Recycle Paper Into Edible Gourmet Mushrooms




Introduction: Recycle Paper Into Edible Gourmet Mushrooms

Want an easy way to recycle those boxes and papers while growing something delicious? Mushrooms are a great thing to grow, you can grow them anywhere in the world, you don't need a lot of space or supplies, just a little know how.

Mushrooms contain virtually no fat, sugar or salt and are a valuable source of dietary fiber as well as the five B vitamins, vitamin D, essential minerals and protein. Different types of mushrooms have different types of health benefits, most help boost your immune system and some can even help reduce tumors, heart disease and the effects of memory problems.

Mushroom grows from mycelium, which is like the root and body, and fruits through mushrooms which are both nutritious and delicious!

You can easily grow pounds of mushrooms for little to no cost once you make your initial purchase of spawn. Fair warning though, once you start growing mushrooms you won't stop with just one container or even just one type of mushroom!

Step 1: Gather Materials for a Great Mushroom Experiment!

To grow some really great mushrooms right at home you will need:

1. Cardboard boxes (preferably) or paper -must be clean, you don't want cardboard that has been wet or is obviously dirty or moldy.

2. Empty and clean yogurt container or other type of container with a lid

3. Container/pot/bowl to soak material in

4. Isopropal alcohol, rubber gloves (optional)

5.Clean heavy coffee cup or other weight

6. Oyster Mushroom grain spawn

7. Misting spray bottle

About using mushroom spawn- spawn is like the mushroom seed, it is live growing mycelium on a substrate (usually grain or sawdust). You can buy it online from a source like Fungi Perfecti or Field and Forest, or you can try to find a local mushroom grower and see if you could get spawn from them. Either grain spawn or sawdust spawn could be used for this project but I prefer grain spawn.

After buying your spawn the first time you could actually expand the spawn using cardboard and then use that on future grow projects instead of buying more grain spawn.

Step 2: Prepare Your Cardboard and Soak.

Take your clean cardboard and peel off any tape or stickers.

Take your container or what ever you have handy and make sure it is very clean. At this point if you wanted you could splash some isopropal alcohol around the container to make sure it is clean and then let it dry. That just makes sure that you are starting with a completely clean container. If your container isn't clean enough you could be inoculating your cardboard with mold or other contaminants which will kill your mushrooms.

Fill your container with clean water, temperature does not matter.

Tear your cardboard into pieces small enough to fit in your container. Size doesn't matter, you just need to make sure it is in the water.

After all your cardboard is in the water, place a clean weight, like a coffee cup, on top of cardboard to keep it submerged in the water.

Let cardboard soak for a few hours or until it is soaked all the way through.

Step 3: Pack Your Container Aka Plant Your Mushrooms!

Prepare the container that you plan to use for your mushrooms. Make sure it is CLEAN, if your container is not clean you will be growing mold not mushrooms. You can use some isopropal alcohol in your container if you are worried about it not being clean enough.

For this step you need your container, your prepared (soaked) cardboard, your spawn, a clean work surface and gloves. It is a good idea to wear gloves while packing the cardboard and especially when touching the spawn.

When you have everything together prepare your spawn. Shake your bag of spawn and massage it to break it up if it is holding together as a block. Open the bag, it should have a pleasant, slightly sweet smell. If it smells like mold do not use it, you will just be growing mold.

Pour a small amount of spawn out onto your clean surface or into a clean bowl, if you keep reaching in and out of the bag you could contaminate the rest of the bag of spawn. You should wear gloves when handling spawn to reduce the possibility of contamination or make sure your hands are really clean.

Tear or crumple some of your soaked cardboard into a piece that will fit in the bottom of your container. Squeeze excess water out of the cardboard, you want it damp all the way through but not dripping wet. Place a layer of cardboard in your container, pressing down to mold it in and not leaving any air pockets. The layer should be around a half an inch deep.

Now sprinkle some spawn on the cardboard, spreading it evenly. You don't need a whole lot of spawn, I probably use more than I have to.

Repeat until you get to the top of your container, packing down to minimize air pockets. Your top layer should be cardboard and you want to be able to put your lid on.

Step 4: Wait!!

Keep your container out of direct sunlight and let it sit for a few weeks. You don't want the container to get too cold or too hot, keep in mind the optimum growing temps for the type of oyster mushroom you are growing.

You can check the progress of the mycelium by opening the lid of the container and looking at the cardboard. Look, don't touch! Disturbing the mycelium could slow the growth and introduce contaminants to your container.

