January 26, 2013 at 9:20 pm #257568
I’ve been experimenting recently with growing my own oyster mushrooms, and as you can see from the photos here, I’ve met with some success. I was motivated to explore mushroom cultivation partly because I’m a vegetarian and want to produce my own high-protein alternatives to meat; but I was also interested in using so-called ‘dead space’ to grow food (either inside or down the shady side of the house). Oyster mushrooms tick both these boxes, and they are also ridiculously tasty.
Not only that, oyster mushrooms are extremely expensive when purchased from a supermarket, so it makes sense to grow them yourself. Currently in Melbourne they are going for $34 per kilo.
I’m no mushroom-growing expert, so do your own research, but below I’ve outlined how I’ve successfully grown my own oyster mushrooms on straw. It’s surprisingly easy, although you do need to take appropriate precautions to make sure you are growing the right mushrooms and in a hygienically safe way. Apparently white oyster mushrooms are the easiest variety to grow, which is why I started with them.
What you need:
Straw (I used pea-straw successfully but I’m told wheat straw is better)
Robust plastic bags, medium or large size (which can be reused)
Oyster mushroom spawn (which I got from CERES in Melbourne). You may need to find your local supplier.
Spray bottle and water
My 10-Step Method:
(1) Before you begin, wash your hands and clean all your surfaces well. It’s very important to be hygienic when cultivating mushrooms, as you do not want to grow the wrong types of fungi! Good mushrooms are really good; bad mushrooms are really bad. Fortunately, oysters mushrooms are very distinctive.
(2) Once you’ve got all the materials, the first thing you need to do is pasteurise the straw. From my research online, I discovered that this essentially means heating the straw in water to around 70-75 degrees (Celsius) and holding it at that temperature for around 45-60 minutes. I used a large Fowlers cooking pot. Pasteurisation kills the bad bacteria but leaves the good bacteria. Before you put the straw in the pot, most websites recommend that the straw is cut it up into small pieces around 1 to 3 inches in length. (To be honest, I didn’t cut up my straw, and I still grew mushrooms, but perhaps if I had cut it up my production might have been greater – further experimenting required.)
(3) Once you’ve pasteurised the straw, take it out of the heating pot with tongs and let it sit in a clean tub while it cools down. Be careful as you’re dealing with a lot of hot water and the pot will be heavy. It’s important you don’t put the mushroom spawn into the straw until the straw is at room temperature otherwise you will kill the spawn.
(4) When the straw has cooled down, pack your robust plastic bags with straw quite tightly, and then distribute some of the mushroom spawn throughout the straw. I put about three or four pieces of spawn-covered dowel in each bag, but perhaps one would have been fine (further experimenting required). The straw should not be dripping wet, but it should still be damp from the pasteurisation.
(5) At this stage, sterilise a skewer or a nail (by pouring boiling water over it) and jab holes in the bags every 3 inches or so. This let’s some air in, but not too much.
(6) You now have to find a home for you mushrooms. Keep them out of direct sunlight. They like some indirect light and I am told they like it best at around 15-20 degrees Celsius. (It’s been considerably warmer than that in Melbourne over the last two months, and mine have grown very well, but again perhaps the yields would have been greater had the temperature been cooler). More experimenting required. I kept my bags inside to minimise the risk of contamination.
(7) Now you wait while the mushrooms spawn develops into mycelium and beginning taking over the entire bag. Mycelium looks a bit like white furry cobwebs, and you should start seeing it develop in the first couple of weeks. It’s important that your bags of straw stay moist, but not dripping wet. I found that the water from the pasteurisation was sufficient to keep the straw suitably moist without needing to spray with water.
(8) After a number of weeks (depending on the size of your bags) the mycelium should have spread across the entire bag of straw. It is at this stage (which for me was about 5 weeks later) your mushrooms should start forming. I cut some slightly larger holes in the bag, although I’m not sure this was necessary. The mushrooms will decide that they want to grow out of one or more of the holes you’ve created, and they’ll usually grow in one or two clusters.
(9) Now comes the fun part. The mushrooms essentially double in size every day, so within a week or so you should have good-sized oyster mushrooms. Mist them with water two or three times a day over this period – again, not so they are dripping, just so they are moist. The mushrooms should be harvested while their rims are still curled over a little and pointing downwards. If their rims seem to be turning upward, it’s probably time to harvest.
