too bright
- though not needed, a lazy Susan or other turntable is helpful
- a dish slightly larger than the diameter of the roll
- a spray bottle filled with non-chlorinated water (kept cool)

Step 2: To Make Your Own Logs

If you happen to have some logs handy, and you want to make your own shiitake logs, here's how:
1. Obtain a log roughly a foot to 2 feet in length and at least 4 inches in diameter. For shiitake, oak, cherry, or other fruit woods and hardwoods are preferable. Though I haven't tried it, this might be a source for wood. Because mushroom spores are a little picky, you'll want the wood as freshly cut as possible.
2. You'll also need to get your hands on some mushroom plugs (see link in the intro) and some sealing wax (most people prefer cheese wax since it's easy to melt down).
3. Drill holes with a 5/16 bit about 2 inches deep and 4 inches apart. You can drill them in rows and columns, or in a spiral pattern, depending on your preference.
4. Push the plugs into the holes and gently tap them in with a hammer or rubber mallet (be careful not to damage the bark). Seal each with melted cheese wax (heated to about 145 degrees F).
5. Stand the log in a shaded area where it won't get too hot or get too much sun - it's best if the log can be outdoors.
6. Water the log regularly (at least every 2 weeks) in order to keep it damp. Make sure to use only non-chlorinated water.
7. Repeat for 6 months to a year. Eventually your log will start to sprout some 'shroomies!

note: the images in this step are from and are used only to help illustrate how to inoculate a log with shiitake plugs.

Step 3: Plexi-Boxing

To make a nifty plexiglass box for your mushrooms to grow in, you'll need:
  • - 1/8 inch thick plexiglass cut into six pieces in order make a box which will fit around your growing media (I was able to get some cut for me at the hardware store - the pieces used here are: 2@12"x10", 2@10"x19", and 2@12"x19").
  • - 2 hinges (the ones I used are 2"x1 3/16" solid brass butt hinges and have 3 holes in each)
  • - 26 small screws (round head, slotted #10-24 x 3/8" used here)
  • - 26 nuts or nut caps (#10-24 nut caps used here)
  • -10 L-brackets (1" are used here - 2 on either side of the back piece, 1 on each of the others, and one on each side of the left and right ends)
  • - Some epoxy or other adhesive (I used marine adhesive) - I also used a neat little corner edging tool, but you don't really need it
  • - A dremel or drill

Once you've got all that on hand, you'll just need to:
  1. Lay out your pieces and decide which will be the front and which will be the top
  2. Mark and drill holes for the hinges on both the front and the top. Making a hinged portion will allow for easier access to water the mushrooms, while still keeping them enclosed to prevent moisture loss.
  3. Mark and drill holes for the L-brackets.
  4. Assemble the box by affixing the pieces to one another with the L-brackets.
  5. Apply the glue/epoxy to the inside of the seams of the box and smooth it down.
  6. Screw the hinges onto the top and front pieces to affix the front of your fully formed box
  7. Find a dark and cool (dim and cool also works, but try not to have it too cold) area to house the box and get to growing your mushrooms!

Step 4: Shiitake Mushrooms (Pre-inoculated Log As Growing Media)

According to the directions that accompany the pre-inoculated shiitake log, you'll need:
  • - the log
  • - a container large enough that the log can completely fit inside
  • - enough cold, non-chlorinated water and ice made with non-chlorinated water to cover the log
  • - that other stuff mentioned in step one

note: the stuff you would need if you inoculated your own logs is basically the same, as are the steps.

Preparing the log and growing 'shroomies:
  1. Place your log into the container and enough non-chlorinated ice and water to cover it. Pop it in the fridge for at least 12 hours. Because it's wood, it'll likely float so it's a good idea to put something heavy over top in order to keep it submerged.
  2. After the log has soaked in cool water, place it on the dish and in the box. You'll want to put the box somewhere cool where it will be exposed to only indirect light.
  3. Within 6-10 days, small buds or "pins" will form. Make sure to keep the log moist during this time and once the mushrooms begin to get larger. It helps to keep a spray bottle of non-chlorinated water in the fridge to mist the log if it starts to look dry at all.
  4. Harvest your shiitake mushrooms once they're about 2-4 inches in diameter by cutting them at the base.
  5. After harvesting, you can shock your log again in non-chlorinated ice water for 12 hours and repeating steps 2-4 again.

