For a year or so, I’ve been becoming increasingly interested in mushroom production. I not only love to eat mushrooms, but I also like searching the woods for them. In the spring, there are Morel mushrooms and in the fall, a mushroom some know as stumpers or Honey mushrooms. Both are good for eating. We have both on our property, however, Morels are hard to come by. Honey mushrooms are abundant each year, but you have to be there at exactly the right moment to harvest them or the opportunity will pass you by quickly.
Both of these species are found throughout Michigan, but are seasonal and subject to weather and environment, so domestic production is unpredictable. However, after doing a little internet research, I found two other species that seem more likely to fit into a home production scenario, the Shiitake and the Oyster mushroom.
These two mushrooms appear to have a fairly simple reproduction method and don’t take much space or supples. You can grow them indoors or out, depending on the space available, quantity desired, and weather conditions.
Oyster mushrooms and Shiitake mushrooms seem to be the easiest to home-grow. So after many months of contemplation, I decided to take the plunge and ordered some spores from a site online. The spores are called mycelium which came through the mail ready to use. Without a solid plan in place, I was glad to know the mycelium would keep in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
We needed to gather a few supplies and we started at the cabin. First were the logs. We searched out just the right tree. My husband cut the tree down and then cut it up into sections. Next we scavaged some straw from the garden. That was tougher than cutting down the tree. It was frozen tight in the bale. We chopped it out with the pick axe and were on our way. We brought these items back to the city so we could inoculate each medium with the mycelium. Keeping the mycelium at appropriate temperature and light intensity could not be achieved at the cabin, not this year anyway. By next year we hope to have that resolved.
We took the logs and thawed them out in the kitchen. Then we took them downstairs where we thought we would be keeping them and drilled the appropriate holes in them to embed the Shiitake plugs. After pounding them in with a hammer, we covered each mycelium plug with melted cheese wax. All that’s left is the waiting. In two weeks we need to figure out how to soak the logs in water to keep them hydrated.
Next was getting the straw ready for the Oyster mycelium. I started out by cutting up the straw into small pieces. I used a pair of kitchen scissors, a big job for sure. Then I got a big pot and filled it with water and brought it to a boil. You have to keep it at 170 degrees for an hour. The plan is to pasteurize the growing medium to free it from bacteria. You can also heat it in the oven, but this is a smelly process. I also added spent coffee grounds. Our local coffee barista was kind enough to offer up a large bag for this project. So, I put my plastic gloves on and I mixed it all together. Then I cleaned the inside of a large plastic bag with alcohol, and began layering the straw/coffee ground mix with pieces of mycelium.
I tied the ends shut and hung them in an old shower stall. I poked a couple air holes in the top and a drain hole in the bottom. Now keeping them dark, warm and moist will be my job for the next couple of months.
Just want to you know that this has not been an easy process. Air flow, humidity, temperature and just the right amount of light or lack of it is what it takes to produce Oyster Mushrooms. Wow! The process was only suppose to take a few weeks and has taken me a couple of months. All the internet directions and videos make it look really easy, but it took me a while to get it all figured out, and for now, I figured it out!
These pictures represent 3 months of trial and error. However, I have learned some do’s and some don’ts. I have also learned how to take mycelium and start new colonies, which I have now done and am working hard to continue this process.
Hopefully by the time the Farmers Market at the corner of 170th and 9 Mile Rd. in Reed City opens, I will have mushrooms to sell under our new brand name, which I will share in a later post.