Mushrooms have a wide range of uses and work well in diverse dishes from around the world. Of course, growing mushrooms may seem like a huge undertaking, and most only see them growing randomly in the woods and outdoors. However, growing mushrooms in or outside your home can be very easy for harvesting and eating.
Several types of mushrooms are simple to grow and harvest at home, even for those who are not highly familiar with gardening. Some of the easiest mushrooms to grow are:
- Oyster Mushrooms
- Shiitake Mushrooms
- Morel Mushrooms
- Enoki Mushrooms
- Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Since mushrooms all rely on very similar methods, we will also discuss the critical terminology behind growing mushrooms and popular methods that can be used. Mushrooms can be tricky if you do not know the basics, but with some basic background knowledge, they are not impossible to grow. Also, once you have grown and harvested your mushrooms, you will want to continue adding to your little garden.
Basics of Mushroom Growing
Most know that mushrooms are a little different than many other plants and are grown very differently. Mushrooms are fungi. Some important terms that you will want to keep in mind that can help make grow guides a little more understandable are:
- Mycelium – This is a culture of mushroom tissue that comes from the type of mushroom you would like to grow. Often, you will find these tissue cultures, also known as agar cultures or test tube cultures, and you can purchase them from many commercial suppliers. When you start with these tissue cultures, it assures you have a mushroom strain genetically identical to the mushroom you want to raise.
- Spawn – The spawn is considered the start of mushrooms that are growing. You can either purchase the mushroom tissue culture or spawn that is already beginning to grow. If you buy a spawn, you can introduce the already-growing fungus into your substrate for further growth.
- Substrates – The substrate refers to the growing medium you utilize for your mushrooms, and various types prefer different substrate types. For example, most cultivated mushrooms prefer to grow on compost or woody material. This may take some tweaking to ensure that your mushrooms are on the best substrate possible and growing adequately.
- Compost – This is the more time-consuming substrate to create but is also a great way to grow your mushrooms. You will want to heat the compost to a temperature of higher heat to neutralize harmful species without killing beneficial microbes. If you already compost, do not allow it to go through its natural cycle; instead, harvest it somewhat early. At this point, white actinomycetes bacteria will be present, which mushrooms love.
- Woody Materials – Woody materials or straw also work well for many mushroom types and are much quicker to prepare than compost. These materials also require a heat treatment such as pressure sterilization, steam pasteurization, or hot water steeping to remove any unwanted competing organisms. For wood-decomposing mushrooms, wood pellet fuel, which disintegrates into sawdust when treated with water, also works well with peroxide treatments, and so does wheat straw.
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5 Easiest Mushrooms to Grow at Home
Now that you have a better idea of the basic terminology that comes with growing mushrooms, we will jump into the easiest mushrooms you can grow and how to grow them in your home. These mushrooms are ranked as some of the most effortless among most growers worldwide. While you may always have a little learning curve that takes a bit to get things growing accurately, following these basic steps can get you on your way to harvesting your mushrooms.
1 – Oyster Mushrooms
If you are a beginner, start with oyster mushrooms! The oyster mushroom mycelium will thrive and survives in a vast range of temperatures. Among most growers, oyster mushrooms are thought to be the easiest type to grow and harvest.
One thing you will want to note about oyster mushrooms is that they come in a vast range of colors and types. However, most oyster mushrooms are grown very similarly and produce similar results. Some of the most popular oyster mushrooms are:
- Black Oyster – This variety has a bold flavor compared to many other options, like the white variety. The taste and color of the black oyster mushroom only intensify when exposed to some sun during the growth phase.
- Gray Oyster – The gray oyster is another popular variety of oyster mushrooms that many grow today. For this type, fresh air and high humidity are required to grow successfully. They are not recommended in dry climates, as the mushrooms will not develop correctly.
- Pearl Oyster – Another excellent option for mushroom growers; this type of oyster mushroom is beautiful and lush. These mushrooms have a velvety texture that many love for cooking. The flavor is a little milder compared to other oyster mushroom types.
