Mushroom Growing

For some time now we’ve been brainstorming on what we want to grow on our little hobby farm.  It had to be something that we love to do, want to eat and that could tolerate a lack of attention since we aren’t full time farmers! Everything we came up with was too time intensive (Alpaca’s, Dexter cattle and Emu’s)  and expensive (greenhouse with water and power) until I was doing a walk- about and realized that we have the perfect micro- climate to grow mushrooms! They grow naturally here, all over the place, although I’m NOT eating the wild ones; I’m not enough of a forager to be sure what they are. I know how to recognize Chanterelles and Morels but sadly we dont have those fungi, one can always dream though. From descriptions I’ve read, I think this is a Turkey Tail fungus growing under our Hazelnut tree on a fallen log. It’s color and pattern is beautiful and is widely used for medicinal purposes.

Fungus WANTS to grow here

So, after some research on Mushroom varieties and growing methods it became clear that this was the perfect fit for us. We would start with Shiitake, Lions Mane and Pearl Oyster mushrooms.  One compelling reason to grow these particular varieties is, well, they taste great and given the right conditions are among the easier ones to grow. We want to increase our odds of a harvest, given how new we are to this!

Shaggy Mane mushrooms have a mild lobster flavor

Pearl Oyster mushrooms are one of our varieties

We decided to start our “crop” by  plugging logs with wooden dowels that have been inoculated with the mushroom spawn (like the sperm concept). Over time the spawn will inhabit the logs and forms mycelium (the pregnancy). Then after 9-12 months the “fruit” will bloom (the birth).  We’re looking forward to our first harvest by late summer or early fall 2012!  Then, miraculously, these logs will continue the cycle and reproduce for YEARS once they are fully colonized with the mycelium! We’re starting additional logs so eventually we will have several harvests throughout the year. Lets hope it all goes that way.

Spawn dowels have arrived and logs are drilled

Pounding in hundreds of dowels is lots of fun

The dowels should be flush with the surface of the log and not sticking out

Next I melted soy wax and coated the ends and spawn plugs. This seals the logs and helps prevent competing fungi from growing.

Some of the finished logs, tagged by color, ready to move and cover with burlap. They need to be kept moist but up off of the ground, so I have them on a small deck.

Growing mushrooms appeals to me because they are what I call a “closed loop of goodness”.  By that I mean they grow, can become food and medicine, they clean and filter toxins from the environment and when they are spent at the end of their life cycle, the only by -product left is…….magnificent compost! How cool is that?  The more I learned the more amazed I became at the properties of the humble fungi.  If you want to find out more about the connections between mushrooms, natural medicine and environmental toxic remediation via mushrooms check out Paul Stamets work at Fungi Perfecti at  http://fungiperfecti.com/