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

How to initiate mushroom fruiting

Expanding oyster mushroom primordiaNo matter whether you've gone the cheap, at-home route of growing mushroom spawn on cardboard or carefully followed the optimal growing instructions using petri dishes, jars of grain, and sawdust, mycelium is just mycelium.  I've been talking about this stuff for two weeks, and I know you're anxious to get to the mushrooms themselves.

Mushrooms aren't like plants which pay attention to day length and then bloom and fruit on cue.  Instead, you need to give your mycelium a hint when it's time to get some mushrooms.  First of all, the mycelium has to have completely colonized the substrate --- reaching the end of its habitat is one natural cue that prompts mushroom formation.

When growing mycelium in an unnatural habitat, like plastic bags, you will also want to lower the carbon dioxide levels, which simulates the fungus reaching the outside world.  Many growers punch small holes in the bags where they want the mushrooms to emerge.  Increasing the light levels at least slightly also tells the mycelium that it has reached the surface and should send up a fruitbody.

Meanwhile, your mushroom is probably waiting for a specific season (though which one depends on the species you are growing.)  Increase the humidity to nearly 100% and either increase or decrease the temperature to signal a seasonal shift.  Oyster mushrooms are split into warm weather varieties which should be prompted to fruit at temperatures between 50 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and cold weather varieties that need a few days at 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you give your mycelium the right cues, they should form what are called primordia --- little buttons on the surface that can grow into mushrooms.  To prompt the mushrooms to develop properly, lower the humidity a bit and retain lower carbon dioxide levels and moderate light.  If you want mushrooms fast, raise the temperature, or just leave the temperature where it's at and wait a few more days.  Soon, you'll be feasting on gourmet mushrooms!

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This post is part of our Growing Gourmet Mushrooms 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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