Upon entering the “hungry gap,” our family has been positively feasting on mushrooms this past month. No, not foraged ones, for our landscape is still whitewashed in melting snow, but rather cultivated fungi from a tent in our basement! It’s been a wild experience, from seeing them “flush,” to gobbling gourmet, to dreaming at night in strains reminiscent of Lewis Carroll.
Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure humidification.
Step into our MushROOM.
In truth, the whole process and effect of growing culinary mushrooms has been Willy Wonka like, watching fungal “fruit” pour out of plastic bags like a baking soda volcano and then transforming into a magical woodland scene under a florescent purple glow. The spectacle is so bewitching, eating them is really just a fringe benefit.
It began with books . . .
My hubby’s mushroom obsession began around the holidays with the pouring over endless YouTube videos and books on all things shroomy. You can read his reviews on the above books here. If you’re thinking about growing shrooms for yourself, you’ll definitely want a copy of DIY Mushroom Cultivation in particular which is linked in the post above. He also recommends the YouTube channels: FreshCAP mushrooms and GrowCycle.
Next we gathered supplies . . .
Starting up a mini shroom factory requires a fair bit of investment in time, supplies, space, and (you guessed it) money. We opted for a sort of middle of the road budget and setup. We could have gone with a cheaper or more elaborate MushROOM, so please keep that in mind. Also, be assured that once things are underway, the process of fruiting requires little maintenance and is pretty much hands-off.
Here’s the list of supplies we gathered and approximate costs:
- Gorilla Grow Tent (about 350 bucks with growlight)
- House of Hydro Humidification System (190 bucks and worth it! We recommend not skimping on a good humidification system)
- straw and oak pellets from Mushroom Media (less than a dollar per pound)
- mushroom bags from Mushroom Media (about 50 cents each)
- bag sealer from Mushroom media, but not happy with quality (25 bucks)
- rye grain (10 pounds for 16 bucks MycoLabs)
- mushroom spawn (about 12 bucks for Oyster spawn from MycoLabs)
- used coffee grounds (we get ours free collected for us by a local Starbucks)
- jars (we saved apple sauce jars that we added injection and filter ports)
- kitchen scale
- storage tote
- latex gloves
- rubbing alcohol
- medical syringe
- stainless steel shelving system (about a 100 dollars on Amazon)
We inoculated our grain . . .
Once we’d gathered our supplies, we began (as per the detailed instructions in DIY Mushroom Cultivation) to add our liquid culture to our sterilized grain. This is done to allow the mushroom mycelium to grow and colonize the grain. Mycelium is essentially the roots of the mushrooms. This yielded us jars of grain sporting a white hair-like material; the grain spawn.
We inoculated our substrate . . .
This process consists of mixing up a sort of witches’ brew in a storage tote and then adding the molded maggots . . . I mean grain spawn. Essentially, all this entails is adding straw/hay pellets and your grain spawn together along with water. Combine the lot and deposit into bags and voila! Detailed instructions to be found in DIY Mushroom Cultivation as referenced previously. There are many different ratios to be found regarding how much water, grain spawn, and hay/straw to use, so find one that works the best for you and don’t be afraid to tinker a little therein. The mycelium will slowly colonize your bags of straw/hay and that’s when the real fun begins!
Next, we got fruiting . . .
We chose to start with Oyster mushrooms which is recommended as a delicious beginner’s mushroom which sounded good to us. We wanted to make sure that we could actually bring fungus to harvest before trying out a bunch of different types. To our delight, it actually worked!
Once inoculated, bagged, and placed in the humidification tent, these mushrooms “bloom” in just a couple of weeks. Caps the size of pinkies balloon overnight into florets as large as hands.
harvesting . . .
The harvesting of mushrooms is as easy as it is satisfying. It’s as simple as plucking the entire fruiting body off its straw base. A single floret is like an Earth-meets-Mars bouquet.
And finally feasting . . .
So, what do they TASTE like? So far, we’ve only grown Oyster mushrooms. They are recommended for beginners (us!) and a crowd-pleaser. We found truth on both fronts.
To me, a bite of Oyster mushroom tastes as if it is infused with an extract made from a bowl of ordinary mushrooms. In other words, POW!
Homegrown culinary mushrooms pack a punch of flavor. I found I was often overdoing it in my preparations and I’m learning to hold back as a little goes a LONG way.
