After the first rains this winter season, we discovered new visitors popping up unannounced. They appeared from nowhere, seemingly overnight, quietly sneaking in without anyone noticing.
Except for me.
I noticed mushrooms suddenly blooming in the middle of the night. Walk by a patch of grass or bark one day and there's nothing. Show up the next morning and a colony of mushrooms have sprung up.
Indeed, mushrooms have a bad reputation throughout history. They've been associated with witchcraft and black magic.
We're Growing Mushrooms
This air of mystery and magic has permeated our living room for the past month.
Alex started growing mushrooms because he loves buying them at the farmers market and Chinese grocery store. We are cautious to avoid mushrooms grown in China because we weren't sure how they grow the shiitake mushrooms. We want to avoid any chances that the mushrooms we eat are grown on newspaper that might contain heavy metals from the inks.
RELATED: Check out this recipe for Extra Umami Beef Broth that uses shiitake mushrooms to add umami.
It ended up opening Pandora's box when we discovered we could grow mushrooms ourselves from kits.
3 Tips For Growing Your Mushrooms
We've only been growing our shiitake mushrooms for a month but we've already discovered things we would do differently next time.
- Buy a kit, not the spawn. We tried to inoculate some coffee grounds but the oak sawdust produces a far superior product. The kits are also farther along whereas the spawn requires waiting longer to see results.
- Look for oak sawdust. Shiitake mushrooms that grow naturally in the wild usually grow on oak logs. They colonize a log when it freshly detaches from the tree so they are pretty "clean" mushrooms. Meaning, they are not grown in dung. We're trying out growing shiitake mushrooms on coffee grounds. But so far, we're finding that the mushrooms growing on oak sawdust are doing better.
- Put the mushrooms in a central location. We mist the mushrooms several times a day. Putting them somewhere visible where you pass by every day makes it more likely that you will remember to mist them and keep them healthy. They seem to grow faster with more water. When we forget to mist them for a few hours, they get sadder and don't grow as fast.
RELATED: Check out this recipe for Kari's Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce that uses shiitake mushrooms to add umami.
We're looking forward to attending the Santa Cruz Fungi Fair next weekend. There will be sessions on mushroom cultivation and foraging.
While we're not brave enough for wild mushroom foraging, we're planning to pick up some tips about growing mushrooms from the experts. I'll share them with you in future articles.
Check out the next entry in this logbook for the videos of our creepy mushrooms.