It all started at the farmers market in Charles Square last fall with 100 grams of exquisite oyster mushrooms from Shady Oaks Organics. I talked to the guys, and they told me a little about how they grow the mushrooms on straw. The mushrooms were so beautiful and so delicious, I got it into my head that I wanted to try growing some myself.
I spent way too much time watching youtube videos about how easy it is to just cut up oyster mushrooms stems and roll them up in damp cardboard and let them eat the cardboard. There always seemed to be some critical details missing, and the only thing they really agreed on is that oyster mushrooms were the easiest to grow.
I checked out a fat textbook about growing mushrooms, and the only thing I retained from the information overload was that oyster mushrooms were the easiest to grow. I finally decided to take the absolutely easiest path and ordered a kit from Fungi Perfecti.
As you can see, you get a bag of straw bigger than your head, infused with white threads of mycelium. This is the main part of the mushroom, the part that lives in the ground, or the straw, breaking down carbon-rich plant material and eating it. You mist the bag twice a day, and keep it covered with a loose tent. The bag is pierced with holes, which let the fruiting bodies come out. They emerge as white lumps, then fuzzy stems, and finally real mushrooms stretching out.
Where I ran into trouble was keeping the humidity high once the mushrooms got too big to keep under the tent. The first flush dried out around the edges, so that when I picked them, they didn’t look all that great. When I cooked them, they had a deep flavor, but they were tough.
With more mushrooms coming, I set up a humidifier next to them. It feels like I’m coddling them, but the second flush looked a lot better. They were just as delicious, and more importantly tender. Whether or not more flushes emerge, it really has been easy. Maybe I’ll try that scheme with the moist cardboard next.