Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mushroom Magic

Mushrooms are pretty essential in a lot of cooking, great with steak or stir fries, the simple mushroom omelet or a creamy pasta sauce are some of the quickest, tastiest meals one can do.
There are so many varieties now it can be a little confusing.
If you are into types other than white button there can also be the question of availability.
Mushrooms can be grown throughout the year – under cover as I do or in a cellar, cupboard, garage etc.

In the autumn/winter mushrooms can even be grown in a greenhouse, as they don't need to have light excluded.

Mushroom seed, or spawn, is fairly easy to source on ebay, particularly the more exotic types.
I picked up a pack of dry spawn for simple white button mushrooms from Dangan nursery centre in Galway.
The type is Agaricus, produced by Suttons and retails at €6.80

Finishing mushrooms can vary, i.e. some require daylight to finish off or get colour but getting any variety of them started is exactly the same across the board.

What you need to think about first is a cellulose rich substrata - or for people like me wood or wood product mixed in with manure to create a subsoil.
I used well rotted farmyard manure, then lots of wood bark and wood bits from under the log pile and straw from last years oats that had been left on top of the asparagus and strawberry plants over winter.
But any woody - papery type substance will do, shredded waste, paper toilet rolls, old books or telephone directories, old cotton clothes, hardwood sawdust or woodchips - whatever else you can think of.

Sweepings from under firewood storage gave me a good supply of materiel. A little gypsum is also good.

Mushroom yield will be highest with a carefully selected mushroom compost made from straw, horse manure. Some people have even been successful growing mushrooms on sawdust and waste paper. Mushrooms can even be grown on the compost heap, although results will be variable. A mixture of horse or poultry manure and straw is preferred by mushroom growers, although most types of manure are suitable.

Anyway, I used some fish boxes to mark out the area I plan to turn into a mushroom patch. It is under an old hedge in some shade so a lot of old woody bits slowly breaking down there already.

Once the area had been marked out for each area I dug in straw, as much wood bark and bits as I could and half a wheelbarrow of well rotted farmyard manure to a depth of about 10"/25cm.

I dug in about half the spawn from a single envelope, my hope is this will give a different cropping time as mushrooms come in flushes.

I compacted the manure as best I could just whacking it down with the back of a spade.

The rest of mushroom spawn was sprinkled over the developed area and pressed in with a rake to a depth of about 3"/5cm.

Then a few sheets of news paper are laid over the area and damped down.
A fishbox is then put over the top to exclude light. These will be painted black to improve light exclusion and increase heat absorption.
A few days after spawning thin white threads - Mycelia - will appear.
After 10-14 days remove the newspaper and put in a 'casing' layer.

That is simply about 3cm or 1.5" of clean moist garden soil or bagged compost over the top.
This is called the casing layer

When the casing layer is established keep it moist but not overly wet.
Mushrooms grow in flushes. To pick gently twist the cap and pull away from the bed gently to avoid damage to developing mushrooms.

Pick regularly, removing old or diseased mushrooms immediately.
Mushrooms can keep producing 3-6 months after spawning.

Ideal temperature is about 15 degrees C, avoid temps if possible below 10 or above 20

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Thanks for commenting - its cool that you took the time