- Pink Oyster – This is the more exotic oyster mushroom species, offering a gorgeous pink hue. Many do not know about this type of mushroom, and it is sure to be an attention-getter. The pink oyster is an excellent choice if you want a tasty but fun option.
- White Oyster – Probably the most popular of the oyster variety, the white oyster mushroom produces a large yield. They are very pale and provide a mild flavor. You will find these are commonly used in Asian cuisine dishes.
- Yellow Oyster – These are vibrant yellow shade mushroom that is brightly colored for fun yet tasty ingredient. These beautiful mushrooms are a high focal point for your garden space and are easy to grow.
How to Grow Oyster Mushrooms
There are a few key steps you will want to keep in mind when growing your oyster mushrooms effectively. The proper steps to take are:
- Inoculation: The oyster mushroom spawn should be mixed with the substrate material during this phase. These mushrooms often prefer straw or sawdust for their substrate material. This mixture of the growing medium should then be placed into bags with small holes of air filters created for air exchange.
- Incubation: The bags with the medium should be placed in a warm dark room to incubate and begin the early phases of growth. You will want to keep the temperature between 68- and 75 degrees Fahrenheit for proper growth. You will want to give the medium 10 to 14 days to spawn and grow a whole web of root-like threads of mycelium and colonize the substrate.
- Fruiting: Once the spawn fully colonizes the growing medium, the mushrooms should begin fruiting. The bags must be exposed to autumn-like conditions with fresh oxygen, low light levels, high humidity, and cooler temperatures. At this point, the mycelium will be signaled that it is time to produce mushrooms, and small pins will begin to emerge.
- Harvesting: The tiny pins will begin to grow rapidly, and when fed by the water and nutrients of the mycelium, you will find full-sized mushrooms in just five to seven days. For most oyster mushrooms, a crop of mushrooms can be harvested three times before the mycelium becomes exhausted. You should expect a new crop of mushrooms to form every week to two weeks, making them a popular choice for most growers.
2 – Shiitake Mushrooms
If you have heard of mushrooms, you have probably heard of shiitake mushrooms. These are some of the easiest-to-grow and most delicious-to-eat mushrooms available today. Shiitake mushrooms are very popular in Asian cuisine but have become a household favorite worldwide. This is an excellent choice if you want to cultivate a delicious and straightforward mushroom.
How to Grow Shiitake Mushrooms in Your Backyard
Shiitake mushrooms grow best through log cultivation, which is unique but easy to manage for beginners. Most choose to begin this process with a natural log, which does take some work to prepare for proper growth. According to Fungi Ally, some essential tips for growing your shiitake mushrooms are:
- Choosing the Log – It is best to use hardwood logs for cultivation, such as oak, sugar maple, and beech. You will want to pick out logs between three and eight inches in diameter for this type of cultivation.
- Prepare the Log – You will want to drill holes up the natural log, drilling one-inch holes every six inches, rotating the log by two inches, and drilling the holes again. Offset the holes so that the end of the drill makes a diamond pattern.
- Add the Mycelium – You will then put the mycelium into the log. You will want to tap the shitake spawn into the holes with a hammer and then wax over the spawn so that no other fungi can get inside. The mycelium is connected through the entire log and can fruit mushrooms throughout the wood.
- When to Grow Shiitakes – Often, June through October are the prime months for fruiting shiitakes on natural logs. They are great for home gardens because they need little work, and adding several logs can lead to an abundant supply of mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms are much less sensitive to fluctuations in temperature and humidity than other fungi.
- Ideal Humidity – A higher humidity is preferred for shiitakes, especially during the early pinning stages. You can occasionally allow the humidity to dip below 65%; no adverse effects are usually noted in the overall size. For many, fluctuations in humidity can help reduce the possibility of contamination.
- Temperature Preferences – There are various strains of shiitake mushrooms, and the ideal temperature is very dependent on this. They usually prefer colder temperatures, but warm weather strains have developed that can withstand higher climates. The temperature can affect the size and quality of the mushrooms.
