Gourmet mushrooms come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with a unique flavor and texture. As a versatile food, mushrooms can mimic the taste and texture of meat, such as Chicken of the Woods or Shrimp of the Woods. Other types of mushrooms provide the firm texture and substance for vegetarian or vegan dishes while also adding protein and vitamins and minerals.
Gourmet mushrooms can be expensive to buy and difficult to find in stores, depending on the season. Like other fruits and vegetables, mushrooms have a growing season and only fruit during certain times of the year.
Why Grow Mushrooms?
Mushrooms are delicious. If you step away from the store-bought or canned button mushroom variety and venture into gourmet mushrooms, you will never return to those common store variety mushrooms again. Mushrooms provide a unique earthy flavor and texture that can round out many delicious recipes.
Not only are mushrooms delicious, but they are low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals too. Mushrooms contain antioxidants, which are powerful cancer-fighting chemicals. Mushrooms are high in vitamin C, Selenium, they are high in fiber, as well as heart-healthy potassium.
Did you know that the average American consumes approximately three pounds of mushrooms each year?
If you love eating mushrooms and are curious about what it takes to grow mushrooms, keep reading. We will discuss the different types of gourmet mushrooms and focus on how to grow a beginner gourmet mushroom, the Oyster Mushroom, at home.
Types of Gourmet Mushrooms by Season:
- Oyster Mushrooms: Mild nutty flavor. Price: $12/lb.
- Morel Mushrooms: Nutty, meaty flavor with a short spring growing season. Very difficult to grow at home. Price: $20/lb.
- Turkey Tails: Famously used in teas, said to have many medicinal health benefits. Price: $3.31/ounce Dried.
- Shiitake Mushrooms: Meaty texture with a smoky flavor. Flavor intensifies when dried. Price: $8-16/lb.
- Reishi Mushrooms: Bitter Taste. Commonly used in teas and tinctures for medicinal benefits. Price $20-35/lb. dried.
- Chicken of the Woods: Considered a mushroom delicacy. The lemony, meaty taste causes some to think these mushrooms taste like chicken. . Price: $12-25/lb.
Late Summer and Fall Mushrooms:
- Black Trumpets: Strong, sweet aroma with a chewy texture and nutty, smoky taste. Price: $9/lb dried.
- Chanterelles: Fruity aroma. When cooked, they have a chewy texture with an earthy flavor and hints of black pepper. Price: $18.75/lb.
- Maitake Mushrooms: Smooth firm texture with an earthy, spicy flavor. Also known as hen of the woods. Price: $16.50/lb.
- Lions Mane: Flavor and texture similar to crab or lobster meat. Sweet flavor with a stringy texture. Price: $20/lb.
Growing Mushrooms at Home:
Mushrooms are a complex organism. They grow in a variety of places under a large variety of growing conditions. For the beginner home grower, an easy to grow yet delicious mushroom to start with is the Oyster Mushroom.
Oyster Mushrooms grow in the wild from early spring to fall. The mycelium of the Oyster mushroom is vigorous. It can survive a variety of conditions and temperatures, making it able to withstand the mistakes of a beginner home mushroom grower, unlike some other more finicky mushroom types. Oysters mushrooms are one of the easier types of mushrooms to grow at home.
What is Mycelium?
While most plants survive via their complex root systems, mushrooms, a fungus, sustain and grow off of a complex fibrous underground network called the mycelium.
Why am I tell you about Mycelium?
You can’t grow oyster mushrooms without first establishing the mycelium or purchasing a block of substrate already inoculated with Oyster Mushroom spores.
You can purchase Oyster Mushroom Spores online, or you can buy blocks of substrate already prepped with spores and covered in the white network of mycelium.
Depending on the variety of mushrooms, the mycelium will require a different kind of substrate or growth medium to successfully grow.
Common substrate for Growing Mushrooms:
- Wood, wood chips, shavings, or logs. Species of wood will vary. Some mushrooms prefer certain kinds of wood.
- Rye Berries or whole oats
- Brown Rice Flour
- Sterilized popcorn kernels.
Supplies Needed to Grow Oyster Mushrooms at Home:
The easiest way to Grow Oyster mushrooms is in your back yard. Once you gather your supplies and materials, you inoculate a few, or many, logs and place them in a shady spot in your back yard. In 6 months to a year, you will have your first flush of Oyster Mushrooms. In the right conditions, your oyster mushrooms will continue to grow for many years.
- Oyster Mushroom Mycelium Plugs.
- Fresh Cut Oak or Maple logs with the bark intact, that have rested for three weeks. Your logs must be fresh cut. A live tree will kill your mycelium spores, and wood that has been sitting out too long may have other competing fungal spores that have settled into the wood.
- Drill and 5/16ths drill bit.
- Cheese Wax or Bees Wax.
- Small pan or double boiler to melt the wax.
- Foam Daubers
Steps to Growing Oyster Mushrooms:
- When you receive your oyster mushroom plugs in the mail, keep them sealed in the bag in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. They will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months.
- Decide how many logs and how many plugs you are going to use. Oyster mushrooms dry out on the wood very quickly, so if you don’t think you will use the mushroom soon enough when they start to grow, then begin with fewer logs and spores. Dying Oyster mushrooms will drop more spores on your logs for a more abundant harvest in the next season.
- Using your 5/16ths drill bit, drill holes on the logs for your spore plugs. Holes should be in rows. Separate each hole by at least 5 inches and separate your rows by 2-3 inches. the spore plugs in so that the plugs are below the surface of the log. You can use a nail punch to tap the plugs below the bark level gently.
- Using your foam dauber, fill each hole with wax to seal the holes. The wax seals the holes and prevents the wood from prematurely drying out.
- Wait. Place your logs in a shady part of your backyard. It can take anywhere from 6 months to a year for the mycelium to colonize the wood. Once the oyster mycelium fully colonizes the wood, you can expect to see oyster mushroom fruit growing out of the holes you created. In the proper shady part of your backyard, your logs will produce oyster mushrooms for many years.
How to Enjoy Your Homegrown Mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms have a firm texture and a slightly sweet smell. Fresh Oyster mushrooms will smell of anise when harvested. When cooked, they have a nutty flavor. Once established, this mushroom is a hands-off mushroom to grow and will provide you and your family with years of fresh and delicious mushrooms.
Ways to Use Oyster Mushrooms:
- Stir-Fried Dishes.
- Sautéed in Butter and Herbs.
- Breaded and Pan Fried.
- Mushroom Chowder or Soup.
- In cream Sauces.
Storing Oyster Mushrooms:
Oyster Mushrooms can be sautéed in butter and then frozen to be used in stir-fries and pilafs later on. Oyster Mushrooms dehydrate well and can be stored and used dried.
If you are willing to prepare your materials and wait for your wood to colonize with oyster mushroom mycelium, growing oyster mushrooms is very hands-off after preparation is complete. Harvest your mushrooms using a clean knife. Leave a few oysters behind on your log to continue to drop spores for years of easy mushroom growing and harvesting.
Let us know how you like to eat your gourmet mushrooms!