Lion’S Mane

Hericium: The Memory Mushroom?

Hericium erinaceus (also called lion’s mane, bearded tooth, monkey head, satyr’s beard, bearded hedgehog or pom pom mushroom among many other names) is an edible and medicinal mushroom that belongs to the tooth fungus group of mushrooms.

It is found in North-American, often during fall, on dead to decaying hard woods. This is a fun mushroom to grow because it has a unique shape. While oysters are mostly larger clusters of stems and caps, hericium is white and has a snow ball shape with spikes all around it.

It is called the memory mushroom because it has been used for very long time in traditional Chinese medicine as a super food to enhance overall health and cognitive abilities. The most important reported benefit of hericium erinaceus has to do with its ability to help, in some extent, with regeneration of brain cells among many other benefits.

The mycelium is difficult to grow on agar. It will rarely take the entire space on agar because it will start to fruit in the dish. Reason is, the mycelium is very sensitive to air. As soon as it gets in contact with oxygen it will start to fruit. Best results with this mushroom are achieved by using liquid culture.

The mushroom starts as a small bump, and over time, grows in a ball-like shape. It is completely white at first, with no spikes, and as it ages, spikes develop in order to help it with spore release. Also, over time, it will turn brown. This mushroom has to be harvested and consumed while it is still white. The spikes are very fragile and must be handled with care, bruising the mushroom will make the bruised part go brown, which is not desirable.

Humidity wise, this is a very sensitive mushroom to water droplets. When in contact with excessive humidity, or water droplets, it will turn brown. This is not desirable.

Hericium is not a mushroom that can grow on straw. This mushroom must be grown on supplemented sawdust and it will produce good quantity of mushroom over multiple flushes. The Biological efficiency of the mushroom makes it interesting to grow as well. A block of 3 Kg will produce about 1 Kg of fresh mushroom over many flushes.

Putting hericium on grain is not easy since it never really fully colonizes the entire jar. The mycelium is wispy and thin unlike the very thick white mycelium of oyster mushrooms. You may even think that the mycelium of hericium is not growing but the grain spawn of this mushroom needs some shaking every so often to promote full colonization of the grains. Also the mycelium tends to fruit in the jar so it is important to keep an eye on the grain spawn and shake often so it doesn’t fully fruit in the jar. Regardless of the amount of shaking done, this is one mushroom that will grow and fruit in the grain spawn jar unless it is used on supplemented sawdust quickly. Within two weeks, the sawdust block is ready to fruit otherwise it will fruit in the closed bag and the mushrooms will turn bad and contaminate the block.

The supplemented sawdust block has to be very tight in the bag otherwise it will fruit all over the bag. In order to promote fruiting we make one long slice from top to bottom on the bag.

Overall, this is a fun mushroom to watch grow, and given the health benefits it’s worth the extra effort of watching over the grain spawn and the extra care required in the fruiting chamber due to its sensitive nature to humidity and water droplets..

Supplemented HWFP (hard wood fuel pellets) with a mix of 15% to 20% bran and small amounts of lime and gypsum is one of the best substrates to grow this mushroom on.

Hobbyists should expect multiple flushes on supplemented sawdust and expect fruit formation within three to four weeks after inoculation.

This is a mushroom that is used in many forms. Fresh, dried, powered, are all different ways of using this mushroom for its health benefits. In order to take advantage from the different health benefits, it is also possible to find in many pharmacies the pill version of this mushroom.

This is an easy to cook mushroom. The taste resembles that of lobster. The taste if affected by the maturity of the mushrooms. This mushroom goes well with onions, garlic and butter with a bit of soy sauce. It can also be mixed with some other vegetables and added to wild rice.

The ideal fruiting container for supplemented sawdust is polypropylene mushroom bags that you can find in our shop section. These bags can go in the pressure cooker and are a must for supplemented sawdust substrate, because this substrate must be sterilized. In addition, mushroom bags come with a filter patch that allows for air exchange to happen, which is very important for mycelium growth, especially with a dense substrate like sawdust. Without a filter patch, mycelium growth will come to a full stop.

The growing parameters for Hericium are interesting because they are not very demanding and are close to Pleurotus type mushrooms which allow the hobbyist to grow both types of mushrooms in the same environment. Its biological efficiency is around 90% to 140% which is interesting for a grower given this is a mushroom that’s worth good amount of money.

Incubation: Pinning: Fruiting:
Temperature: 21°C to 24°C Temperature: 10°C to 16°C Temperature: 18°C to 24°C
Humidity: 95% to 100% Humidity: 85% to 100% Humidity: 80% to 95%
Fresh air exchange: 0-1 per hour Fresh air exchange: 5-8 per hour Fresh air exchange: 5-8 per hour
Duration: 10 to 14 days Duration: 3 to 5 days Duration: 4 to 5 days
Luminosity: 500 lux to 1000 lux Luminosity: 500 lux to 1000 lux

When growing Hericium, the hobbyist has to pay very close attention to water droplet formation on the fruit body. Excessive moisture on this mushroom, will result in the fruit body browning, which is undesirable.

Keeping parameters in check and making sure there is no excessive humidity will reward the hobbyist with very delicious mushrooms with many health benefits.

In our shop section you can find Hericium related products such as liquid culture, grain spawn and  sawdust spawn, as well as the occasional ready to fruit kits.

Please see our other blogs covering more specific subjects about the fun world of growing mushrooms.