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Can growing mushrooms be as easy as a worm bin?

Growing mushrooms on cardboardNext week, I'll continue my summary of the techniques Paul Stamets uses to cultivate mushrooms in a commercial setting.  But I wanted to take a break and talk about my own experiment.  If you haven't already, you can read how I sandwiched oyster mushroom stem butts between layers of wet cardboard in a flower pot --- this is the cloning stage of the operation.  After a week, I saw mycelium running across the cardboard, so I expanded it by putting the mycelium between more layers of wet cardboard in a bigger container.

And then I messed up.  The electricity went out and the trailer's interior temperature dropped pretty low --- nearly to freezing on the floor furthest from the wood stove where I happened to have my spawn.  When I checked on it, my mycelium was just sitting there and some of it had died back.  Drat!  I'm hoping that the cold temperatures just put my fungi into temporary hibernation, so I've moved them to a warmer location and will report back in a few weeks.  If I don't see growth by then, I'll go back to the beginning with new mushrooms in the spring.

Growing oyster mushrooms on cardboard in a milk crateMy dream is to develop a relatively simple method of propagating oyster mushrooms on the home scale, without petri dishes, autoclaves, or even storebought grain.  Wouldn't it be great if mushroom-keeping was as easy as building a worm bin and if those mushrooms could be fed with your junk mail and cardboard, turning waste into food and garden soil?  In case you think I'm living in an ivory tower, check out this website where the author turned cardboard and junk mail into mushrooms --- it is possible!  I just need to work a few kinks out of my system.

This post is part of our Growing Gourmet Mushrooms lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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check out R.R. Wayne's hydrogen peroxide and non-sterile methods. hydrogen peroxide is probably the easiest way to reduce contamination.
Comment by Anonymous Tue Feb 15 20:51:07 2011
I read about hydrogen peroxide sterilization in one of Stamets' books, but so far I'm trying to use less chemical methods --- just heating up the cardboard seems to have done the trick! Of course, with a less aggressive mushroom than oysters, we'd probably have to work harder on sterilization.
Comment by anna Thu Feb 17 11:19:07 2011

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime