One of the best things about working on a gardening magazine is that you work on stories such as "how to grow mushrooms at home" and you then start thinking about doing something you've never done before, like growing mushrooms. The May issue of our mag carried the mushroom story, and I just couldn't resist the temptation after reading Cheryl Maddocks' interesting story. Admittedly, she mentioned all the fancy gourmet mushies you can grow, like Shiitake, Swiss Browns, oyster mushrooms etc, but I ended up buying the cheapest $19.95 mushroom growing kit from that extremely large and ubiquitous hardware warehouse chain that all Aussies know about.
Here it is, and as this morning is the first time I have spotted an actual mushroom growing in it, it's time I did my mushroom growing report.
As mentioned above, $19.95. Nice artwork on the box, fills you with the optimism that your mushrooms will all turn out to be red toadstools!
Inside the lid are the destructions on what to do. Note the bit which says "Mushrooms should appear in 21-39 days." In my case the count was the full 39 days, so be patient.
First fill the box with the larger bag's contents of mushroom compost (pictured), then spread the smaller bag's contents of mushroom-spawn-impregnated peat moss evenly over the top.
Now, here's the trickiest bit: find a truly dark spot for the mushroom growing kit to live for the next few months. I used an old black plastic recycling bin that fortunately worked out to be a perfect fit over the top of the kit, which is in my very crowded but dry garden shed.
The black bin was a truly lucky find on my part, but hopefully you'll be able to find something similar, maybe you even have one of those old bins yourself, or a friend has one lying around unused. No light gets in under the black bin, which sits flush on the floor, so it's perfect. They sometimes use disused railway tunnels to grow mushrooms, so you get the idea, but areas deep under houses would be another option, as long as the area is dry.
After about a week, a faintly greenish mould appeared on the surface, raising my hopes, but then, suddenly, nothing much happened. For weeks. It has been a long wait. I have occasionally sprayed the area with a light mist of water, and of course I wondered if that was too much or too little, as the instructions say moist but not wet. However, I suspect spraying too little is probably better than too much because... I had completely forgotten the mushroom kit was there in the last week, during which I have been unwell. It was only this morning that I thought "oh my god, the mushroom kit!" and went outside to the shed, lifted the bin and...
Mushrooms! You could be churlish and say it's only two, and that works out at $10 per button, but hope springs eternal. All that white mouldy powder on the surface looks to me like the site of future mushroom cities springing up. The plan is that if I do it right we should get a few kilograms of mushrooms by the end of the production run.
In the meantime, all I have to do is wait. The larger the mushroom the stronger the flavour, or so they say, so I will check on these little guys in two days' time, to get some idea of how fast and big they grow. I have home-made chicken stock in the freezer just waiting to become a soup, and home-grown mushroom soup sounds like my kind of lunch treat.
To be continued, when the crops pop up...