(10) Harvest and eat. To harvest the mushrooms give them a twist at the base. This ensures that you leave the very bottom of the mushroom still in bag. You want to leave that part in the bag as it is needed for the subsequent flushes of mushrooms. If you keep the mushrooms moist and in suitable conditions, you should get three or four flushes of mushrooms, although I’m told the first and second flushes are the most productive. I’m currently harvesting my second flush. When your bags stop producing, the straw can be used as mulch for the garden. (Alternatively, my understanding is that you can distribute some of your straw into new bags of fresh straw and the growing process begins again).
If there are any mushroom experts out there, do let me know if you have any advice, and if any of you decide to begin cultivating your own mushrooms, do let me know how you get on. I’m going to keep experimenting in the hope of developing the easiest and most productive methods.
That’s all for now. I’ve got to go cook me some shrooms.January 26, 2013 at 9:36 pm #530713
Looks good Sam
Well done. :tup:January 31, 2013 at 8:47 pm #530714
I always thought that mushroom growing was really hard, but this description doesn’t sound complicated at all. I’ve also heard of mushrooms being grown on straw mixed with manure. Anyone tried this method?January 31, 2013 at 10:39 pm #530715
Hi Sam, those mushies do indeed look tasty! Well done. 🙂
Did you know you can use your mushies to create mycelium for your next batch? I did a little experiment to see how it would go and was plesantly surprised. Although I made the mistake of using tap water to moisten it and so that killed off quite a bit. I still have the container going (some small “balls” of mycelium here and there so I think it’s preparing to “bud” up).
Will wait until we have reliably cooler weather then I’m going to use it to seed some straw using your method. Thank you for the info!
Details on the DIY mycelium are in this thread (and a photo of my little container after 8 days growth). https://www.aussieslivingsimply.com.au/forum/propagation/346634-growing-your-own-oyster-mushrooms-an-experiment
Oh and just a word of caution, don’t put the leftover straw in your worm farm if you have one, apparently the mycelium of oysters can catch super tiny baby worms which then die and supply the mycelium with nutrients! (I forget what this is called but it’s pretty amazing, there are you tube videos of mycelium doing this)February 2, 2013 at 6:54 pm #530716
Hey GreenAussie, yes I’d heard that manure was a suitable substrate for growing shrooms but haven’t tried it. One thing i didn’t mention in the original post was that I also put some coffee grounds (used that morning) in the water when i was pasteurising the straw. Apparently the shrooms like coffee grounds. I read somewhere that you can actually grow shrooms on coffee grounds but my experiments to date have not worked. coffee either went mouldy or didn’t produce anything.February 2, 2013 at 7:00 pm #530717
I am aware that you can use spawn from the new mushrooms to begin the next round, but i’m not yet experienced enough to see what parts are the spawn, or haven’t looked closely enough. I’m currently in the process of beginning my second batch and in some bags I’ve taken the straw from one of the first batches and distributed it in the new bag. So far it looks as if the old straw is producing mycelium over the new straw, so hopefully this works. I sure beats having to buy new spawn ever time, which I don’t want to have to do.
Any other thing that is on my mind is that plastic bags. I’m guessing that can be washed out and reused, but perhaps there is a non-plastic way to produce? Nature does it. I know they can be grown on logs, but my understanding (which could be wrong) is that it takes much longer. If anyone has any ideas / expertise re ways to do what I’m doing with the plastic bags, do let me know.
Thanks for the comments. I had more mushrooms on toast yesterday, with eggs from the chooks. All good.February 3, 2013 at 1:00 am #530718
Hi again 🙂
Basically I just used the mushroom “stalk” (where they were fuzzy). Oyster mycelium is pretty easiy to distinguish when it’s growing – it looks cobweb like. Though using your old substrate would definitely be the best option.
Re a more environmentally friendly growing bag, I thought I had seen someone growing mushrooms in denim bags made from old jeans (though it could’ve been for potatoes!!). Even so I imagine it would be a good option because denim stays damp for ages. You’d definitely need something that you could sterilise each time to prevent possible contamination.
Only other thing I could think of would be a cardboard box like those mushroom kits you buy. Of course you would need a new box each time but at least the old one could be composted.
Good luck and thanks again for sharing the info!
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