It has begun. My mushroom-growing experiment, that is. Do you have any idea how fascinating fungus is? Do you? I don’t think you do. Sometime, I’ll have to devote an entire post to the wonder that is the earth’s natural recycling process, as it will just about blow your mind, but right now I have to unburden myself of the pile of neglected posts accumulating on my desktop before they start self-composting.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sucky gardener. However, growing mushrooms is the opposite of gardening, and so I’m optimistic that I’ll have tremendous success. If I’ve learned anything from my past failures, it’s this: diversify. That way, you can have double (even triple!) the fun, while containing your losses somewhat. So I’m trying three different strategies in the hopes that one of these will actually grow:
1. Oyster mushrooms in used coffee grounds;
2. Shiitakes out of felled logs; and
3. Morels in my former garden spot with plenty of fireplace and BBQ ash.
Of the three, the third one is absolutely doomed to fail. Everyone (apparently) knows that morels are impossible to grow and, yet, you can always count on someone like me plopping down a hard-earned twenty to test the odds. But somebody eventually wins the lottery, right? You just have to be foolish enough to play.
The oyster mushrooms have the best chance of working. Why? Because the patch I bought, which is basically a block of established oyster mushroom spawn in packed sawdust, was already producing mushrooms right inside the package it came in. I ordered it from Fungi Perfecti, the company run by mushroom guru Paul Stamets who wrote that book I mentioned. Basically, I just went to the children’s section of his site and bought whatever mushrooms were deemed easy enough for kids to grow. Because that’s about the level of expertise I bring to the table. I also got a Mushrooms of the World coloring book. For myself.
Here’s what I did to prepare the growing medium for my oyster mushrooms. Dug a 5-gallon bucket out of the basement and washed it out. Drilled five or six holes in the bottom. Ripped up some old pizza boxes and soaked the cardboard in a sink full of water. Placed the soggy cardboard in the bottom of the bucket. Dumped Husband’s accumulated coffee grounds on top. Realized I would need a LOT more than that. Begged my neighbors for their coffee grounds. Got a little bit more. Realized I would have to take drastic action if I hoped to fill up the bucket by spring’s end. Went to a local coffee shop and asked if they would dump their coffee grounds into my bucket. They agreed. (Thanks to Café on the Common on the corner of Main St. and Moody St. in Waltham). It took about two days to get enough.
Worried that the coffee filters would degrade at a different rate than the grounds, I pulled them out and composted them separately. I poured water onto the grounds and drained off the excess. Then, I opened the oyster mushroom spawn.
See? Mushrooms already. They look leggy because they had no access to light in the box they came in. The instructions said to cut off these mushrooms before proceeding. Then, I broke up the spawn with my hands and mixed it into the coffee grounds, like so.
Now the mushrooms have all kinds of new material to decompose. Then you compress the whole thing, mist it twice a day with a water sprayer, cover with the humidity tent it came with, and store it outside somewhere with indirect light.
And now we wait. It should take about two or three weeks for mushrooms to appear. Let the betting pool begin.
Next up, shiitakes. The logs should be ready for action in just a few weeks.