Growing Mushrooms is Fun and Easy
Mushrooms are weird. They are not plants; they are actually more closely related to animals. Mycoculture is the science of growing mushrooms. Mycoculture is a fun hobby or microbusiness which can be done cheaply and produce excellent food products to consume or to sell.
One of the coolest things about mycoculture (growing mushrooms) is that you can literally feed them garbage including plastic or motor oil and they will turn it into safe and edible food. One architect I met at Arcosanti is even using Oyster Mushrooms to convert waste plastic into structural elements for buildings.
Pick Some Mushrooms To Grow
Most of the mushrooms we can buy at the grocery store are just one species, Agaricus bisporus. This one species is picked at different times in its development and then sold as though it was lots of different kinds of mushrooms. White mushrooms, button mushrooms, champignon, crimini, cremini, Swiss brown mushrooms, Roman brown mushrooms, Italian brown mushrooms, baby bellas, portobellos, these are all literally the exact same single species marketed differently and sold at different prices.
There is a whole universe of other mushrooms which look different, taste different, cook different, etc. These could be a super easy way to create a valuable product to sell at farmers markets, to restaurants, and even grocery stores.
Chicken of the Woods is a mushroom that looks and cooks and tastes just like chicken.
Oyster Mushrooms are mild, sweet, very popular, and very easy to grow or forage.
Chantrelle Mushrooms are very popular but also very hard to find at grocery stores. They have a sweet peppery flavor and go great in breakfast foods.
Veiled Lady Mushrooms (Phallus indusiatus) are both beautiful and delicious. They are a popular visual cooking ingredient in Japan and mostly impossible to find for sale in the US.
Shiitake Mushrooms are popular all over the world and sometimes you can even find them in American grocery stores. These are widely considered both medicinal and a delicacy.
Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is another very popular mushroom which is already included in lots of great products because it actually stimulates neurogenesis; it actually helps your brain heal and regrow new nerve cells. It’s also very cool looking and delicious.
Enoki Mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes) are one of the coolest looking mushrooms in my opinion. They have this iconic look that you see in movies and tv shows, but never in grocery stores. They are also easy to cultivate!
I found lots of lists online full of weird and interesting edible mushrooms. Some of them are really wild and interesting. All of these are good candidates for cultivation in a mycology microbusiness.
It’s one thing to forage for mushrooms in the wild. It’s another thing to grow them yourself. Some of them are very easy to grow. Some are very hard to grow. If you go looking for mushrooms, maybe you will find them or maybe not. Mycoculture is a way to actually grow them on purpose, so you don’t have to wonder whether you will find them.
The process is similar with all mushrooms but there are some differences for various types. I’ll give you the basics and then you can do more research on the specific type you want to grow.
We will likely add more detailed information about specific species later.
Get Your Liquid Culture
Liquid culture contains the basic building blocks that your mushrooms need to get started. Think of it like liquid seeds that come in a syringe. Sometimes the culture will be mycelium and sometimes it will be spores.
Making your own liquid culture is hard, and it’s a whole science of its own that is separate from the science of cultivating mushrooms.
This is very advanced and if you’re just starting out, I would suggest buying a mushroom culture online instead of trying to make your own. Once you are more expert at actually growing them, it will make more sense to try creating your own liquid cultures.
Buying liquid cultures online is easy. There are tons of websites that sell syringes full of every kind of mushroom you could want, and it’s very cheap. One syringe produces an enormous number of mushrooms as you will see in the next section.
Spores vs Seeds vs Mycelium
Spores really are the mushroom analog to seeds in plants, but there are two main differences between seeds and spores. First, whereas a plant may produce just a few seeds in its life, a mushroom will produce billions of spores every day. Secondly, whereas a single seed can grow into a plant, spores reproduce sexually. They have to find another spore from the same species and then they can grow a network of mycelium together.
Mycelium cultures are therefore already a viable organism whereas spores are more like a potential organism. If you get mycelium in a liquid culture, it is ready to grow, whereas spores will still have to go through the initial sexual encounter before they can grow. Mycelial cultures will start to grow much sooner than spore cultures for that reason. But, some mycelial cultures are illegal in certain jurisdictions and in those cases, you will have to get a spore culture instead.
Once the sex is over and the mycelium has started to grow, it can be divided into many doses to administer to your growing media. It doesn’t need to be kept in one piece, it is perfectly happy to be shaken up and divided into many doses. During the cultivation stage, you will inject a small amount from your syringe into lots of separate grow containers in order to isolate risk.
Imagine you put all the culture into one container, but you made some kind of mistake or the stars just didn’t align that day, and then it gets sick and doesn’t grow. To mitigate this risk, divide your solution into many separate grow containers in order to separate the risk. If one or two gets sick, then who cares? You have many others that will still be healthy.
There are lots of ways to do the actual cultivation. If you’re just getting started, I recommend the PF Tek method. This is super simple and even if you make mistakes, at least some of them will probably work. Over time you will get better. There are lots of forums to discuss techniques and best practices, and all of these things will be different for each different kind of mushroom. I suggest starting with one and trying to develop your skills with that one before trying others.
If you decide to take my advice and try the PF Tek method first, there are lots of helpful guides that include advice about specific tools and products to use for the different steps.