The purpose of this blog is to quickly explain the new hobbyist what growing mushrooms involves. This is by no means a deep dive, but a simple way of providing a list of the most common items required to get started.
Contrary to popular belief, getting started with mushroom growing does not require a lot of tools and money. The most important factor when growing mushrooms is sterilization.
The environment and tools needed to handle mycelium must be sterilized every single time, so a good portion of the effort and budget will be spent in making sure the tools and environment are in fact clean.
The starter Kit: (not exhaustive)
- Still box, Lysol wipes, Lysol spray, isopropyl alcohol 70%
- Pressure cooker
- Aluminum foil
The most important step when growing mushrooms is to have a clean area to work. You could have the best tools and best mushroom strain to work with, but if the area is not clean, you will contaminate everything and lose it all.
Over time, the hobbyist will learn that once contamination takes over, the entire work is lost. So again, keeping things clean is of paramount importance.
The Sterilizer or pressure cooker is used to sterilize any object, grain or liquid required to grow mycelium and, in turn, mushrooms.
A unit that can reach 15 PSI is a must since most sterilization of grains is done at 15 PSI for a set amount of time. Anything lower and sterilization may not be complete, which can result in contamination.
The aluminium foil is used to cover grain jars so water does not get into the jars changing the humidity levels in the jars.
- Mushroom liquid culture (mycelium in liquid).
- Petri dishes (ideally glass).
- Tape (ideally parafilm).
- Lighter (anything that will produce high heat to sterilize the scalpel).
Once the clean area is settled, the hobbyist needs a starter culture. In this case, the easiest way to start is by using liquid culture. Liquid culture, in short, is mycelium combined with in a mix of water and sugar. Liquid culture is sold in a syringe by many hobbyists, but it is important to buy from a reliable source. Like anything else, you get what you pay for. Getting a recommendation for a reputable source will start you off on the right foot.
The main problem with liquid culture is that the hobbyist cannot see if the culture is contaminated or not, since everything is floating in water and sugar. Therefore, before we spend time and money making plenty of agar dishes, or before we inoculate multiple jars of grains, it’s best to only run two test agar dishes and wait a week. Only then, contamination can be seen.
The parafilm is an extensible wax-type tape that goes around the Petri dish. It allows the dish to remain closed and blocks contaminants from getting into the Petri dish.
The scalpel is a sharp cutting tool made of metal, and can be heated for sterilization. After every use, the scalpel has to be sterilized with flame until it glows red.
a lighter, or any heat source that will provide enough heat for the scalpel blade to become red hot, can be used for sterilization.
- 1 litter wide mouth mason jars
- Surgical micropore tape
Mason jars are needed for grain spawn or liquid culture creation. Once the agar dish is fully colonized by mycelium, the hobbyist cuts pieces and dumps them in the jar with grains or liquid culture. This in turn provides even more mycelium. The goal is to go from a tiny bit of mycelium (initial liquid culture) to a huge load of mycelium, which then will produce mushrooms.
The micropore tape is used to close the small hole that needs to be made on the lid of the jar. This hole allows for air exchange. A small amount of air will flow through the micropore tape, which can also be put in the pressure cooker. After each use, the tape must be changed.
- Wheat, oat or rye grains
Grains are the medium used to multiply mycelium. It is washed, cooked and sterilized before getting injected by liquid culture or agar, or even grain-to-grain inoculation.
Rye, wheat and oat are the grains most readily available and used to expand mycelium. Some also use corn grains, WBS (also known as wild bird seeds), sawdust, cardboard, or basically anything that contains wood that can be sterilized.
- Wheat straw or wood pellets
- Large mushroom bags
When growing oyster mushrooms, the preferred substrates are wheat straw or wood pellets. Once the grain spawn is ready, it is mixed with straw or supplemented HWFP (hard wood fuel pellets), and put in large mushroom bags. Eventually the straw or hardwood is fully colonized by the mycelium and ready to fruit.
- Plastic to cover the large mushroom bag
- Bottle sprayer
The plastic bag is used to cover the mushroom bag, so humidity stays around the mushroom bag instead of dissipating in the air.
A bottle sprayer is used to mist inside the mushroom bag to create humidity for the mushroom.
As explained at the beginning of this post, the goal of this blog was not a deep dive into growing mushrooms, but to provide the hobbyist with a sense of direction.
Although no major investment is required to do this at home, it is important to understand that, unlike growing tomatoes, growing mushrooms requires the hobbyist to be more involved.
Please see our other blogs covering more specific subjects about the fun world of growing mushrooms.