Oyster Mushrooms in a Laundry Basket




Introduction: Oyster Mushrooms in a Laundry Basket

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Mushrooms often get overlooked in the grand scheme of gardening, just because they're not plants. However, they are extremely beneficial to your garden's soil, are highly nutritious and make a tasty addition to almost any meal. The high levels of protein also make them especially valuable to vegetarians and vegans.

Most people have never thought about growing their own mushrooms, which is a huge shame. It's true that some species can be a little tricky to grow, but once you learn a few basic requirements, it is feasible to grow all the mushrooms you can eat.

Each type of mushroom has specific "ideal" requirements for temperature, humidity, light, and nutrition. Some grow in soil, others on compost piles, logs, trees - the list is endless. However, for the beginner, we recommend oyster mushrooms. Get your feet wet with this most forgiving mushroom and you'll definitely want to advance into the realm of others like Shitake, Paddy Straw, Garden Giant, and more. 

Growing oyster mushrooms in a laundry basket is easy, cheap and it's a great project to do with kids.  They'll enjoy watching the quick growth of the fruiting bodies as well as the rewards of eating them after harvest.

Check out step 9 for our favorite recipe with mushrooms - Italian Braised Rabbit. It's a delicious, nutritious meal, for which we grow all the ingredients needed (except olive oil, salt and pepper) here on our homestead.

For more information on mushrooms, click here.
For more information about our other how-tos, visit our site www.velacreations.com

Step 1: Materials Needed

  • Oyster Mushroom Spawn
  • Cardboard
  • Large Pot
  • Thermometer
  • Ice chest (it cleans up easily afterwards)
  • Chopped Straw
  • Agricultural Lime
  • Agricultural Gypsum
  • Screen
  • Laundry Basket (we use ones that are 15" squares, 10" tall, which we found for $1 each)
  • Medium Trash Bag

WARNING: do not gather wild mushrooms (to clone) or their spawn, unless you can provide a 100% positive identification.  Instead of collecting from the wild, a better strategy for beginners is buying spawn for species you are interested in.

Step 2: Ideal Conditions

There are many different types of oyster mushrooms. Look through a mushroom catalog and select one that is suited to your particular climate. Here are two examples of ones we use, at different times of the year.

Grey Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)
Spawn Run: 75F, 85-95% Humidity, 12-21 Days, no light
Primordia: 50F-60F, 95-100% Humidity, 3-5 days, Fresh air 3 times daily, Partial Shade
Fruiting: 60F-70F, 85-95% Humidity, 4-7 days, Fresh air 3 times daily, Partial Shade

Pink Oyster (Pleurotus djamor)
Spawn Run: 75F-85F, 90%-100% humidity, 7-10 days
Primordia: 65F-75F, 95%-100% humidity, fresh air 3 times a day, full light, 2-4 days
Fruiting: 70F-85F, 85%-95% humidity, fresh air 3 times a day, full light, 3-5 days

Step 3: Pasteurizing Straw

  1. Get a large pot and fill with 2 gallons of hot water.
  2. Put the pot on the stove, and heat until the water reaches 180 degrees F.
  3. While the water is heating, fill the laundry basket with straw.  You want to fill the basket a little at a time, and compress the straw as you go.
  4. Dump the straw into an old ice chest. It is easy to clean afterwards, so don't worry if you have to use a good one.
  5. Dust the straw with a bit of lime (1/4 cup) and gypsum (1/8 cup).
  6. Mix the lime and gypsum in.
  7. Once the water is up to temperature, pour it over the straw.
  8. Close the ice chest and let the straw soak for 1.5 hours.

Step 4: Load the Basket

  1. After the straw has soaked for at least 1.5 hours, open the drain on the ice chest and let the hot water drain out into a bucket.
  2. Set up a screen, on which you can cool your straw. We lay a tarp on the ground, to collect any straw that falls onto the ground. We then raise the screen up a little (setting it on bricks or other "legs"), so that air can flow all around the hot straw.
  3. Lay out a layer of the hot straw on the screen.  The layer should be less than 2 inches thick.
  4. Once the straw has cooled to the touch, load a layer into the laundry basket and compress.  The layer should be about 2 inches thick. Note that hot straw can damage your spawn.
  5. Place another layer of straw on the screen.
  6. Cover the layer of straw in the basket with spawn.  Make sure the spawn stays at least 2 inches away from the edge of the basket.  You want the spawn to be evenly distributed on the straw. [See step 8 for instructions on growing mycelium on cardboard from clones.]
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 until the laundry basket is full.
  8. Once full, run your hands around the outside of the basket, making all the loose straw fall.
  9. Cover the basket with the trash bag.

