Adventures in Apartment Mushroom Growing

If mycologist Paul Stamets is to be believed, an answer to just about every global crisis lies in the proper application of mushrooms. Stamets devotes his time to researching fungal solutions for everything from ground pollution to viral pandemics, but he also operates the online retail store Fungi Perfecti, an everyman’s source for all things mushroom-related.

Among Fungi Perfecti’s offerings: certified-organic culinary mushroom growing kits, including indoor mushroom patches for us urban-dwelling mycophiles. We undertook the adventure of growing our very own indoor Shiitake patch, and here you can witness these mushrooms go all the way from spore to harvest.

Week 0: Our very own bag of Shiitake spore-inoculated sawdust arrives.

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Week 1: A full week passes for our brave little mushroom patch, and what adventures he’s experienced! In strict adherence to the included instructions, he spent 5 days in the refrigerator crisper. He then left the fridge only to be immediately submerged in a bucket of water for 24 hours. After all that however, he now gets to lounge inside his humidity tent for a week or two, with an occasional spritz of de-chlorinated water to keep him happy.

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Week 2: After a week in the humidity tent, our mushroom patch goes from popcorn white to a blistered chocolate brown. With no sign of budding mushrooms, we got nervous and wrote into Fungi Perfecti with this photo. They told us the patch looks good, though they recommended letting it go dormant and drying out for a week before trying the dunking/spritzing process again.

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Week 3: The patch has been kept dormant in preparation for the next week’s cold water bath, which is expected to jump start the growing cycle and get us some mushrooms within a few weeks. Not much excitement: the humidity tent was removed and the patch has been drying out.

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Week 4: The mushroom patch is back in action. After a week of just hanging out to reset the growing cycle, the mushroom patch has been dunked into a 24-hour cold water bath. It then returned to the humidity tent and started getting regular water spritzes again.

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Week 5: Oh, mushroom patch… We’ve tried misting frequently, misting infrequently, drying, and dunking… We’ve had you in the kitchen, in the hallway, and in the refrigerator crisper… What more could you possibly want from us? We decide to give it one more week before sending another call for help over to the experts.

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Week 6: After 5 weeks of tending to our unresponsive little blob of sawdust and mycelium, we’ve been rewarded with a flush of HUMONGOUS SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS (Yay!!). They started as tiny caramel-colored patches on the surface at the start of the week, and then launched into growing visibly by the hour.

According to the handy guide provided by Fungi Perfecti, a few giant mushrooms aren’t an uncommon yield  for the first flush. The edges of the shroom caps are just starting to roll upwards, which means they’re probably overdue for picking.
Next week it’ll be back to hibernation for the mushroom kit in preparation for the second flush.

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Week 7: We went pretty simple with our first Shiitake mushroom harvest. To get an appreciation for the freshness, we just went with cooking them on their own; no fancy recipes. Aside from using some of them for a mushroom oil, we also made a Shiitake tea, and then pan-fried a few with a bit of salt and rosemary. The fried mushrooms had an amazingly fresh, woodsy taste and a firm, fleshy texture. Not too mushroom-y and not at all rubbery.

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Week 8: Wasting no time in getting to the second crop though, our patch spent the past week drying out in preparation for its 24-hour cold water bath. Over the next week, we should begin to see a new flush.

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Week 9: We’ve harvested our second flush of mushrooms! These Shiitakes were slightly smaller in size than the first flush, but about equal in number. We waited about a day and a half too long to harvest, which resulted in a bit of shriveling on the mushroom caps, but they still tasted delicious.

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And so the process goes… the patch now goes into another dormancy period before cycling into a third flush. The mushroom kit is generally exhausted after the third or fourth flush, after which you can use (or donate) the kit to start an outdoor mushroom patch. Even a spent kit will have enough potency to inoculate logs or other appropriately prepared outdoor spaces.

Happy growing, and let us know the outcome of your urban mushrooming adventures!


One Comment

  1. James
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    I liked how you showed the step by step process on growing mushrooms. I have a few mushroom growing kits that i am about to start growing with. Ill be using a lot of your strategies and tips. Thanks for the info..

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