Your Year Around Flower and Garden Guide

Growing Gourmet Mushrooms

Mushrooms have been consumed since the Stone Age. One of the oldest items to be cultivated, historical data dates them back beyond the Roman and Greek eras. In fact, the Shitake mushroom has been grown in Asia for well over 2,000 years. Their earthy flavor adds a touch of elegance to the most ordinary main dish.

Mushrooms are a different kind of "plant"

Actually, they are a fungus and as such, they have no seeds but instead grow from microscopic spores. In fact, a mature mushroom may drop as many as 16 million tiny spores. However, that doesn't mean the spores will grow. Because they are so small, mushroom spores are extremely susceptible to pests and pathogens. To grow mushrooms, you need to furnish them with a sterile environment. In a commercial setting, sterile cereal grains are inoculated with mushroom spores and incubated until the mushroom "spawn" develops. This fusion of grain and spore can then be sown like seed. The spawn is usually sown into pasteurized compost, which is made from items like straw, corncobs, cottonseed, cocoa seed hulls, and gypsum with the addition of nitrogen supplements.

Mushroom Kits

Even if you are a dedicated mushroom lover, if you have no experience in growing mushrooms, the first thing you need to grow gourmet mushrooms is a mushroom kit. According to the Mushroom Council, mushrooms are one of the most difficult commodities to grow.

Generally, mushrooms grown from a kit reach maturity in four to eight weeks, which is a fraction of the time it takes to grow mushrooms from scratch. Gourmet mushroom kits are available to grow all your favorites including Portabella, Oyster, and Shitake mushrooms.

Mushroom kits usually have completed the growing process through the development of the spawn. All you need do to grow gourmet mushrooms is add water and maintain room temperature and humidity according to the kit directions. Kits are generally priced between $15.00 and $30.00, depending upon the variety of mushrooms and the size of the kit.

Some kits come with the spawn already sown in a mushroom log or bottle. Gourmet mushroom logs or bottles can be grown on a countertop, coffee table, or desktop and make an attractive and interesting display as they grow.