Harvesting Your Shiitake Mushrooms
When you harvest, your mushroom is up to your preference. They will start as small, more desirable fruits in the kitchen. Often, the younger mushrooms are more flavorful and have a better texture than older fruits. The more youthful fruits can have a longer shelf life and are often the choice of commercial growers who harvest the fruit before the caps begin to uncurl from the stem.
However, if you allow the fruit to grow larger, it will substantially increase the overall yield. Unfortunately, the longer the fruit is allowed to grow, the quality is reduced as far as taste is concerned. Larger shiitakes have thinner flesh in the cap, are much more prone to damage when handling, and will not last as long in the fridge.
To harvest your shiitake mushrooms, you will take a sharp knife and cut the mushroom off at the stem. You will want to hold a basket or bowl under the plant, so they fall into the container. They are relatively resistant to damage, significantly when younger, but allowing them to fall straight into the container reduces the handling time.
Comparative to other mushroom breeds, shiitakes last much longer when stored. If you harvest them when the outside of the cap is relatively dry and then allow it to dry out completely before refrigerating, they can last up to two weeks in the fridge.
3 – Morel Mushrooms
Morel mushrooms are another popular option amongst those who want to begin growing their mushrooms. One difference between these mushrooms is that they grow best in the spring, and your patch should be started the year before. You will want to know where the ground freezes; these take a little more planning than other mushroom species.
These mushrooms are a little more unique than our other choices, as more mushrooms fall under the Fungi kingdom and do not produce roots or seeds. They are vastly different from most plants. However, many love their taste, which can be highly worth growing.
Creating the Best Morel Environment
Compared to some of our other mushrooms mentioned, morel mushrooms are a little pickier regarding what they prefer for quality growth. While they are best grown outdoors, you will want to ensure you pick a good spot and that your climate is ideal for their development. Some things to keep in mind when growing morels are:
- Lighting – Morels grow best in filtered light, often growing naturally under and around deciduous trees like oak, elm, or ash. Since these mushrooms do not have chlorophyll, they do not need light to make food; instead, they warm the soil where they are found.
- Soil – These mushrooms grow best around dead, decaying, or even burned trees as they utilize the nutrients released by the trees and leaf litter. Wood chips, wood ash, and even sand can be used as an additive for the soil that morels grow.
- Water – Moisture is vital to morel growth, and regular watering is key. The area where you grow the plants should be as moist as a wet sponge that has been wrung out. Many glasses of water are morels with captured rainwater than water from the tap.
- Fertilizer – Most morels do not need added fertilizer and rely heavily on planting in good soil. Adding compost, leaf mold, manure, wood ash, and similar items are great ways to enrich the area where morels are grown.
- Temperature – Morels grow the best in a cooler environment that provides moist weather. They are spring mushrooms, growing well during warmer and cooler days in the evenings. Regular rain showers are great for developing the mushrooms, and they will begin to die as the summer months approach.
Growing and Harvesting Morels
Each morel mushroom has thousands of microscopic spores that can grow into a new morel when given a chance. Naturally, these spores will travel by air, but cultivating them requires you to capture them in a slurry. This is a little different than other mushroom types and requires you to follow these steps:
- Soak a freshly picked morel in a bucket of distilled water overnight. This will gather the spores that you will use to grow new mushrooms.
- After this soaking period, you will want to pour this slurry around an area where you have noticed morels growing. If you do not have an abundance of morels in your area, pour them at the base of mature or dead ash, oak, elm, apple, or similar tree.
- At this point, a three to five-year period of nutrient gathering begins. Underground filaments or mycelium will form, and the mushroom will start to develop. Of course, these mushrooms take much longer to grow than other types, and the fruiting body is the last growth stage.
- Morels do not need to reach a specific size for you to harvest them; they are just as tasty when they are young as when they are larger. Since these mushrooms grow outdoors and can take years to fruit, you do not want to leave them long enough that an animal or the weather affects them. To harvest them, you will cut or pinch them off at ground level, and you can store them for up to a week in the refrigerator between moist paper towels.
