Part I: Growing mushrooms indoors

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Shiitake block mushroom

When my outdoor garden goes offline, I grow as mush fresh food as I can indoors. Limited indoor space, less light and lower temperatures inspired me to experiment with growing unconventional edibles like mushrooms.

Growing mushrooms indoors proved to be fast, easy and fun! Mushroom kits cost $19-$50, and produce several pounds of rich and meaty mushrooms.

Growing mushrooms indoors

In the past, the varieties of mushrooms available as indoor grow kits was limited to well-known, recognizable fungi such as white and tan button mushrooms. But as home grown mushrooms gained popularity, suppliers expanded their offerings to include exotics like blue oyster, shiitake and lion’s mane.

Related: Part II: Growing mushrooms outdoors

Royal tan mushrooms

Indoor mushroom kits include everything you need to grow mushrooms at home. I purchased my first royal tan mushroom kit from seed supplier R.H Shumway for $36 dollars. The kit was a large box of growing medium that had been preinoculated with royal tan mycelium.  All I had to do was open the box, open the inner bag of growing medium and sprinkle dampened casing over the surface. Casing was sent in a small separate bag; it is not necessary, but helps maintain moisture and protect developing mushrooms.

Royal  Tan Kit
Royal tan mushrooms

The concrete floor and masonry walls of my summer kitchen provide the kind of damp, dark environment in which royal tan mushrooms thrive. I placed the kit in a corner and misted the exposed surface with water to dampen, not saturate.

All mushrooms love humidity, but each species has a different temperature and light preference. Good management of moisture, temperature and light exposure makes or breaks production. The royal tans did best at 70 degrees. Baby bella mushrooms like cooler temps. Shiitake and oyster mushrooms require some light. I recommend considering the space you plan to grow mushrooms and choosing a kit that thrives in that atmosphere.

Within a week of starting the kit, a white netlike web began to spread across the surface of the growing medium. Tiny spores sprouted a few days later. After that my royal tan mushrooms seemed to double in size every day!

Harvest mushrooms with a gentle twist and pull. Mist vacated area with water to encourage a second crop. Indoor mushroom kits typically produce two crops, then produce sporadically until the kit is spent. When my kit stopped producing I retired it to the compost pile and bought another.

Shiitake and oyster mushrooms

I chose exotic shiitake and blue oyster mushroom kits for my next indoor crops. Each kit cost $19 from Field and Forest.

I unwrapped the shiitake pre-inoculated growing medium, placed it on a large platter, and misted the block with water. The oyster mushroom mycelium looked much lighter. The pre-inoculated sawdust was wrapped in a thick clear plastic bag. The instructions said to cut several small X’s in the plastic, through which mushrooms will grow.

Both the shiitake and oyster kits came with humidity tents. The clear plastic tents help mimic the cool, humid atmosphere of a forest. Unlike some mushrooms, shiitake and oysters need light to grow. I set both kits on a tabletop in a 60-70 degree room, and misted daily with water. I was pleased to see tiny mushroom pins in less than two weeks.

There was a significant amount of down time between oyster crops, but the kit did produce twice. My shiitake kit needed to be dried out and then soaked in water to kickstart a second crop.

After several years of successfully growing mushrooms indoors, I finally felt confident in my fungi cultivation capability to start an outdoor mushroom farm. This fall I inoculated logs with shiitake spawn to overwinter for a large spring crop. Next week, Part II will describe that experience, and explain how to grow mushrooms outdoors.

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