If you open the container and there is a strong mold smell throw it out! You have too much contamination :( try again and pay attention to cleanliness when preparing your new container.

After about a month your should see white fuzzy mycelium growing on top when you open the container and you should be able to smell a pleasant sweet smell.

You want to wait until the mycelium has completely grown over the substrate (cardboard).

Step 5: Force Fruiting Your Container

Once the mycelium has fully colonized your container it is ready to fruit (meaning grow mushrooms).

To help tell your mycelium that it is time to make mushrooms you need to first make holes in your container for mushrooms to grow through. Use a sharp knife to carefully poke a hole into your container, try not to disturb the mycelium behind the plastic as much as possible. Cut out a hole in the plastic; a hole the size of a fingernail works. Do this a few times around the container. I do four or five holes.

Once you have your holes cut submerge the whole container in cool water for a couple of hours. Do not use hot water or freezing cold water because that could hurt your mycelium.

Step 6: Wait! (again)

After soaking, take out of water and let drain a little bit. Again, keep out of direct sunlight and in a comfortable temperature.

Use a spray bottle to keep the holes moist. You can use a plastic baggie over the top of the container to keep the container from drying out if it seems like it's needed. Keep in mind that mushrooms and mycelium breathe oxygen and let off carbon dioxide and need fresh air if kept in a closed area.

You should start to see little bumps that turn into knobs growing out of the holes. These are called pins and are baby mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms grow in clusters so there will be a lot of pins in one spot. As these grow, keep them moist with the spray bottle and make sure they have fresh oxygen if keeping them under some type of humidity tent.

Step 7: Harvest!

The wait is over, your mushrooms have grown!

Harvest mushrooms while the cap part is still concave, oyster mushrooms can take about 5 days to mature. You can harvest your grown mushrooms with a knife or by just pulling them off the container.

If your mushrooms start to flatten out and curve upwards or are dropping a fuzzy snow of spores on the table then you waited a little too long to pick them but they are still edible.

Step 8: Eat and Repeat!

Eat your mushrooms right away or within a few days for the best taste and texture.

You can use your container again, let it rest for a couple weeks before submerging in water again to try to jump start a new flush. Or you can expand your mycelium covered cardboard into more containers. Just repeat all the steps to set up a container, replacing your grown cardboard for the grain spawn.

Experiment! Mushrooms are amazing organisms that are healthy for you and the environment. Once you start working with them you will see them everywhere. Do some research and keep growing now that the mushroom obsession has taken over!

Superfood Challenge

Participated in the
Superfood Challenge

Indoor Gardening Contest

Participated in the
Indoor Gardening Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Make It Modular: Student Design Challenge

      Make It Modular: Student Design Challenge
    • Chocolate Challenge

      Chocolate Challenge
    • Electronics Contest

      Electronics Contest



    7 years ago

    Question: After soaking the container to force the bloom, will the water that drains out of the container carry enough mycelium to start another batch?


    Reply 1 year ago

    Yes, but the water needs to be sterile, in a properly sealed container. Youll need to also pressure cook the distilled water (from a freshly opened bottle) to sterilize it.

    The grain spawn jar lids that people make are perfect. You can use 16-64oz mason jars, and I HIGHLY recommend the wide mouth varieties. As they're easier to fill & to get the colonized spawn out. Since some grains will not break up easily, or is overcolonized. It becomes like a brick, so sometimes you need to just slide it out. The 64oz wide mouth is more like a proportionally sized 32oz regular mason jar. So, it won't slide out, but it'll be easier to stick your hand/instrument in to break it up. Otherwise, banging against a bike tire, or a rolled up foam mat, will help break it up easier. But I digress...

    So, these lids have a self healing injection port (SHIP), as well as a synthetic filter disc (SFD). The latter, you can buy the 125mm or the largest you can get, and then cut them into small squares/triangles/rectangles, etc. You can easily make 40 filters out of those 125mm discs. The pieces just need to be about ½" x ½" or so. It's simply to cover a ¼" hole, and RTV silicone around it to air tight seal it against the lid. If you get skilled enough, or make them slightly larger initially, you can also place a VERY tiny amount around the bottom edges, to hold it in place as you silicone around the aouter top eadges against the lid. Be careful not to use too much, or it'll get squeezed to the hole area and block it.

