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Home-scale edible mushroom experiments

King Stropharia mushroom in a graywater bedLike many of our other 2010 experiments, our mushroom projects remain a work in progress.  Our goal is to incorporate edible mushrooms into our landscape in a more sustainable way, meaning that I don't want to have to keep buying plug spawn every year and I wouldn't mind if the fungi did more than just create food for us.

The least successful experiment was our King Stropharia graywater bed.  While the wood chips did soak up all of our kitchen wastewater, only one mushroom popped up to form our dinner.  The problem probably wasn't the small amount of bleach in the water since the graywater bed actually produced more mushrooms than the similar beds I innoculated with King Stropharia spawn under various fruit trees.  (Those beds didn't produce any mushrooms at all.)  Instead, I suspect that our climate is a bit too hot and dry for King Stropharia to be a low-work mushroom.  I watered the beds a few times but didn't keep them well moistened all through our hot summer, and I suspect most of the spawn dried out and died.  So, graywater mushroom beds are a good idea, but King Stropharia isn't going to a golden bullet outside the Pacific Northwest.

Cutting up a mushroom log to bring it homeA more successful --- and very simple --- mushroom experiment this year was cutting wild mushroom logs up to bring them home.  There's really not much to say except that if you find wild oyster mushrooms and bring their log home, the log will produce right outside your kitchen window where you're more likely to notice the fruits.  Yum!

Our main mushroom experiment for the past year and half has been trying to figure out a way to propagate our own mushrooms without a laboratory.  Last year, I zeroed in on oyster mushrooms as one of the easiest to propagate, and this year I discovered that the trick is to begin your propagation during the warmest weather possible.  Since oyster Propagating oyster mushroom spawn on cardboardmushrooms fruit the most in the cool weather of the fall, you'll want to cut off stem butts from the earliest fruiters and propagate them between soaked layers of corrugated cardboard (with the non-corrugated top and bottom sheets taken off.)  Before cold weather fully hits you should have enough spawn to stuff in holes in a fresh stump or log and then cover it up with wax just like you would innoculate a stump or log with storebought spawn.  We made it all the way to the innoculation stage with homegrown spawn this fall, so now we just have to wait and see if mushrooms will pop out of our stump next year.

Assuming that our low-budget oyster mushroom propagation worked, there are still some other avenues I want to explore.  I've read intriguing reports of folks not just expanding spawn on cardboard but also making mushrooms go all the way through their fruiting cycle on paper waste.  I'm very curious to see if fungi would eat up that glossy, colored junk mail that doesn't make good firestarter or mulch.

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This post is part of our 2010 experiments lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:





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remember that you will be eating that glossy ink. i'm not sure i'd want to. from what i gather, only soy-based inks are safe to eat.

instead, i'd shred it and use it for packing material.

Comment by kevin Fri Dec 31 14:06:06 2010
I don't think it's really fair to say that we'd be eating that glossy paper. Paul Stamets showed that fungi are remarkably adept at breaking down a lot of toxic substances in soil, and I think as long as you dilute the glossy paper with a lot of less toxic substances, the fungi can probably do their job.
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