After my dismal failure of growing white button mushrooms last year, I decided to seek some expert advice. Expert advice on learning to grow mushrooms without too many issues.
Luckily, my friend Amanda Woods had just started teaching a Grow Your Own Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms for Beginners at Goonawarra Neighbourhood House in Sunbury, Victoria.
The class was well attended, and we were given a choice of mushroom kits to take home. Ben chose Grey Oyster, and I chose Swordbelt mushrooms. Neither of us knew what these looked liked at this stage so we just went with the flow. I wasn’t really fussed on what we grew as long as we were successful!
During the class Amanda demonstrated how to set up a simple mushroom terrarium using a 50L plastic storage tub.
The lid has a few 20mm holes drilled in it, and the tub also has a few holes about 7 cm above the floor to ensure the mushrooms get enough oxygen.
There is also a layer of moistened perlite laid across the bottom on to which you place your bag of inoculated mycelium. Mycelium is the white spider web like fibres that are the basis of all mushrooms. When it has the right conditions (warmth and moisture), it starts producing buttons, which in turn becomes the mushrooms.
Amazing stuff. Amanda took us through the process of setting up our own terrariums at home, providing us with the mycelium kits, a spray bottle, and a bag of perlite. The only bit of feedback that would have been to actually set up the kits during the workshop, however the only issue may have been transporting the setup back home without disturbing everything.
Besides the terrarium and grow bag method, you can use wooden plugs that have been inoculated with spores that can be pushed into a log of deciduous wood like Birch. Holes have to be drilled into the log which needs to be a decent diameter.
The plugs are then pushed into the holes and then sealed over with soy or beeswax. The mycelium starts to grow throughout the log to consume the rotting moist wood, then twice a year you get a flush of mushrooms on the log.
Here is the bag of Swordbelt mushrooms that Amanda brought along for the demo. They look amazing, and even more so, because she told us that they taste like bacon! That’s enough to turn me into a full vegetarian!
So why are they called Swordbelt?
Well, looking from the side view you can see that these mushrooms have a little belt around the stem a couple of centimetres below the gills. Very cute.
We were told that we should get three good flushes of mushrooms per bag and that we could reactivate them if we added the mycelium to more sterile medium like boiled straw or sugar cane mulch.
This is what the Grey Oyster mushrooms should look like once we set the grow bags up. Apparently they can be eaten raw but better eaten cooked quickly on a high heat. Perfect for stir fries.
I must say that it was an informative course and the documentation provided during the class will ensure that we are successful. If you want to connect with Amanda, you can check out her Facebook page, Emu Creek Farm. I am sure she will be running another course in the new year if there is enough interest. Take it from me that learning to grow mushrooms by attending a class takes all the guesswork out of the process.
Update: Amanda has another mushroom workshop in February 2016 at the Sunbury Library.
Ben and I intend on setting up our terrarium on Wednesday and placing it in the bathtub as that room has the most humidity and is a constant temperature during day and night. We will also need to mist them with water twice daily.
I will keep you updated with our progress. Wish us luck!