Not only is the flavor of culinary mushrooms so deep and incredible, but the texture is also unlike any storebought mushroom I’ve ever eaten. Even in cooking for long amounts of time, Oyster mushrooms hold a firm and toothsome texture comparable to that of meat. This makes them incredibly fun to experiment with in vegan preparations. For example, I made an Oyster mushroom pot pie that was shockingly good, the mushrooms subbing in for chicken quite nicely. We also used them on a pizza in place of ham, in eggs in place of bacon, in stew in place of beef, and in chowder in place of clams. Now, I’m not going to claim that these mushrooms taste just like bacon, beef, ham, chicken, or clams. However, the dishes made were something quite their own and not, we found, inferior in any way to their meat counterparts. In other words, no these mushrooms don’t taste “just like meat,” but we find them to be every bit as good.
We analyzed our start-up costs . . .
In total, our initial investment in project MushROOm was about $700. We project than ongoing costs will be very minimal. From time to time, we will need to order more pellets and grow bags, both of which are negligible costs. We estimate that we spend about $300 on mushrooms at the grocery store each year, but that number is for standard mushrooms (buttons/ portobellas). We have not previously splurged on gourmet, restaurant-worthy mushrooms. Calculating the cost of purchasing gourmet mushrooms, we figure that we are at the very least halving the cost in the long-term.
To re-CAP, growing mushrooms yourself is like everything else on the homestead. It should pay off . . . eventually. Investments in home grown food can take years to cover themselves. That being said, saving money is not our main reason for growing food. In fact, it may not even make the list at all.
We’re not really trying to save money in growing our own food. Rather, we’re growing for flavor, fulfillment, and fun. These mushrooms make the cut.
Afterword: Why You Might Want to Consider Cultivating Fungi
We have no intention of packing up our mushroom tent anytime soon. It’s been even more fun and flavorful than we’d imagined, and we highly recommend this project to friends, family, and followers! Here’s our top reasons for starting your own MushROOM!
1.) Major health benefits
You don’t have to look too far to find the incredible health claims of the mushroom world. Here are just a few I’ve come across organically in the past few months:
Michael Greger, in How Not To Die, writes: “It seems mushrooms may have an anti-inflammatory effect. In vitro studies have shown that a variety of mushrooms, including plain white button mushrooms, appear to blunt the inflammatory response, potentially offering boost in immune and anticancer function without aggravating diseases of inflammation.” He goes on to say later: “The highest levels by far [of ergothioneine; an antioxidant which “concentrates in parts of your body where there is a lot of oxidative stress”] by far have been reported in mushrooms. For example, oyster mushrooms, which you can grow yourself in only two weeks from a just add water kit, have more than one thousand units of ergothioneine, about nine times more than their closest competitor, black beans.”
Joel Fuhrman, in Super Immunity, writes: “If green vegetables are the king of Super Immunity, mushrooms are the queen. First of all, the compounds found in simple mushrooms have been shown in animal experiments and cell cultures to enhance the activity and function of natural killer T cells (NKT). NKTs detect cells infected with a virus or damaged in some way, and attack and remove them. Activated NKT cells attack the abnormal cells by releasing “killing granules” to destroy abnormal cells. White, cremini, portobello, oyster, maitake, and reishi mushrooms have all been shown to have anticancer effects: they prevent DNA damage, slow cancer cell or tumor growth, cause programmed cancer cell death, and/or prevent tumors from acquiring a blood supply. These effects have been shown in breast, prostate, and colon cancers and/or cancer cells.”
Health benefit claims of mushrooms:
- anti-inflammatory; prevention and treatment for various auto-immune diseases
- brain boosting and protective against diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia
- energy boosting
- immune boosting
- stamina building
- hormone balancing
- vitamin and mineral rich, including vitamin D
- gut flora building
2.) Superior, fresh-to-death product
You know those cartons of shrink-wrapped, semi-bruised, darkening bodies formerly known as mushrooms? This is quite a different thing entirely, and the nutrient -density and benefits listed above are also dependent on freshness. Harvesting your own, home-cultivated fungi just minutes before cooking them up is a nutritiously gourmet experience you can’t even get at a five-star restaurant. There are precious few kitchens on the planet that harvest their own mushrooms and cook them up mere minutes after plucking them!
The older I get, the more of a sucker I’m becoming just to witness beauty and the miracles of nature without an underlying goal. Cultivating mushrooms is becoming for us something like growing Bonsai trees. What’s the purpose? Why go to all the trouble? Because it’s awesome.
What we’re spawning next: CORDYCEPS (the energy mushroom) and LION’S MANE (the mental mushroom)! Stay hungry my friends.
Thank you so much for following, dear friends. As always, you make our day!
Love, Candace Arden
~Our Holistic Homeschool~