Making a Mushroom Kit

Growing gourmet oyster mushrooms is easy: Get a plastic bag, the kind from the produce section of the supermarket. Place at least one pound of damp straw in this bag. This is ordinary straw shredded into 2-inch segments and flattened to expose the pith, and specially soaked in alkalinized water. This straw is the mushroom-growing medium. Then:

Brace Smith

“Seed” your straw with a handful of oyster-mushroom mycelium, which is nothing more than white fuzzy fungus deliberately grown in a bag of grain. This fuzz was first cultivated in petri dishes and test tubes from a single spore of a fine mushroom. Add a handful of gypsum to the plastic bag.

Twist the bag shut. What you have now is a kind of terrarium. The mushrooms-to-be, however, need to breathe, so over the twist goes a small collar cut from a tube of PVC [pictured], and it is rubber-banded there. Then fluff open the “collar” of the bag. Now the bag can breathe through the PVC tube. But to keep other spores and things out while mushrooms are developing, stuff the PVC tube with a thumb’s length of that synthetic fill that goes into pillows. Now the bag can breathe but nothing can get in.


Mycelium

Place bag in the dark for I don’t know how long, because I just made my first mushroom terrarium this morning, wondering: Will this really work? Mushroom production scientist and lecturer Brace Smith said that when the straw in the bag appears covered with white stuff, move the bag to a place getting mild sunlight. Soon proto-mushrooms or “pins” will appear. Slit the bag there, making room for the mushrooms to grow outside of the bag, and in three days, harvest and eat. Smith said to expect two or three crops, or about one pound, of oyster mushrooms.

If you are able to get mycelium (by mail order; it takes a scientist like Smith to grow it correctly), all the rest is very low-tech.

I will keep you posted as to what’s happening with my mushroom kit. Nothing is more exciting than something growing.