Growing Your Own Fungi
Growing plants is a hobby for many people, especially those who have the time to dedicate to planting flowers, shrubs, trees, and gardens in their yards (and sometimes in their houses). It’s one that typically requires attentive work at the beginning stages and more relaxed care as times goes on.
But have you ever wondered if you could grow your own mushrooms? Considering they are in a kingdom entirely of their own, they’re definitely different beasts from plants, meaning their care and work up front is a lot different than the ole greenery you may be used to. However, with the right shipping supplies, nutrients, and spores, you can be on your way to cultivating your own favorite mushies like lion’s mane, shiitake, portobella, or oysters.
You’ll want the following items to begin growing your own mushrooms:
● Mason jars (usually smaller than full pint jars)
● Jar lids
● Brown rice flour
● Shipping supplies like Masking tape and Large plastic tub x2
● Misting bottle
● Pot with lid or pressure cooker
The first stage of any of this will revolve around sterilizing your equipment. Why? Because any tiny contaminant that makes contact with your materials can and will ruin your batch of mushrooms, which can cause serious illness or worse to your health if consumed. This is by far the most important stage.
Basically, you’ll want to pack your mason jars full with a mix of vermiculite, water, and brown rice flour. The ratio is always 2:1:1, respectively.
Once you’ve packed all of these full, use a hammer and hole punch to make four equally spaced holes in each lid. Then you’ll put the lids on each jar, cover the holes with masking tape, and wrap the top half of your jars with tinfoil.
From here, you’ll want to boil or pressure cook your jars for an hour and a half to completely sterilize each jar so that none have any contaminants remaining. Again, this process cannot be stressed enough in order for you to avoid any harmful bacteria or contaminated material that will end up on your end products. Your health is the most important thing here, so you can’t be too careful in this stage.
Once the jars are boiled for the appropriate amount of time, you’ll want to let them cool down (preferably overnight) to reach room temperature before the inoculation stage. This is another important stage to be prepared for, so don’t get too rushed during it, either.
Our last article got you started on growing your own mushrooms with a list of things required for the process and the sterilization stage. Here, we’ll continue on in how to grow your own mushrooms!
Before moving to the inoculation stage, make sure that your shipping supplies (like the masking tape and plastic tub) are in order like the prior stage noted.
Considered the most critical part of the process (much like the sterilization period), inoculating your jars with your spores is the part where you’ll be introducing the mushroom spores to the substrate (mixture of vermiculite, water, and brown rice flour).
This process also needs complete sterilization, and most people typically create sterile chambers with upside down plastic totes with holes cut in the side to place your hands in (wearing latex gloves).
For this stage, you’ll want to completely sterilize your tote and gear with isopropyl alcohol. The stronger the alcohol, the better chance of success.
Once everything is wiped down and ready to go, place the jars inside the sterile chamber with your latex gloves on.
Now, you’ll typically want someone helping here in order for you to keep your gloves on. Having a lighter of some sort to sterilize the syringe needle is important in order for the spores to make it into the substrate cleanly and easily. You’ll only need to sterilize the needle with the flame between jars, not between holes in each jar.
Once you have everything set up, get your syringe sterile with the lighter, and place it inside the chamber where yours are already sitting. Go ahead and grab a jar with one hand and tilt it to the side so that you can angle the needle into each hole where the needle with come into contact with the jar itself so that you can physically see the spore solution make the jar wet. This way, you know you’ve successfully inoculated the jar. Do this for each hole and move on to the next jar (flame sterilizing the needle in between jars, as noted above).
You’ll note that your syringe will only have so much spore solution of whatever mushroom species you’re wanting to grow, so be sure to distribute the spores evenly among each jar in order to get the most of your solution.
After this stage, you’re going to want to use your other shipping supplies, the other plastic tub, to grow the actual mushrooms in.