From meaty portabello to delicate enoki, mushrooms are an important ingredient in many gourmet meals. Growing your own mushroom at home can be a challenge, since mushroom have very specific light and moisture requirements and they often need to be grown in sterile conditions. Luckily, there are a few easier ways to grow mushrooms.
Choose the Right Mushroom
Some varieties of mushrooms are naturally easier to grow than others. Portabello, shiitake, button and oyster mushrooms all adapt well to cultivation and are a good choice to a first-time home mushroom grower. Morel, chanterelle and lobster mushrooms are more challenging, and should not be attempted until you gain a little more experience.
The easiest way to grow your own mushrooms at home is to purchase a mushroom kit, available through garden supply companies and some specialty stores. The kit usually consists of a box or bag filled with a growing substrate like grain or sawdust that is already inoculated with mushroom spawn. Generally, all you'll need to do is find an appropriate place for your mushroom kit---most fungi like warm, moist, conditions, so a bathroom is usually a good choice---and possibly water it occasionally. Depending on the species of mushroom, some kits may require you to activate it by dunking into ice cold water or placing the kit in the sun or in the dark. The kit will provide specific instructions for your mushrooms. After the first harvest, you can empty out the spent substrate outside, and if there is any live spawn left it may colonize and produce another crop of mushrooms in a few month's time.
Cultivating an Outdoor Mushroom Patch
Compared to indoor mushroom cultivation, growing mushrooms outdoors requires less input from the gardener, since you're relying on Mother Nature to do all the hard work for you. However, Mother Nature can be fickle, and the results from an outdoor mushroom patch will be a little more haphazard than from a pristine, sterile mushroom growing structure inside. To grow mushrooms outdoors, choose a location that would naturally support mushrooms, like the forest floor under some hardwood trees. Loosen the soil, and add some growing substrate, such as sawdust or woodchips. Different species of mushrooms prefer different types of wood---shiitakes, for example, like to grow on oak---so you should choose your substrate accordingly. Some mushrooms prefer whole, felled trees instead of wood chips. Inoculate the substrate with mushroom spawn and keep the patch evenly moist. Mushroom spawn is available over the Internet, and the supplier should provide instructions for what kind of substrate to use. It may take up to a year for an outdoor mushroom patch to mature and start producing edible mushrooms.