Edible mushrooms are a rich source of protein. As they are best eaten fresh, cultivating them at home is ideal. However, it takes time, patience and care to grow mushrooms.
To begin with, allot a separate area for the mushroom growing. This ensures sufficient space as well as better temperature and humidity regulation to grow mushrooms. It also guarantees better health. Mushrooms emit carbon dioxide, which, if breathed in too often and in large quantities, can be harmful.
Use a garden shed, a basement room, or any other convenient place. Sophisticated equipment and temperature and humidity controls are nice, but not necessary. An electric vaporizer, a portable fan, plastic bags, a wire basket, wooden trays and regular lights will do just as well to grow mushrooms.
Select a mushroom variety. Some popular, easy-to-grow types are Button, Oyster, Portabella, Crimini, Shiitake, Enoki and Maitake. These can be grown from spawn or by using mushroom growing kits. Many companies sell both online. The kits usually come with easy to follow instruction manuals.
Mushroom spawn is the equivalent to plant seeds. Mushrooms, being members of the fungi family, produce spores. These spores are collected and inoculated into sterilized grain to develop spawn cultures. The spawn is cultivated on an organic substrate or compost. The compost provides the nutrients required for mushroom growing. Mushrooms can't produce their own nutrients as they lack chlorophyll.
The compost needed to grow mushrooms can be bought in prepared blocks to save time. Otherwise it can be made by combining plant waste like crushed straw and corn cobs with coffee grounds, gypsum and nitrogen supplements. Pack the compost into a wire basket.
Now steam the wire basket or boil it in a hot water pot for a few hours to pasteurize it. Pasteurization is necessary to get rid of any microbes or pests in the compost. Drain water and let the compost cool in wooden trays. Then sprinkle the mushroom spawn over the compost and mix it in thoroughly. Stuff the mix tightly into plastic bags and seal them.
Cut ventilation holes at intervals in the plastic. Keep temperature at about sixty degrees. Leave on the fan and vaporizer for adequate ventilation and humidity. Switch off the lights. Let the spawn develop in darkness for two or three weeks.
When next viewed, the compost in the plastic bags will be covered with white filaments. These are mushroom roots, known as mycelium. Peel off the plastic and cover the mycelium-filled compost with peat moss.
The mycelium soon gives rise to tiny, pin-like growths that poke out through the covering peat moss. About ten to twenty days later, these pins have developed into mushrooms and are ready to be harvested. Recycle the compost and reuse to grow mushrooms again.