The fall season is a perfect time to explore the fascinating world of backyard mushroom cultivation. I’ll start by sharing some of the delicious edible fungi that is currently springing up right outside in and around my garden. Then I’ll share some info on mushrooms picked up at the recent Mother Earth News Fair, and close with ideas for easily growing shrooms right inside your home.
My oyster and shiitake logs are stacked up and have been fruiting for weeks even if their production does seem to be rather limited compared to recent years. Maybe that’s due to the dry weather and my failure to water the logs at all. On the other hand those Wine Cap Stropharia mushrooms are popping up all over and in quantities that I’m having trouble keeping up with!
Wine Cap Stropharia Running Wild in the Landscape
I have many beds mulched with wood chips, individual piles of wood chips, and paths lined with chips that I have inoculated at one time or another; now Stropharia seems to have become a perennial in my landscape and is even spreading beyond the places that I initially sowed spawn. I’m not complaining and am happy to see this delicious fungi make itself right at home in and around the garden.
Shiitake mushrooms are very easy to grow, but Wine Cap Stropharia is even easier! All you need are wood chips and some spawn to get started and you can expect to see mushrooms fruiting by the fall season from a spring planting. I’m even getting results from transplanting the mushroom stumps with the fibrous roots attached into other areas of the garden! The biggest challenge has been to visit all of the fruiting locations on a regular basis in order to harvest the mushrooms when they are at their prime.
Tradd Cotter and the Magic of Mushroom Mountain
Tradd Cotter of Mushroom Mountain Farm spoke at the recent Mother Earth News Fair and shared a ton of information related to mushrooms, their cultivation, and uses from culinary to medicinal a even as mycoremediation for the removal of toxins and pathogens. A huge eye-opener for me was the realization of how easy it is to clone mushrooms and start them from fruiting bodies that are foraged from the forest, or even from your local grocer. Tradd also made an outrageous claim about raising “millions” of mushrooms in just eleven weeks… and then proceeded to walk us through the calculations and techniques that supported that incredible proposition.
It was amazing to hear about the latest work that Tradd has been conducting related to the research and development of mushrooms for medicinal purposes. From the impact that exposing mushrooms to specific wavelengths of light has on their nutritive and healing capacities, to the ability of fungi to purge everything from viruses growing in a lab to eliminating pollution from water in the field!
Exciting Projects for the Fungi Enthusiasts
Tradd shared some interesting projects with us that anyone can do right at home; such as inoculating wooden cutting boards by immersing them in mushroom spawn, resulting in a living cutting board that has natural antibiotic properties without the chemicals! Another idea that he has been exploring involves some rather unique delivery systems for the medicinal properties of fungi, such as infusing them into micro brewed beer and wine beverages.
Then there are the mushroom rafts that Tradd creates by building and partially burying wooden frameworks that support colonies of mushrooms. And how about a mushroom burrito of soaked cardboard rolled up with chopped mushroom stem butts that is used to raise spawn and recycle cardboard or even clothing. I love the ideas of adding spawn to compost piles to spread mycelium throughout the landscape, and of incorporating specific fungi in animal bedding and runs to control bacteria and eliminate odors. I’m just scratching the surface of novel ideas that were shared related to cultivating and using mushrooms!
Other interesting tidbits gleaned from Tradd’s presentations included the following:
- Don’t eat raw mushrooms… cooking is necessary to break down the chitin.
- Try inoculating birdseed and let the birds spread the spawn for you.
- Mushroom spawn doesn’t fruit until it runs out of space or food.
- Darker mushroom caps have higher medicinal properties.
- Tradd also discussed various mushroom varieties and their specific medicinal uses.
Climbing on Board with Mushroom Cultivation
Tradd’s passion for mushrooms is infectious and you can discover this for yourself by attending one of his workshops such as the one that takes place this weekend at Mt. Cuba Center here in Pennsylvania. The workshop will cover mushroom identification, indoor and outdoor cultivation techniques, and much more. Participants will leave with a shiitake log, an indoor fruiting kit, and knowledge on using fungi to improve your garden. If you can’t attend this workshop Tradd offers other courses across the country and at his farm in South Carolina.
I also highly recommend his newly released book; “Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation: Simple to Advanced and Experimental Techniques for Indoor and Outdoor Cultivation.” If you have the slightest interest in growing your own mushrooms read this book and I can just about guarantee that you will soon find yourself growing more mushrooms than you could imagine. Mushroom Mountain also offers cultivation tips, videos, mushroom spawn, books, and other supplies.
Smugtown Mushrooms; Spreading the Love of Fungi
Smugtown Mushrooms is another fungi resource and mushroom supplier that I stumbled across at the recent Mother Earth News Fair. It was great to speak with the crew out of Rochester, NY and talk about their mushrooms and other products.They offer an attractive, hand made, retro catalog in black and white with beautiful hand drawn illustrations and lots of information about mushrooms.
I purchased a couple of their indoor fruiting kits including the reishi kit that is pictured with the fruiting reishi mushrooms. Indoor kits are usually composed of sawdust blocks that have been inoculated with mushroom spawn. They are ideal for growers with limited space or that want to produce their harvest inside their home. Use is as simple as cutting the bag and misting a few times each day. You’ll typically get two or three flushes of mushrooms after which the spent block can be added to compost, a worm bin, or be used to inoculate outdoor organic matter.
Indoor, outdoor, small-scale, or commercial there are so many applications and options for mushrooms on the farm or in the home and garden. If you’ve never considered growing them I hope that you will and that you’ll explore some of the opportunities for cultivating your own mushrooms that were shared in this article!
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