Sunday, August 3, 2014

How to stick it to the man and grow your own mushrooms, Part 1

Growing mushrooms is tough work. I was a farmer for four years and I thought that was tough. An amazing end of the year paycheck can come from hard work and determination, but there's a few times when you just learn that god neither loves or hates you and just wants to fuck your stuff up. That's the real meaning of hurricanes in Vermont and tornadoes in Pennslyvania. A bored god with nothing better to do.Plants are not picky when it comes to food though. Sure, NPK is important, and calcium deficiency will mess up your garden and look like any number of molds and bacteria. Ultimately, huck some seeds out the window, 9 out of 10 will probably germinate. Getting fruit depends on animals who live in your area, the amount of attention you give to the seeds, and just what your deity is up to on any given day. Mushrooms are a bitch though.
The worst part is, I can grow mold because I simply forgot about something. Mold is easy to grow! Didn't clean out the tub? Left the bread alone for too long? It was just a humid and wet summer in general? Congratulations! You are a proud mold farmer! But it's never the right type of mold. It's always that mold that can kill you dead! Mold that will eat your dog and kids and then eat your brain too! I've talked about mushrooms a few times. It's my job, it's what I do. They are some magnificent little buggers, and are used for spiritual, medicinal, and gourmet purposes. I've written about growing them in the past, but it was a basic crash course with some quick terminology that was really meant to get me writing again on a regular basis. Because people ask me how to do it, here's some in depth tips on growing Agaricus Bisporus.
No one cares about these guys. I work with them, and they're boring. Because they're just so damn boring, the practice has become so standardized and simple that they're easy to work with.
  1. Sterilization is SO VERY important. Very, very important. Earlier, I talked about how easy it is to grow mold? Mold loves cooked rye, especially mold that is aggressive enough to overtake and eat the mold you want to grow. It's actually kind of cool to watch on petri dishes, but here it means that your yield will suck. So latex gloves, alcohol, and a pressure cooker are your best friend. If you have extra time on your hands, here is an article about how to build a Mycology lab. Give that ariticle a read, because it talks about some pretty standard stuff I barely think about anymore. Things like bleach the surfaces you are working on, and spray with 70% alcohol. Don't touch anything not sterilized when working with the spawn.
  2. Cook rye and mix with gypsum. Rye isn't the best thing to use but, unlike at my job, you don't have an R & D team sitting around coming up with better mushroom substrate. Rye is pretty easy to get your hands on. Bob's Red Mill sells rye berries.For a one pint jar, it's recommended you use 100g of rye, (3.5 oz ~ 125 mL) 105 g of water (3.9 oz =105 ml) water, and a teaspoon of gypsum. Rinse and wash the rye, then simmer until the rye is fat and ready to burst, or about 45 minutes. Put in a jar, then put a lid with a filter on it and place in your pressure cooker for one hour. Why a filter? Heat and pressure makes stuff with water explode. It's happened at work once when someone tightened caps too tight and placed the bottles in the autoclave. The steam has no where to go, so you get a rye and glass bomb in your kitchen. The pressure cooker is to keep things sterile.
  3. Because I like your face, here's a link to buy some spawn. Feel free to do your own digging though, since you might find better prices or organic or heritage or something. That's the pre-made stuff for the steps I described above. To get this stage your self, you need to inoculated the grain you prepared with some agaricus mycellium. That would be either you have a petri dish with the mycellium on it, or you use about a gram of the pre-made stuff. This needs to be done in a sterile environment. Sterile. Enviroment. Place the lid with filter back on top, because fungus breathes in oxygen and exhales CO2, shake well to mix the inoculum, and let it sit for 14 to 16 days at room temperature. Watch it grow, it's pretty cool.
There's the stage to make you spawn. I will finish this tomorrow, but tonight I need to sleep.If you're interested in more information on growing mushrooms then there's plenty out there. As much as I'm annoyed to say it, the majority of information on growing your own mushrooms is on psychedelics. It's a good place to start though, because they do have information on building a hood, sterilization, and even tips on getting started. It's like learning chemistry from someone who cooks meth though. Paul Stamets has some great books on why mushrooms and fungus is important and how to grow them. The techniques are really only handy if you have some land available to put your inoculated logs.


  1. That sounds like a lot of work. There's no way I could grow mushrooms. I'd probably create some kind of fungus that would be the basis for a zombie apocalypse.

    1. Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is the mold you want. It's tropical, and affects ants. It affects their behavioral patterns to make the affected ant head towards humid areas suitable for fungal growth. Also, people with an autoimmune disease can be affected by mucor growing directly on their brain.