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!
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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!