Winter is a great time to focus on the tender tropicals, citrus trees, herbs, and other plants that can thrive indoors, and to do some horticultural experimentation. If you love mushrooms, it’s a wonderful time to try growing mushrooms at home.
I had ordered a mushroom growing kit as a gift for my husband many years ago. It was a total failure, so I was skeptical about investing in another one. At the same time, I was still intrigued by the idea. I visited the booth of MoTown Mushrooms at the Conn. Flower Show last winter, and spent a long while learning about their products and asking a lot of questions. MoTown Mushrooms is a small husband and wife mushroom farm in Morristown, Vermont, that is trying to educate New Englanders about the benefits of “applied mycology” and introduce them to delicious gourmet mushrooms.
A month later, I took the plunge, and bought their FungiPail at the Boston Flower Show. Mushrooms need a damp environment to grow, and I happen to have a very humid basement with a 100 year old stone foundation that stays at an even 55 degrees year round. MoTown Mushrooms sells 12 pound FungiPails that come spawned with several different types of mushrooms. Given my growing environment, they recommended Blue Oyster mushrooms, which prefer a temperature of 40 – 65 degrees F. Though I wasn’t familiar with this variety, I decided to give it a try and purchased the bucket.
Cooking and eating mushrooms is in my Czech blood. Hunting for wild mushrooms is a national sport in the Czech Republic — a drive in the country to forage for mushrooms is a favorite weekend activity. The most prevalent mushroom is the Boletus edulis, or porchini mushroom.
When we emigrated to the US, my parents tried to indulge their mushroom hunting hobby here. Driving on country roads, we were always on the lookout for wild mushrooms. I remember a couple of very bountiful and memorable mushroom hunts, particularly during vacations on Martha’s Vineyard. I have fond memories of fresh mushrooms made with scrambled eggs, and the rest of the bounty carefully sliced and left to dry on sheets of newspaper on the backyard picnic table.
So I was excited to try my hand at growing mushrooms at home. I placed my new FungiPail in the basement, and carefully monitored it for signs of life. The FungiPail is filled with a spawned substrate in a plastic bag, and has several openings cut into its side. Several weeks passed, and nothing had happened. I was beginning to think that I had wasted my money, when the first little bulges appeared in the cut openings of the bucket. I began misting twice a day. The mushrooms grew at an incredible pace. Within a week, the bucket looked as if it had exploded with mushrooms and I began harvesting. The blue oyster mushrooms were delicious sautéed with butter and onion. I enjoyed their earthy flavor, and dried some for future use in soups and stews.
Once the mushrooms were fully harvested, it was time for the Intermission, a period of about 3 weeks when the bucket rests before fruiting again. Sure enough, about a month later, more mushrooms burst forth. The second fruiting was smaller than the first, but equally delicious. The bucket fruited a total of 4 times with virtually no effort on my part except for the daily misting during fruiting. I definitely harvested the 3 lbs. of mushrooms that were promised, and will purchase a bucket refill at the Conn. Flower Show in February.
MoTown Mushrooms sells FungiPail kits inoculated with Pearl Oysters, Blue Oysters, Gray Oyster, Pink Oyster, and King Oyster, and Chestnut Mushrooms. In addition to FungiPails, they feature a cute tabletop kit, jars of glow-in-the-dark mushrooms, and inoculated logs and spawn plugs so that you can make your own mushrooms logs or stumps – my next project!
The plug spawn can be ordered with other types of mushrooms, Shitake, Lion's Mane and Chicken of the Woods.
There are many other mushroom vendors online as well– Mushroom Mountain is another great source. You can also find mushroom growing kits at retailers including Amazon and William-Sonoma. If you have other mushroom vendor recommendations, please leave them in the comments below. Give mushroom-growing a try – it's easy, fun, and very satisfying!