Step 5: Spawn Run

  1. Place the laundry basket in a warm, dark room.  The temperature and humidity of the room depends on the type of mushroom you are growing. For grey oysters, the ideal temperature is about 75 degrees. For pink, a little higher.
  2. The trash bag over it helps maintain humidity.
  3. Check on the basket after one week.  You should start to see white mycelium growing at some of the holes.  Cover, and check again in another week.
  4. Once the mycelium has completely covered the straw, you are ready to start pinning (primordia formation).

Step 6: Primordia

  1. Uncover the basket and place in a cool, well lit room.  You want the room to be 50F-60F for Grey and 65F-75F for Pink. Both need high humidity.  If humidity is a problem, place a loose plastic over the basket.
  2. Expose the basket to fresh air 3 times a day.  Mist the basket once a day.
  3. Time varies on primordia formation, but it can take as much as a week.
  4. When primodia form, they will look like tiny little pins.  Once the basket is full of these, it is time for the fruiting stage.

Step 7: Fruiting

  1. Move the basket to a slightly warmer room with more light.  The humidity can be a bit lower here, but a loose plastic draped over the basket works well. 
  2. Expose the basket to fresh air 3 times a day.  Mist the basket once a day.
  3. Watch out for fruit flies, they can destroy your harvest. If flies are detected, move the basket to a better location and make the plastic covering a bit tighter.
  4. Pick the fruit when the heads just begin to turn upright.  Be careful, fruit can develop extremely fast, one day they look like pins, and the next day they are ready to harvest.
  5. Once you harvest the fruits, mist the basket thoroughly, and go through the primodia procedure again.  The basket should be able to fruit 2-3 times.

Step 8: Cloning

  1. Once you harvest your mushrooms, you can make more spawn through cloning on cardboard. Cut all the stems and bases of the harvested fruit into tiny pieces.
  2. Cut cardboard into 6" by 6" squares.  You'll want a stack of cardboard at least 8" high.
  3. Soak the cardboard in water for about 15 minutes, or until the layers of cardboard separate easily
  4. Prepare a trash bag by opening it, and setting it flat on the counter.  You will set the cardboard in this bag.
  5. Separate a piece of cardboard by pulling the layers apart. You should have one piece with corrugations, and the other piece will be flat.
  6. Place the corrugated piece in the bag.  Put several small pieces of mushroom, spaced about 2" apart, on the cardboard layer.  Cover with the other side of cardboard.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for all of your cardboard, setting each piece on top of the previous layer.
  8. Close the bag with a loose knot.  Mark the date and species of mushroom on the bag, and set in a warm, dark room (spawning Room) for 2 weeks.  Check the bag every few days for signs of growth.  The mycelium will be white and fuzzy, and will grow out from the mushrooms pieces and cover the entire stack of cardboard.
  9. When the mycelium has covered the entire stack, it is ready to go into a laundry basket.  To use this as spawn, pull out a layer of cardboard, tear into small pieces, and layer on the straw.
  10. If the cardboard starts to stink or has green mold, dispose of it.  You want clean spawn going into your laundry baskets.

Step 9: Cooking (plus Recipe for Italian Braised Rabbit)

All mushrooms should be cooked before eating to make the nutrients available for your body.  You cannot process the nutrition in raw mushrooms.

There are countless ways to cook mushrooms, the simplest being to stir-fry them in butter and garlic (optional). They are also great on pizzas, in pasta, stir-fry, etc.

My favorite recipe using mushrooms is an Italian one. Italian cooking is all about the freshness and quality of your ingredients, and we have all the ingredients (except olive oil, which we can substitute with lard if needed, salt and pepper) for this Italian Braised Rabbit fresh from our homestead. It takes about an hour and a half to make, though most of that time is not active.

