The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Producing Spawn From Stem Butts

Stem butt of a morelTechnique 2: Producing spawn from stem butts

An alternative to starting with spores is to start with stem butts.  This technique works well for morels and oyster mushrooms and allows you to clone a mushroom strain.  (Using spores allows "cross-pollination" (not really, but close enough) similar to how gathering seeds from butternut squash grown near a pumpkin would result in a new variety.)

First, gather your mushroom carefully, being sure to pull up the bulbous base and a bit of the root/hair-like growth branching out from the base of the mushroom --- this area is called the stem butt.  Cut the stem where it beings to narrow above the butt and discard the top (aka, eat it).  The stem butt can then be used to make spawn in several ways, the ones I'm most interested in being:

Place stem butts on soaked cardboardThe Cardboard option --- soak the corrugated cardboard for an hour in hot water, then place it in a container (an old sink or cardboard box works well) with drainage holes in the bottom and a loose lid.  Place stem butts on top of the soaked cardboard, four inches apart, and cover them with more soaked cardboard.  Put the container on the ground in a shady place and incubate for 4 to 8 months, adding new soaked cardboard as necessary to expand the spawn.

The Dowel option --- Soak furniture dowels (from the hardware store, I'm assuming) in water for a few days, then drain off the excess water.  Fill a cardboard box with the soaked plugs and push mushroom butts in, stem side down, so that the plugs are about 4 inches apart.  Put an inch or two of soaked dowels over top of the butts and leave the box outside on the ground to incubate for six months.  By then, the spawn should have colonized clumps of plugs --- remove and use those clumps, mix the remaining plugs up, and wait another month until they're colonized and can be used.

The Natural option --- For ground-dwelling mushrooms, just plant the stem butts in the ground in a new area to start a patch.  This is definitely something I plan to try with the morels I find this spring!

This post is part of our How to Cultivate Mushrooms for Free lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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