    On amazon, the injection ports are $6.99/100 of the 20mm, or $10/200 (200 x 20mm or 100 x 20mm + 100 x 13mm). The filter discs are expensive on amzn, but one of the mycology website stores sells 10 x 125mm discs for $22 shipped (shipping was about $5-7). That'll be a lifetime supply, as you'll very rarly need to change the synthetic filter disc. Tyvek is free from USPS, by cutting up the free usps priority mail tyvek envelopes (think of plastic fiber "paper" that's water resistant, and impossible to tear with your hands. But, you need to change those every 1-2 uses, as it will start to melt in the pressure cooker. Polyfil is another alternative, but is more maintenance than the SFD, and doesn't filter as well.

    So? Now that you have your 32-64oz wide mouth mason jar w/ the proper lid mods, inject enough STERILE distilled water into the jar via LARGE syringe (60mL is best, price them from pet med vet websites. I got boxes of 25 for $10. But, that store had $10 flat rate shipping. They have the 1.5" x 18g needles @ $4.29/100. You can pressure cook them to steilize em, vs throwing them away each time, but the needles I throw away, since they're so cheap. I fill up to the top of the spawn, soak for 12-24hrs, and then use a 3mL syringe w/ 1.5" x 18g needle (they sell them combined, for $6.99/100). You'll be able to fit 3.5mL in the syringe, and I would say to use a full 3.5mL per jar. Maybe even 7mL for a 64oz jar. If you use millet, it usually absorbs more liquid, vs somethingnlike milo. If you have standing water, it will grow contaminants. So, shake it every 3-12hrs till it diatibutes w/o having standing water the next time you look at it.

    Generally people thst do this method, will shake the colonized jar w/ the water, to get more mycelium in the water. Otherwise, it'll take longer to visibly have growth, and it'll be mild. So, either shake the water in the jar to get more mycelium, or use the most liquiid you can, w/o having ANY standing waterb(not even 1mL.)

    You can also make liquid culture jars, either from that water (just need a few mL, but the more you use, the faster it'll colonize fully. You use a 4% solution of Karo (white corn syrup), or Sugar in the Raw. You can also use light malt extract + agar, but it'll grow contaminants easier (but the myclium would also grow faster/larger, if you do it successfully). You do that in a mason jar w/ one of those lids. That'll make a lifetime supply essentially. People keep the LC or 6-12mo, often in the fridge after it fully colonizes. You can even use some of that to make a new jar. But, 5 generations seems to be the max, before it becomes senile (won't fruit). You can alao transfer colinized grain from a finished jar, to a new jar. There's a million ways, even using a spore syringe to start it. If the liquid gets cloudy, it uas bacterial contamination, throw it away. Always do 1 test grain jar, from th3 liquid culture jar, before making many. It's not always possible to see contamination in the LC. Using a colonIed grain jar to start the LC is good, since you know it's not contaminated, while many spore syringes are contaminated (it's just that the mycelium overtakes it in the grain jar, and releases antibiotics/antifungals to compete against it).

    You can googlw for more info, if that wasn't detailed enough. Please excuse any spelli g or grammar issues, as I thumb typed this on my phone, and it kept zooming out the moment I typed a letter.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    You can use supermarket mushrooms to make cardboard spawn quite easily.

    Watch this space orsomething like that for an instructable :)

    And this instructable is the bees knees as well :D


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    No, but you can use mycelium covered cardboard from inside the container to inoculate more containers. Or when setting up the first container you can put extra cardboard and grain spawn in a separate container. Once the cardboard is covered in white mycelium you can use it to make more containers to fruit.


    Question 1 year ago on Step 1

    Isopropyl alcohol. Or isopropanol

    Also, how safe/sanitary is it to use boxes in the USA, like from amazon. I mean, a million people have touched the box, and it's been in contact with tons of dirty surfaces & other packages. Or the glue used to make the boxes, or the tapes used to seal the boxes, or the inks.

    I'd feel safer with stcks of free newspapers, since only 1-3ppl normally touch them (and it's dense...think about how much an 18" stack of newspapers weighs vs an equal volume boxes [before soaked in water]))


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Don't you need to pasteurize the cardboard before using it in the container and placing spawn on it?

    Seems it would be FULL of contaminants otherwise.


    Reply 6 years ago

    i was thinking the same. but that's a simple enough fix...boil it.

    Tecwyn Twmffat
    Tecwyn Twmffat

    7 years ago

    I've always wanted to get into growing mushrooms so maybe this will inspire me to finally do it.