Mushroom production, be it for personal use or on a commercial scale, requires some basic elements.
Spawn is usually sawdust with mushroom mycelium mixed in. Mushroom mycelium is mushroom spore that has started to root. Although it is possible to start with spore, it is tricky and best left to the professionals, so buying spawn from a home gardening supply store or using spawn in a mushroom growing kit is a better option for beginners. A version called
Substrate is organic matter that serves as food for the spawn. In nature, mushrooms grow naturally in soil, manure, decaying leaves, and downed hardwood. Substrate can be made from any organic materials containing carbohydrate and nitrogen. Typical substrate materials include cardboard, coffee grounds, wood chips, straw, and compost. Each type of mushroom grows best in a substrate designed for it.
Mushrooms require warm temperatures during the colonization phase, and cooler temperatures once fruiting begins. Commercial operations have rooms with temperature control, but a warm room or heating pad can be used for home mushroom farming.
Some moisture must be present throughout the mushroom production process. Commercial operations have rooms with humidity control, but misting with a spray bottle can be sufficient for growing mushrooms on a small scale.
Direct sunlight inhibits mycelium growth in the colonization phase. Most mushrooms require only blue light for proper fruiting body development.
Some ventilation is required to help dispel the carbon dioxide given off by the growing mycelium. In a home environment, a fan can be used to keep air moving as long as there is no direct draft.
Mushroom compost, the
In order to prevent contamination from unwanted spores or molds, the substrate must be pasteurized or sterilized using heat an/or boiling water. It is essential that all surfaces cleaned with antibacterial agents during this phase to ensure that they are free from contaminants.
First it is essential to sterilize all areas and tools with antibacterial soap or alcohol to avoid contamination.
Spawn (containing sterilized grain and germinated mushroom spore) is mixed or inserted into the substrate. Although mushroom growers can create their own spawn, the process is specialized and complicated, and most mushroom growers purchase spawn from commercial sources.
During this period, the spawn colonizes the substrate with mycelium. White patches of mycelium gradually appear, develop, and grow. Mycelium is always white, so any other color indicates that the substrate is contaminated and must be discarded. Full colonization takes 2-5 weeks, depending on the kind of mushroom.
The temperature should be steady and maintained between 60° and 75° F. A small amount of moisture is necessary, but standing water and saturated substrate must be avoided. The room can be dark or dimly lit; bright light inhibits colonization.
Once the mycelium has formed a thick mat, it is ready to fruit and produce mushrooms. The temperature requirement at this stage is lighter, 55° and 80° F, and humidity over 90% is necessary.
When the mushrooms first appear, they are called
Mushrooms can be picked at the cap, cup, or flat stage. Harvesting mushrooms is labor intensive, as each must be stabilized around the stalk with one hand while the stalk is gently twisted off of the base. This is done to prevent the mycelium that is still developing mushrooms from being disturbed. Once harvested, mushrooms are used immediately, refrigerated, packaged for distribution, or dried for future use. The mushrooms can also be pickled for longer shelf life.