Mushrooms have been a part of people's lives for thousands of years, for medicinal and culinary uses. Mushroom cultivation can be rewarding and interesting to watch when you grow them yourself. Not only can you cook with them or use them in medicine, but also they can provide a rich organic matter to your landscape or compost pile. There are some key things to keep in mind when growing your own mushrooms (otherwise known as mycology).
Visit a spore bank website to purchase a mushroom spore syringe, because mushrooms aren't grown from seeds. For an example spore bank, click on the link in the Resource section.
Put glass mason jars into a pressure cooker to sterilize them. Afterward, let the jars cool on a clean, dry towel for at least 11 hours. This brings them completely back to room temperature.
Place substrate into the bottom of the glass jars, filling them up about half way full. Ideal substrates include wild bird seed or whole grain. Put the lids on. Use the syringe to poke three to four holes through each of the lids. Thread polyfill (found at craft stores) through the holes with the syringe needle, so contaminants can't get in.
Place the closed glass jars in a cool, dry room, so they can inoculate. Using a lighter, heat the needle's tip on the syringe for about 10 seconds. Soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol, and swab the needle to sterilize it. Insert the syringe into the jar, and inject 100 ccs of spore liquid into the middle of the substrate. Repeat this in each of the three to four holes in the lid.
Keep the jars out of direct sunlight, ideally back in the cool, dry room or area. You want the temperature to be around 86 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit (use a heating pad if necessary). Watch the jars during this incubation period, until a white, cobweb-like material begins to grow. This is called mycelium and is where the mushrooms sprout from. Throw out any jars that turn black, green or any color besides pure white.
Observe the jars until fruiting begins. You will know this because the mycelium completely covers the substrate, forming a solid patty (like a hamburger or cake). When you notice this, fill a plastic container with about 1 inch of perlite. Carefully slide the cake from the jar onto this perlite layer. Open the container about six times a day to fan the cake with fresh air. You should see mushroom pinheads start to sprout within a week or so. Pick them when they reach maturity, usually when the cap separates from the stem.
Purchase a gourmet mushroom growing kit, available online or at plant nurseries. There are a variety of kits, most commonly where the mushrooms grow from plugs (a thick medium that already has spawn in it), mushroom-seeded compost or spawn. Do some research to find the tastes and textures that work best for you. Follow the directions exactly, as they can vary depending on the type of kit.
Keep your mushroom kit where there are stable temperatures. Ideal mushroom growth temperature ranges from 64 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Indirect sunlight helps create larger mushrooms.
Use a spray bottle to mist the mushrooms daily to provide humidity. Make sure there is air circulation in the area, so carbon dioxide doesn't build up.
Harvest when the thin veil that secures the cap to the stem begins to separate, usually from a week and a half to two weeks. The appearance of the mushroom all depends on the type of kit you purchase. The size of the mushroom varies depending on the variety that you use. Don't cut mushrooms; twist and gently pull them up.