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

Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation

Organic Mushroom Farming and MycoremediationAlthough Tradd Cotter's Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation deserves a full lunchtime series...I already wrote one after listening to his inspiring lectures. So, instead, I'll simply tell you that this beautifully illustrated book is a must-read for anyone interested in homestead-scale mushroom production. You'll learn more in-depth information about many of the home-propagation techniques I've posted about previously, will be inspired to try out mycoremediation in your chicken coop, and much more. Then dive deeper into topics like producing a slurry of morel spores and associated microbes to grow this elusive species at home, or experiment with propagating shiitakes without a lab by stacking thinly sliced logs separated by pieces of damp cardboard.

I really can't do Tradd's book justice in a single post, so I'm merely going to sum up some information on which mushroom species are best to grow in specific ways. Tradd has a great section at the end of the book giving species-by-species cultivation techniques for twenty-four types of mushrooms, and he also breaks the species down into difficulty categories. Based on that data, raw beginners who want to fruit their mushrooms outdoors should consider black poplar mushrooms, wood ears, reishi, brick tops, oysters and elm oysters, shiitakes, stropharia, and turkey tails.

Mushroom raft
The book also clued me in to why my rafts didn't do as well as I thought they would --- only reishi, nameko, black poplar, brick top, and maitake are recommended for this type of cultivation. Stumps, similarly, are best for maitake, chicken of the woods, reishi, enoki, oysters, and beefsteaks, with the tradeoff being that stumps take longer to start to fruit than logs do, but that they then tend give you many more years of harvests before petering out. Finally, if you want to grow mushrooms on cardboard, oysters, blewits, and stropharia are a good choice (at least during the vegetative stage).

Although I have a tendency to focus on the easiest types of mushroom growing (namely oysters and shiitakes seasonally fruiting on logs), Mark likes the idea of faster production using sawdust, wood chips, coffee grounds and other substances in containers. And Tradd succeeded in knocking out one of my roadblocks to Mark's proposal, namely the constant use of throwaway plastic bags. Instead, the mushroom guru recommends putting your growing substrate in PVC pipes, nursery pots, or five-gallon buckets, all of which can be modified with holes and sanitized in a 10% bleach-water solution to allow reuse. Using these methods, you can see mushrooms as soon as three weeks after inoculation when growing oysters on coffee grounds --- too bad we don't drink that beverage or have a coffee shop nearby!

In the end, Tradd's book is just as inspiring as his lectures were, but the contents are much more meaty. I read the book slowly over the course of a couple of months and recommend you do the same to enjoy the full effect. Other mushroom books --- notably those by Paul Stamets --- will be a good supplement for the mushroom enthusiast, but Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation has now risen to the top of my list of recommended mushroom books for the homestead fungiphile. This book will be staying on my shelf for years to come and I expect it will inspire many mushroom experiments. Stay tuned for details as we try to propagate shiitakes using the log method and perhaps grow some oyster mushrooms on old jeans.

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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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i've dabbled in mushroom culture but have always wanted to go a bit farther with it. i hadn't heard about this book before---i will definitely check it out. thanks for sharing.
Comment by melina w staal Fri Feb 20 12:33:52 2015

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