After yesterday's mushroom recipe post, I was browsing through my previous posts about our mushroom growing efforts, and realised I haven't really provided much helpful information about HOW to actually grow and harvest them. So I thought i'd summarise what I've learnt for those of you interested in growing your own.
As i've mentioned, we grow our's in mushroom compost from a mushroom farm. The farm gets rid of the bags once the've passed peak production and sells the compost for garden use.
When collecting the bags from the farm, it's probably best you don't reveal that you plan to harvest mushrooms, as they will likely, in or experience, rattle on about safety and consider not selling you the compost until you convince them that you wouldn't dare eat any of the mushrooms. I'm sure they're safe to eat and it's just that the growers prefer we don't grow our own because then we wouldn't buy theirs. That said, to be on safe side, we don't eat our home grown mushrooms raw (although I often find Little Eco picking her own and eating them, so i've taught her to go and wash them first, rather than dissuade her from picking her own food), and I definately wouldn't eat them raw if I was pregnant due to the risk of listeriosis in raw mushrooms.
Also, you need to ensure the compost is still in it's original mushroom growing bags. If it's been re-bagged the mycelium will have been disturbed and you won't get more than the odd mushroom or two. Likewise, when transporting the bags, make sure you disturb the soil as little as possible.
Mushrooms are super easy to grow. Simply place the bags (or a commercial mushroom growing kit) in a dark spot thats easy to get to.
I've stored our bags
the BBQ, under
the house, and also under some bench seats which I shaded with old
towels. I've also had friends place the bags
in a shady spot in the garden or in their garage.
Lightly water the bags at least twice a day to keep the compost moist, but not too wet.
The mushrooms can be harvested when small buttons (perfect for pickling), or as slightly larger cups like below....
..or you can leave them until they are large and flat (perfect for grilling and BBQing).
I've found it's better to remove the entire mushroom by twisting and gently pulling, rather than cut it off at the base, as leaving the base intact seems to delay the emergence of new mushrooms.
The mushrooms come in flushes. Once a 'flush' has been harvested, it will be around another week until more are ready to harvest. The time between flushes becomes longer and longer until the mushrooms just stop appearing. I usually get 4-6 flushes per bag.
Thats it! No fertilising, no weeding and no maintenance other than sneaking out in the middle of the night to remove greedy mushroom loving slugs.
What I love about growing mushrooms is that they aren't seasonal - they can be grown all-year-round!
I also love that after enjoying mushrooms for weeks, you are left with some great garden compost. I usually add the compost to existing garden beds or use it when building new beds, but i've recently discovered an even better use! I'll share shortly. I think I love mushroom compost even more than mushrooms.