  • 1 rabbit, cut into pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • Fresh Oyster mushrooms - they reduce significantly when cooked, so be generous
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (we use home-made apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup cider or white wine (we use the dregs from our home-made cider as it is packed with nutrients like B12)
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups bone broth (which we get from cooking rabbit bones and water in a pressure cooker for 1 hour)
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Fresh parsley and basil
  1. Sprinkle the rabbit pieces with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat olive oil in an ovenproof saucepan and brown the meat over medium heat. Once it's all browned put it aside.
  3. In the oil, saute the onions for a couple of minutes. Then add the garlic and mushrooms.
  4. Add the cider and vinegar and boil for a few minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes, broth and herbs.
  6. Put the rabbit back in and stir it all up. (You can add potatoes and other vegetables if you want, but you'll need to increase the liquid accordingly.)
  7. Place the lid on the pan and put it in an oven preheated to 350 degrees.
  8. Cook for an hour or until the rabbit is tender.
  9. Add fresh parsley and basil, as well as salt and pepper if desired.

Sorry i don't have photos for this dish. I don't ever think of the camera when cooking. Next time I do it, I'll try and remember to add photos to this page!
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76 Discussions

Your excellent Instructable has won, and won big! Sincere and hearty congratulations on a job very well done, you absolutely deserve it! Fabulous, fabulous!

1 reply

thank you! we are honored to have been selected from so many wonderful Gardening Instructables!

Nice post velacreations, You make it look so simple. :)
I especially love the picture of the pink mushroom! Beautiful! You could sell that. ;)
I have lots of questions.
Can I grow these from store bought mushrooms?
Is it OK to use grass clippings instead of chopped hay?
Is it better to use green or dry grass?
Is it OK to boil the water instead of using it at 180 degrees F?
Should I boil the water to treat the cardboard as well?
Can these be grown outside in summer? Perhaps in an inclosure? It gets plenty hot outside but we keep it cool inside.
Is it OK to let the basket cool at night?
Can our summer harvest be frozen to last all winter?
Is it better to 'can' the unused mushrooms instead?
Is there a limit to the amount of mushrooms we can eat?
Thanks ahead! It all looks very fascinating and delicious!

1 reply

Thank you for your questions! Generally speaking, there is a mushroom for just about every climate and substrate out there.  We use oyster mushrooms, because they are easy to grow and taste great.  There are many strains of oyster mushrooms that have been selected for specific climates and substrates.

Can I grow these from store bought mushrooms?
Yes, this is possible.  It helps to know what mushroom you are buying, and if possible, look up the temperature, lighting, and humidity requirements of that species/strain. 

You can clone from a store brought oyster mushroom to cardboard, like how we do it in this instructable.

Is it OK to use grass clippings instead of chopped hay?  Is it better to use green or dry grass?
Grass will work, and you want dry grass.  Really, for most oyster strains, any dry plant material will work.  Straw, wood chips, paper, dry grass, corn stover, coffee grounds, cardboard, and even junk mail should all work just fine.  You may have to try a few different strains to find one that does really well on your particular substrate.

Is it OK to boil the water instead of using it at 180 degrees F?
We are only pasteurizing the straw, so we don't need to boil the water, but it won't hurt to have it that hot.

Should I boil the water to treat the cardboard as well?
You can, if you want, but generally, you don't have to pasteurize the cardboard.  There are not many nutrients available to molds and competing organisms, so the mushrooms should be able to colonize without a problem.

Can these be grown outside in summer? Perhaps in an inclosure? It gets plenty hot outside but we keep it cool inside.
You can grow mushrooms outside if the humidity is high enough.  There are cold and warm weather strains.  Pink oysters tend to be warm weather mushrooms, and they will fruit in temps up to 85 F.  Grey and white oysters like cool weather, so you could grown them inside or in the winter.  They prefer temps in 55-65F range.

Is it OK to let the basket cool at night?
You should not put hot straw in the basket.  If you spread the straw out, it should cool very rapidly, and only when it is no longer hot can you add cardboard spawn to it.  If you add the cardboard when the straw is still hot, it will kill the mushrooms.

