We have a subscription to The Sun magazine. It’s an ad-free literary magazine with an interview with a (usually) political or spiritual “expert,” fiction, memoirs and essays and a themed section of short anecdotes submitted by numerous readers. As someone who doesn’t read a lot, this magazine is much to my liking and pacing.
This is where we discovered the magic of mushroom growing.
The Sun had an article by Derrick Jensen who talked about the influence that Paul Stamets book, Mycellium Running had on him. Having discovered how many different kinds of mushrooms there were and enjoyed the expensive and fleeting flavor of the morel, this article intrigued my husband, Chris. He decided to grow them as we conveniently had just cut down a small 6-inch norway maple (weed) tree and so we had some logs that were perfect for some experimental ‘shroom growing. This book, and the author, are amazing in the expertise and information about mushrooms. The book is a comprehensive guide–from history and biology, growing and properties of mushrooms. Stamets brings about the philosophy that fungi are everywhere and they are an critical and integral part of the ecosystem. In fact, the largest living organism is thought to be a mycellia growing in Oregon that covers 2,200 acres.
Fungi and mycellium are large interconnected organisms that can be toxins, break down heavy metals and oils, remediate the soil, and are known for their medicinal properties.
So Chris ordered some shitake and oyster mycellium plugs from Stamets’ site (Fungi.com) and set to work drilling holes in the logs, plugging them with the spores (they come innoculated on short wooden dowels) and sealing them with wax. Shitake and oyster mushrooms are supposed to be the easiest to grow, with the morel being near impossible (or under patent). We were hoping to see a crop in six to eight months. Like a pet, he watered them (mostly) and tried to keep them from drying out (mostly). This proved difficult as we discovered that logs are a long-term mushroom solution (a hardwood at that) and that bugs really like mushrooms!
A year later, we didn’t really have much. We did have minor success with the shitakes and actually were able to get a couple to fruit and bloom into full mushrooms and I have to say they were richer flavored and firmer than any shitake I have ever purchased. Maybe I’m just saying that b/c it took so damn long, but it was amazing to watch them grow as they seemed to grow overnight.
I would say that if you were going to grow mushrooms to eat and as a crop, that you would need to probably have to control your environment as much as possible and not leave your mycellia to the mercy of mother nature. This would mean growing in sawdust or straw in a controlled environment such as a basement. The mushroom plugs are still active and maybe in five or 10 years, I’ll be able to report back and tell you that the logs have been broken down by them. We do have a basement experiment of some bluefoots that we are growing from some that I purchased to eat. I’m a little skeptical, but you never know!