contemporary mushroom farming for newbies

I try to get to the farmer’s market in west end most weekends. The markets open around 6am, and early arrival is a must for me because I like to dilly-dally through the stalls, admiring fresh veggies and cute dogs.

I’ve gotten into my little routine at the markets, and I really look forward to two stalls in particular: a fruit and veggie stand that always has gorgeous baby kale and fresh flowers (wildflowers, fresh lavender) and…..(drumroll) the mushroom man!

A few years ago I probably wouldn’t have been able to pick a shitake from a chantarelle, but since going vegan and transitioning into quasi-adulthood, I’ve started paying a lot more attention to what i’m eating and where my food comes from.

Yeah, there are the classics like portobellos and crimini…but I started to notice (and subsequently cook with) some of the funkier varieties on offer at the markets. Oysters, king oysters, enoki were added to my list of faves. The more I tried, the more I wanted to learn about mushrooms..and plus, since mushrooms have their own biological kingdom, Fungi — I knew there were a whole lot more out there. I had to find them.

So this is the part where I checked out a library book on mushrooms. Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation: Simple to Advanced Experimental Techniques for Indoor and Outdoor Cultivation by Tradd Cotter.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the mushroom life cycle, who may have an interest in growing his/her own mushrooms!

I started off with a grow your own oyster mushroom kit, which is a pre-loaded spawn box made by Life Cykel. The medium they use is made up of sawdust and used coffee grounds, and with regular care, the kit offers a crop of oyster mushrooms in about 10 days.

I was hooked. As soon as my first crop of mushrooms were ready, I was adding oil to my frying pan and tossing them in. They were DEE-licious! I had grown my own mushrooms and i didn’t want it to end!

So i decided to put my lab brain to use, and see if i could sub-culture the DIY grow kit mushroom spawn into fresh media (aka my own coffee grounds). Below are the results of my experiment!!!


Day 0-Day 10: Collect coffee grounds/ clean-ish paper scraps into a clean glass jar. After day 2 of adding coffee grounds, i sprinkled in about 2 tablespoons of mushroom spawn from the LifeCykel grow kit***. This was super easy for me because 1) i drink tons of coffee and 2) i use an Aeropress, so getting my coffee grounds into the jar was a piece of pie! After 10 days, I had enough coffee grounds/ paper scraps to fill my jar. I squirted it daily with a spray bottle, kept some cheesecloth fastened with a rubber-band over it, with the lid slightly ajar (mushrooms need airflow so don’t screw the lid on!!) and left it to do its magic!

Day 18: You can see mycilium start to creep up on the right side of the coffee grounds (the fuzzy white stuff is mycilium)

Day 18: You can see mycilium start to creep up on the right side of the coffee grounds (the fuzzy white stuff is mycilium)

***Note: This was the only spawn I added to my mushroom culture- i wanted to see if I could get away with a bare minimum of spawn to create a viable sub-culture. The drawback of using less spawn is that you have to wait much longer for the Mycelium to fully colonise the medium.

Day 23: Mycilium continues to reign!!

Day 23: Mycilium continues to reign!!

Day 30: At this point i wasnt sure if i was growing a slime mould or mushrooms, but decided i’d keep going. And no, it didn’t smell.

Day 30: At this point i wasnt sure if i was growing a slime mould or mushrooms, but decided i’d keep going. And no, it didn’t smell.

Day 41: Starting to look like the pictures in Tradd Cotter’s book. Mycillium has fully colonised.

Day 41: Starting to look like the pictures in Tradd Cotter’s book. Mycillium has fully colonised.

Day 50: Do you see what I see??! Those look like mushrooms to me!!!!!

Day 50: Do you see what I see??! Those look like mushrooms to me!!!!!