In the middle of winter, most people probably aren’t thinking about foragable wild mushrooms. They’re not exactly a lot of prolific varieties and if there’s snow, they’re most likely hidden altogether. Of course, little things like seasons and weather doesn’t seem to stop Jack. He’s gotten a taste for edible and medicinal mushrooms and where there’s a will, there’s a way.
He always tells me not to get him anything for Christmas (he’s probably tired of all the socks and long underwear I seem to buy for him, haha!), but he’ll occasionally get himself a present or two so it doesn’t look like he was on Santa’s naughty list. This year, he bought himself a blue oyster mushroom grow kit to see if he could get them to grow.
I have to say, it was a fun science experiment watching him take care of them. Once he soaked them, cut the plastic, found a spot for them, then spritzed them a couple times a day, it was only a matter of time before the mushrooms pined. After that, they practically blossomed overnight and made enough for us to enjoy them in a meal.
A yummy, steak and mushroom dinner was hardly the end of it. If anything, success only fuels Jack’s interest in scaling up his efforts. While I wrote books in the evening, he’d be watching YouTube videos from professional mushroom growers, trying to figure out how to replicate their success, then started building his mini mushroom empire.
At first, Jack made a small set up in Evelyn and Zoey’s room, because they had the most dresser space. Mostly, it was a storage tote with another batch of blue oysters and lion’s mane mushroom kits with a humidifier in them. Success again. MORE scaling up!
In our front sitting room, we now have a shelf enclosed in plastic, with a humidifier and a gadget that controls how much humidity is in it. Jack transferred several of the fruiting mushrooms to finish them off, but also has started culturing his own mushrooms from scratch.
It’s more scientific than I would be able to describe it (again, while he was learning about it, I was lost in my own book writing world), but basically, he has been making medium to get the mushrooms to grow. It involves a lot of soaking wheat, mixing mulch, straw, and shavings, and steaming it in my instant pot to kill any bacteria or mold that might otherwise grow.
Mad scientist? I think so. But in the best of ways. Once the medium has been steralized, it has to be innoculated with mushroom spores. He bought several types of oysters and more lion’s mane for his experiment. Then, he seals them shut and waits for fungus mycelium to colonize and take over. How does one know mushrooms are ready to sprout?
You can tell. The whole bag of grain or mulch or other material turns hard and white. No, that’s not mold. Those are mushroom babies. Then, once it’s ready, it goes back in the humidified chamber with the rest of the air sucked out of the back and a slit in the plastic to encourage the mycelium to fruit (a.k.a. make an edible mushroom) from that spot.
|Lion’s mane mushroom–cool to look at, fun to play with, and tastes like crab.
Jack has had good success so far–it’s definitely his project and while I’ll admire his hard work and eat the delicious mushrooms, I would still rather clean a stall than want to try and propagate plants or fungus…just not my area of strength.
It is always neat to see success in a project and get to reap the benefits of it. I’m sure we’ll still go foraging for mushrooms throughout the year (morels and chicken of the woods being some of our favorites), but it’s nice to be able to have our own little mushroom empire in the convenience of our own home.