The rain and cooler temperatures made Blewitt Mushrooms the only crop to plant in the garden this week. If you’ve watched my shiitake log inoculation video or read any of the entries on cultivating edible fungi you know that I’m into growing gourmet mushrooms, and today it’s time to add another one to the list.
I first discovered Blewitt mushrooms a couple years ago during a fungi identification and foraging class at the local community college. As part of our homework assignments each week we collected any mushrooms that we encountered and brought them into the classroom for identification.
Interesting New Discoveries from the World of Fungi
My classmates made some impressive finds including the largest cluster of lion’s mane (Hericium) fungi that I have ever seen and some equally amazing colonies of hen of the woods (Maitake) fungi. All that I had to show was a curiously colored but strikingly beautiful mushroom that grows in my backyard every fall.
I had no idea what this unusual fungi was, but as soon as I pulled one out of the bag I was greeted with smiles and exclamations from some of my classmates… turns out that I had been sitting on a lode of gourmet Blewitt mushrooms and didn’t even know it! Blewitts are considered a great find for the mushroom forager and are prized for their delicious eating qualities.
I have to confess that while I think Blewitts are a very attractive mushroom species, I just haven’t actually eaten one of them yet. Maybe it’s the wild appearance and streaky colors, maybe they are just too close to home, or maybe it has something to do with the associations between Blewitts and fly larvae that I read and can’t get beyond!
Growing Gourmet Blewitt Mushrooms in the Backyard
But when I spotted Blewitt spawn for sale in the Field & Forest Products catalog and discovered that they can be grown on a litter of fallen leaves and twigs I knew that I would try to grow them in the backyard. After all if they grow up wild in the landscape it should be a breeze to go and cultivate them.
The spawn arrived on a base of grain that made it easy to sprinkle onto and mix in with the leaves that were collected and stored last fall. Ironically the grains made the inoculation process seem more like seeding a garden in the traditional sense and helped to make the connection of fungi as a living, growing element that in many ways is similar to plant life.
The process was as simple as gathering the raw materials; purchased spawn, leaves, pine needles (optional) and small twigs. To speed things along I purchased two bags of pine mulch to include in the mix. I soaked the pine mulch and as many of the leaves as I could manage in water overnight.
The next day I built the compost pile… make that the “Blewitt mushroom pile” by alternating a thick layer of leaf litter, thin layers of pine mulch, and sprinkling on the grain that carried the Blewitt spawn. I situated the pile in a shady spot under some pine trees that seemed like a perfect location. The four pounds of grain spawn is recommended to inoculate a leaf pile that is 4’ x 4’ x 4’ in dimension.
Blewitt Mushrooms Care, Rewards, and Cautions
Afterwards I simply watered my new Blewitt garden and that’s all there was to it! Now I’ll sit, wait, and occasionally water the pile as the fungi go to work at decomposing the leaf litter and produce a byproduct of gourmet Blewitt mushrooms. If this is successful I will harvest Blewitts in the fall and then build the pile back up every spring to keep the cycle going.
As with any unfamiliar or wild edible plant exercise caution with mushrooms and do your homework first. Blewitts must be cooked before eating and even then some people may suffer an allergic reaction. The spawn that I purchased included planting instructions and directions on making a spore print for identification purposes.
I don’t anticipate Blewitts replacing the Shiitake or Oyster mushrooms atop my list of favorites for backyard garden cultivation, but they do offer a special appeal as another option for recycling leaf and yard debris. And you never know, one of these days I may even get around to actually tasting the highly acclaimed Blewitt mushroom!
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