Not many people realize that it is actually very easy to grow mushrooms yourself at home, instead opting to spend their money at their local supermarket on mushroom species cheaply imported from foreign countries where they are grown in bulk. The shop variety do not have much of a shelf life and the mushrooms don’t really like to be packed in plastic so by learning to grow mushrooms at home not only are you going to have fresher longer-lasting mushrooms but they will also most likely taste stronger and more mushroomey as the shop varieties tend to have a more watered-down flavor.
Another advantage of growing mushrooms yourself is that you aren’t limited to the variety displayed in the shops – which usually consists of button mushrooms, Shiitake, Oyster and Portobello. Although Oyster mushrooms are seen to be the easiest type of mushroom to cultivate, you may wish to try and grow something that most shops wont ever sell. The Lions Mane mushroom is a little harder to grow and yet has a taste which is very similar to that of lobster, and it is very expensive to purchase from specialist retailers.
To be able to grow your own mushrooms first you will need to decide on a variety. There are hundreds of edible mushrooms that can be grown either inside your house or outside, most growers settle for the oyster mushroom to begin with due to the simplicity of growing it (Oyster, or Pleutorus Ostreateus has very vigorous growth and so is very likely to grow given the right conditions).
Once you have decided on a type of mushroom to grow you will need to find the specific growing requirements, as all fungus have their own different growing parameters. With the Oyster mushroom you can use either a wood-based substrate (paper, cardboard etc) or you can grow it on straw. These are the most common substrates to use as they provide the best yields.
The next thing you will need is the mushroom spawn. It is easiest if you purchase your spawn from a shop – which is probably easiest done online as most garden centers only sell complete mushroom growing kits, whereas the spawn on its own is a little more specialist. There are many websites that sell spawn and it will only cost you a few pounds for a bag which will provide you with lots of blue meanies mushrooms (it is also far better value to grow your own mushrooms then to purchase them from a store).
With the oyster mushrooms you need to pasteurize the straw or paper-based product, which kills off many of the bacteria present, giving the mushroom spawn a head-start when it comes to growing. You can do this by submerging the straw/paper in some hot water, keeping it at around 60 degrees C for about 1 hour. When this has done, drain the substrate and allow it to cool before loading it into a see-through plastic bag. Put a handful of straw/paper into the bag and then sprinkle spawn on top, and continue this until the bag is full. Tie the bag with a metal-tie and then pierce holes over the bag which will allow air to help the mycelium grow and will allow mushrooms to grow later, Leave it in a warm room for about 2 weeks until the bag completely colonizes (turns white, from the mycelium growing). An airing cupboard or boiler room is an ideal place).
When the bag is fully colonized it will be ready to fruit – mushrooms should start appearing within a few days. To help it to fruit you need to move the bag to a cooler, damper area where humidity levels are about 90% or higher. Oyster mushrooms like to be in quite cool conditions so it is probably best to place them outside. They will start to form (pin) from the holes that were poked in the bag previously, due to the mushrooms liking the air provided. When this happens, carefully cut the bag and peel it back a little, allowing the mushrooms the air and space required to grow to large sizes. When the Oyster mushrooms look a good size and just before the caps unfurl to release their spores, gently pull and twist them at their stems to harvest them. Cut the end part of the stem with a knife and they will be ready to eat!