I told you recently that we want to start growing mushrooms here. Last Saturday, Dustin, of The Mushroomery, gave us a great deal on a mushroom kit for growing white elm mushrooms. You could poke some holes in the bag, spritz it periodically with a spray bottle, and you’d get mushrooms to enjoy. How cool is that? But Jeff had an idea of how we could stretch our dollar even further. The medium (or substrate, Jeff just told me that word, I’m learning a lot already) in the mushroom kit was wood sawdust and I asked Dustin if white elms in particular could be grown in straw and he said yes. When I was in town with Bracken, I picked up some un-sprayed straw at The Backyard Farmer. The reason we felt it was really important to get un-sprayed straw is that we’ve read that whatever mushrooms are grown in, is what they absorb. Basically, you can clean up radioactive waste and other toxins with mushrooms, which is amazing and awesome (and hopeful and needed in our world today), but obviously you wouldn’t want to eat those mushrooms. Same goes for chemicals, so we didn’t want the sprayed stuff. It’s important that whatever medium you grow your mushrooms in is organic and pure. Pretty simple: if mushrooms are grown in a toxic medium they won’t be healthy to eat and, on the other hand, if edible mushrooms are grown in a organic medium they will be healthy to eat. Makes you wonder about those mushrooms at the grocery store, doesn’t it? We’re grateful to have good mushrooms available at our local farmer’s market. Okay, back to the experiment. Yesterday Jeff boiled lots of water and poured it (pot after pot) over the straw to sterilize it, since you want a fairly sterile environment to grow mushrooms. Then he put it on an old window he had sterilized, under a table in our greenhouse (white elm mushrooms need to be grown out of direct sunlight.) He opened the mushroom growing kit bag and realized the spawn (or mushroom mycelium) hadn’t run all the way through the substrate and was only on the surface, which makes this experiment a bit more iffy. The more spawn you have to innoculate with, the better chance you have for outrunning other bacterias and fungis. Ideally we would have waited and let the mycelium spread further before opening it, but since we didn’t know that before opening it and it was already open he went ahead with the experiment and sprinkled some in between each square of the straw (about two inch slabs of straw) that came apart, then put it back together. After the straw was innoculated, we wrapped it with plastic to keep the moisture in and put a sterilized plastic lid over the top. It will need to be misted regularly. Neither of us has ever grown white elm mushrooms before (but Jeff has experience growing many others.) We don’t know if it will be successful or not, it’s an experiment, but we’re happy to be getting the ball rolling on growing mushrooms! This just gives a peek into the mushroom growing process. Each type of mushroom is different and the way they are cultivated varies, some need to be grown in logs of particular types of trees. For more information about growing mushrooms yourself, Jeff would highly recommend anything written by Paul Stamets (he loves his books.) And you can purchase the kits online at Paul’s family business: Fungi Perfecti.