4 – Enoki Mushrooms
Enoki mushrooms are unique in appearance but are a great addition to various meals. They have tiny caps and long, skinny stems. They are easy to grow at home and commonly found in soups and salads.
Cultivated enoki are white and noodle-like. These long stems are formed as they are grown in darker rooms, and the steams stretch out to find any light. These mushrooms are a great source of protein, dietary fiber, amino acids, vitamin B1, and vitamin B2.
How to Grow Enoki Mushrooms
Growing enoki mushrooms in your home are extremely simple and an excellent option for beginners. You do not need a lot of items, and they grow fairly quickly. You will want to follow these steps for proper enoki growth:
- Find Spawn and Growing Medium – The growing medium used for enoki can vary; some even use aged hardwood sawdust. Regardless, you want to have spawn and medium in place before starting the growing process.
- Prepare Container – You will need an adequately sized glass container or bottle to grow your mushrooms. You will then sterilize the container so that your plants can grow properly. Mix the spawn into the medium in this sterilized glass container thoroughly.
- Store the Container – After filling the bottle with the medium, store it in a prepared area for quality growth. You will want the temperature to be between 72 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The humidity is best if it is very high. You also want to ensure that the room is dark so that the caps remain white, while brown caps are still delicious if they change shade.
- Wait a Couple of Weeks – You will leave your container in this dark area for two weeks until mycelium is evident. Once the medium is covered in mycelium, you will move the jar to a lowered temperature of 50-60 degrees F. This will promote the formation of caps.
- Harvesting – Once the caps are formed on your enoki, and you are happy with their size, you can harvest them for use in your favorite dishes.
5 – Lion’s Mane
Perhaps the unique mushroom on our list, the lion’s mane variety, is a wonderful and playful mushroom with a different appearance. These mushrooms have been known for having medicinal use in China for years but are also great for use in many dishes. Many who love lion’s mane mushrooms say they taste like lobster and are a great addition to any seafood dish.
How to Grow Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Lion’s mane mushrooms are easy to grow at home and can get quite large with proper growth. However, keeping a few key things in mind when growing your lion’s mane would be best. You will want to do the following:
- Start by finding the best-growing medium. Lion’s mane grows very well on beech totes and supplemental sawdust; they can take longer than similar shiitake or oyster mushrooms. While they can be shocked into fruiting quicker, they are worth the extra effort to grow compared to the other types.
- You can also inoculate logs with lion’s mane plug spawn for a greater yield of mushrooms. Of course, you will want to do a little more research into log inoculation and how to do the necessary steps to plug spawn.
- Uniquely, the lion’s mane mushroom has little teeth or spine that come off the fruited body. The lion’s mane mushrooms do not start with these spines when they are young but will develop as it matures. The spines grow first by protruding outwards and then cascading downwards.
- Once your lion’s mane has fruited from the holes, you can grab the body, twist, and pull to harvest them. You should be able to easily remove the mushroom from the log or totem you are using. The mushroom base will often be tough, but the rest of the lion’s mane is delicious and ready to eat.
Try Out a Mushroom Grow Kit
If you want to start growing mushrooms but are new at growing your own plants, you can also pick up mushroom grow kits online. These mushroom grow kits can help you get first-hand experience growing mushrooms but have everything you need easily selected. This is one of the easiest ways to get started with your mushroom crop with little hassle.
Most kits are sold online and will be sent to you in the mail. You will want to begin your kit as soon as it arrives, making sure to read all directions with the kit. Most of these kits come with a block of substrate and mycelium of whichever mushroom you choose. They will have different directions based on the mushroom you are planning to grow, and you will want to ensure that you pay attention to this.
Most of these kits require you to cut holes into the container that arrives so mushrooms can grow out of this plastic. You will often mist them daily to ensure they stay humid and have the moisture needed to grow properly. You will often see mushrooms in a little over a week, and depending on the kit you purchase; you can get up to a couple of pounds of fresh mushrooms.
In conclusion, with the correct information and steps in mind, raising mushrooms can be pretty effortless, even for inexperienced gardeners. Try growing one of the five easiest mushrooms mentioned above for the best experience.