Monday, November 1, 2010

Growin' 'shrooms

Growing mushrooms is something I have been interested in doing for a long time.  It is also kind of something I have been scared of, fearing I might grow some sort of poisonous mushroom by accident.  Finally, after reading up on mushroom growing I overcame my probably unfounded fear and purchased Espresso Oyster mushroom spawn from Fungi Perfecti for $26.  Mushroom spawn is simply a mass of mushroom mycelium growing in some type of medium.  Mycelium is a mass of fungal hyphae which are similar to plant roots but for fungi.  Mold is the most common way of referring to mycelium or hyphae.

A mass of oyster mushroom spawn growing on sawdust.
Fungi, though often associated with plants are in-fact not plants at all.  I suppose they are somewhere between a plant and an animal.  Plants use sunlight to photosynthesize water and carbon dioxide into sugar for energy to live.  Animals must consume food for energy, which is similar to mushrooms.  As we know however, animals eat food and digest it internally in our stomachs.  Fungi are weird in that they actually digest their food outside of their body first and then consume it.  This is exactly what mushroom (fungi) mycelium is doing in dirt, on your bread, in wood, or as in the spawn above. 

Supposedly, growing mushrooms is pretty easy.  They don't need a lot of light, they just need some sort of growth medium or "food", and some water in a semi-sterile environment.  So I chose two growth mediums or "foods" for my spawn, used coffee grounds and toilet paper.  According to what I read both are excellent growth mediums for oyster mushrooms.  Both mediums need to be sterilized and fortunately used coffee grounds are sterilized in the process of making coffee.  Toilet paper on the other had needs to be sterilzed with boiling water.  I simply boiled tap water and poured it on top of the role of toilet paper to sterilize it, amazingly it absorbed about half a gallon of water.  Once the paper cooled I removed the cardboard cylinder from the middle and filled the hole with spawn.  Then the toilet paper role and spawn were closed up in a gallon sized plastic bag with the bag left slightly open to allow for breathing.

My sterilized toilet paper roll with spawn filling the middle hole.  The brown specks are pieces of saw dust.  The core of sawdust spawn appears white in this picture because it has been covered with white mycelium.  Normally this gallon size plastic bag would be nearly closed to prevent contamination and to hold in moisture. 

As for the used coffee grounds, eight holes were drilled into the bottom of a five gallon bucket and about three gallons of coffee grounds were mixed with about 3/4ths gallon of spawn.  The spawn and coffee grounds were already pretty wet so no water was added.  Eight holes were also drilled around the surface of the mixture to help drain off carbon dioxide.  Lastly, a plastic bag with holes in it was used to cover the bucket to help hold in moisture and prevent contamination.

Mixture of about three gallons of used coffee grounds and 3/4ths gallon of sawdust spawn.  Holes in bucket around surface of mixture were drilled right after this picture was taken.  Bucket was then covered with a plastic bag with holes to hold in moisture and prevent contamination.
From what I read mushrooms should be growing in about three weeks from both of these mediums.  Hopefully that is the case but you never know.  I have botched up my fare share of experiments in my life.  Botching is a normal part of the scientific discovery.  If it is botched up hopefully I'll discover something awesome.  I'll report back on the results in several weeks.

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