Can our summer harvest be frozen to last all winter?
Freezing mushrooms is not recommended.  But, there are many strains that do well in cool weather, fruiting at temps of 45-65F, so choose a strain that is suited to your season and climate.

Is it better to 'can' the unused mushrooms instead?
Drying mushrooms is the preferred method of storage, but for oyster mushrooms, they are best eaten fresh.  This is one of the reason you don't find them in big super markets, they don't store/last.  So, eat them fresh and add a new basket every week to have a continuous supply.

Is there a limit to the amount of mushrooms we can eat?
Generally, no, though some people might have allergies or reactions to certain types.  Oyster mushrooms spores can irritate some people, and if you are growing a lot of them (many, many baskets), you should wear some protection over your nose and mouth to avoid breathing in the spores.

im going to give growing mushrooms a shot here soon.. and i think im gonna try that rebbit recipe as well. i started raising meat rabbits a year ago. so i already got plenty of those lol

3 replies

what is a good meat rabbit? I have raised giant flanders but not sure if they are the best

sorry for the late reply i don't check the email account associated with this very often so miss notifications. the "giant" breeds typically have larger bones and slower growing. the most common meat rabbits are Californians and New Zealands. or a cross of the two.. weight to bone ration is good and fairly fast to get up to weight. there are other verietys people try but i dont know much about those.

Thanks. Was bthinking abt Newzealanders or German greys

You've got some amazing results from this. Can I ask, how well do you seal your plastic bag during colonization?

Where should I buy my spawn?

About how much does one basket yield?


2 years ago

what do you do when there is green mold all over your basket?


2 years ago

I had green mold all over my basket.


2 years ago

So I followed these instructions exactly, pasteurized the straw and all. I found green mold all over the basket during the incubation period and had to throw it all away. The instructions did not mention anything about poking small holes in it during the incubation period, maybe this was my problem. I think with the basket method there is more room for contamination. Fortunately I saved some spawn and I will try the plastic bag method as there is less room for contamination, it looks like all the commercial growers use this method.

Hi there, wondering what your yield is like here? How many lbs of mushroom per lb of substrate. I am looking to grow mushrooms to sell in Newfoundland and want to see what kind of work I can expect.

If no one else has mentioned it, if you keep having problems with green mold you can mist with 3% hydrogen peroxide instead of water.

I have a question, what are the ideal questions to colonize the substrate? Darkness? Light? Temp? Humidity? Thanks

1 reply

Spawn Run: 75F, 85%-95% humidity, 12-21 days

Then to start pinning:
Primordia: 50F-60F, 95%-100% humidity, fresh air 3 times a day, full light, 3-7 days

Fruiting: 60F-70F, 85%-95% humidity, fresh air 3 times a day, full light, 4-7 days

More species here:

I leaped with joy when I came across this tutorial, it's more like a treasure to me cos I've been trying to start a mushroom farm but I had no idea how to. I live in Africa and my mushroom farm would be situated here in Africa. One of the many issues I have is measuring the climate, like humidity and temperature.

In the part of my country where I live, we do not have winter, all we have is raining season(Light rain: February - April; Heavy rain: May/June - September/October) and dry/harmattan season(November - January).

A site has it listed on the screenshot I added to this comment, warmest and coldest for each month in my location. Please find attached image.

Please let me know how I can incorporate this table to my mushroom farming as to how to grow my mushrooms and the type of mushroom I should grow per time.

Another challenge I have is this, we do not have straws around here to make substrates. The easiest and cheapest I could get is sawdust from sawmills. Please do you have a tutorial on how to make sawdust substrate, pasteurizing it and all?

I will also like to know if this home growing method can actually be used on a small/medium farming scale.

Thanks and I await your prompt response to this. God bless!


Hi there... I've searched hi and low on the internet, but no luck. I thought you may be able to best answer this question. I cannot find any supporting literature that's supports using AG lime for mushroom cultivation instead of recommended Horticulture lime. I'd much rather be able to use AG lime opposed to Horticulture lime due to economical difference in price. If indeed you do say you use AG lime, that would just be wonderful!??. I could then just follow your wonderful recipe! Please let me know, is it in fact AG lime your using in the straw preparation instructional.

Thank you