Tryout: Mushroom kits yield bumper crop
Share with others:
For years, I've seen indoor mushroom growing kits in catalogs and have wanted to try one.
Every year I would put them on the initial order form and inevitably, as I tallied the list, it was more than I wanted to spend, and the mushroom kit was scratched.
This winter I decided to order one kit just to give it try. It was only $15.95, so why not? I wanted certified organic mushrooms and chose Gourmet Mushrooms and Mushroom Products of Graton, Calif. Coincidentally, I had visited the area in the summer while on vacation. I also asked the company to send me a couple other kits to try for this article.
My first mistake was letting the boxes sit on my desk for weeks. Once I opened them up and read the instructions, I was urged to start right away. I figured I might have screwed the whole project up but decided to give it a try. I had two oyster mushroom kits, one blue oyster mushroom and a shiitake kit.
The kits came with detailed instructions and something resembling a small log about 7 inches high and 5 inches across, covered in plastic. There also was a 6-inch square sponge and a plastic sleeve.
The log is left in its plastic bag, and I was instructed to cut an X about 1 inch wide and deep in the log through the plastic. A saucer is filled with about a half-inch of water, and then the sponge is set in the water. The log is placed upright on the sponge and covered with the clear plastic sleeve to retain humidity. Then the waiting starts.
In just a few days, I was surprised to find that one of the kits had grown full-sized mushrooms. They were so big that the log toppled off the mantel. I harvested them and threw them into a pan of hot olive oil for about three minutes.
As my wife and I devoured them, she asked, "Shouldn't we save some for the kids?" We looked at each other, then down at the mushrooms.
"They'll never know," I said, and finished the tasty treats.
I wasn't as successful with the blue oysters. I got some smaller ones, but I'm going to start again. The shiitakes take longer and have a different culture for growing, but I'm looking forward to trying them next.
The nice thing about the kits is that they will provide the first flush of mushrooms and then two more after that. The log is left to rest for a couple weeks, and then it's rehydrated, and the process starts all over again.
Once the log is exhausted it can be composted or broken up and added to potting soil as a natural fertilizer.
I've had so much fun growing (and eating) these mushrooms that I'm going to try the company's outdoor plugs. They are wooden dowels that are inoculated with mushroom mycelium. Fresh logs are drilled with 5/16-inch holes, and the plugs are inserted in the holes that are then sealed with wax. It takes anywhere from six months to a year before they start producing, and the logs can be harvested up to four years. The logs can produce up to 4 pounds of mushrooms over their lifetime.
Growing mushrooms is the perfect thing for the frustrated winter gardener and a great project for kids. To contact or order from Gourmet Mushrooms and Mushroom Products, go to www.gmushrooms.com or call 1-800-789-9121.
TRYOUT is a collection of mini-reviews and news about plants and products for the home. To submit ideas, e-mail Home & Garden editor Kevin Kirkland at email@example.com or call 412-263-1978.
First Published February 9, 2008 12:00 am