Step 5: Oyster Mushrooms (Toilet Paper As Growing Media)

According to the directions that accompany the "TeePee Oyster Kit" you'll need:
  • - the spores, bags, and rubber bands that come in the kit
  • - a roll of toilet paper (preferably without any inks or dyes involved)
  • - a large pot to boil water in
  • - kitchen tongs
  • - a cooling rack or other surface to allow the roll to cool and drain slightly
  • - that other stuff mentioned in step one

note: the kit comes with enough bags and spores for 15 rolls. This seems like a bit much to me, so I'll only be inoculating one roll at a time.

Preparing the roll and growing 'shroomies:
  1. Fill the pot with water and bring it to a boil.
  2. Remove the cardboard tube from the center of the roll. This will help to speed up the inoculation of the spores.
  3. Once the water is boiling, remove the pot from the heat and dip the roll into the water, holding it with the tongs - you'll want it to get fully saturated.
  4. Remove the roll from the water and place them on the rack or other surface to cool slightly and drain a bit.
  5. When steam no longer rises, with clean hands, feel the inside the center of the roll. If it is not too hot to the touch, transfer the roll to the plastic bag that came with the kit.
  6. Pour enough of the provided oyster mushroom spores into the center of the roll to fill it.
  7. Close the bag around the roll and seal with the rubber band, making sure that the closure is above the filter patch.
  8. Place the bagged roll on the dish and into the prepared plexiglass box. Put the box in a cool (65-75 degrees F), dim/dark area - this mimics the conditions under the bark of trees where oyster mushrooms usually grow.
  9. Within three weeks, the roll will be covered in white mushroom mycelium. At this point, you can let them sit a bit longer, or put the bagged, incubated roll into the fridge for 48 hours to stimulate the fugus to fruit. If you've inoculated extra rolls that you don't want to fruit yet, you can keep them in the fridge at this point for up to 6 months.
  10. Remove the rolls from the fridge and place in a well lit area at room temperature. Take the rubber band off of the bag and fluff the bag to increase airflow.
  11. Within a week, mushrooms should be growing from the roll and may be ready for harvesting. To harvest them, either grab and twist or cut them at the base.If the roll starts to seem dried out, mist it with non-chlorinated water to dampen it.
  12. After harvesting, you can close the bag and place it in the dark again and repeat 9-12 until the roll won't fruit again.

Step 6: And Now, We Wait. . .(with Updates!)

Since it might take a bit for the mushrooms to fruit, I've added a few pictures (from my phone, sorry!) from a similar setup I had about a year ago in another small apartment. As these grow, I'll add more pictures. If you decide to give it a shot, please feel free to post your own images too!

June 24th - Mini-Update: The third and fourth pictures show the progress of the process after just a week. Pins have started forming on the log (after being misted daily), and the top of the roll of toilet paper has covered over with mycelium (it's now in the fridge for 48 hours to induce fruiting).

Step 7: Updates!

July 4th -
The pins on the shiitake log have continued to grow (slowly, but they are growing) and there are a few more than there were previously - no full-blown mushrooms though. . .yet. Since the plexi box is under a table in my living room, I've kept a towel over it. In addition to blocking out a lot of light, this seems to help keep the inside of the box a little warmer (but just slightly) than the rest of the room.

The oyster roll just didn't seem ready to fruit so I sealed the bag again to encourage the spreading of more mycelium (it kind of looks like the startings of mold, but I promise it isn't). It's now totally coated (before was just the top - I think I rushed to chill it too soon) and back in the fridge for a few days to encourage fruiting. Hopefully it will be able to stay moist this time, since drying out seemed to be a major issue.

July 15 -
The pins on the log continue to grow. . .very, very, very slowly. However, the oyster roll has sprouted it's first full-blown shroomies (see the fourth picture)!

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