More and more we are hearing to add mushrooms to our daily diet. There is a lot of confusion about what mushrooms are, which ones to eat, when to eat them; and what about them is so good for us. The new word you are looking for is actually mycelium, and the people who study them are called mycologists.
First is the question, is a mushroom a vegetable? This is one of those questions that is not easily answered. Remember they are a fungi, grown from mycelium, but they fall into the category of vegetable, with people who consider it a plant. A vegetable is considered “any edible part of a plant with a savory flavor” in the culinary world.
The interesting thing about mushrooms, more so than many other “plants” is that they absorb and concentrate whatever they are grown in. This is what gives mushrooms their potency; but depending on where it is grown, that can work in reverse, and be a bad thing. For example mushrooms can concentrate what is in the water that feeds them. Good clean water, great; however, polluted, or contaminated with pesticides water, will be pulled into the mushroom in the same way.
Mushrooms provide an excellent example of one of the places to make sure to eat organic. Additionally a good reason to grow your own, that way you are able to control the water, but also the medium that the spores will grow in. Mushrooms start growing supplies from a spore that is so small you can not actually see it. Unlike a seed that you can collect and sprinkle on your growing medium; the spore seems invisible. While a seed has chlorophyll present, and can germinate and begin the process of growth, a spore does not. Instead it needs to have a growing medium that will nourish it and start its growth process.
Some of the options that serve as growing mediums for mushrooms include straw, wood chips, sawdust, wooden trays, cardboard, corncobs, or even composted manure. While you can purchase spores, it is best if you get started with spawn instead. Once you are a seasoned veteran growing your own mushrooms, you may want to start with the spores. Spawn is the next stage from spore and it is when they have formed a root like, pure mycelium, that is the start of your mushroom. Technically the spawn alone could, under set conditions produce your mushrooms; however you want to add it to a growing medium for the best health of the plant, and for the produce you plan to eat.
You can get spawn moist, in dry flake, or dry brick form. Moist is ready to go, use it immediately; and the dry versions are designed to be used when you are ready, or the conditions are right.
While the water is important to the success of your healthy mushrooms, they do not need a lot of water. In fact too much watering will kill it. Instead of “watering” like you would the seeds in your garden, you want to focus more on misting, or spritzing. Some people even prefer to get it started with a piece of material over the spawn, and simply keeping that material moistened; again by misting, not by pouring water over it.
Traditionally growing mushrooms inside is a faster process, however it can be done outdoors successfully too. Some folks prefer to create a “mushroom house” similar to a chicken coop, or a mini greenhouse. Mushrooms do best in a darker and cool, moist and humid environments; so a basement is often an option. But make sure it is not in a draft, a direct line of the heat (or AC) when it kicks on, or direct sunlight. Most grow best at 55 to 60 degrees F, and some species like the Enoki do well with even lower temperatures, down to about 45 degrees F. Some people even prefer to grow their mushrooms in the kitchen, in the cupboard underneath the kitchen sink. Depending on the temperatures, you really can grow mushrooms year round, and have a fresh supply for your cooking, salads and sauces.
Just a word of warning, do not collect wild mushrooms, or eat them, unless you know how to clearly identify them. Wild mushrooms can make you sick, but they can also kill you. In fact