I love to grow things. The problem is, in the middle of Winter, there isn’t much I can grow in my climate without producing extra heat and light. I’m just not into that -too much money, too much hassle too much wasted energy. Even my cold-frames at this point in the year are very…cold. So this year, I tried growing something I hadn’t grown before: Mushrooms!
Not the psychedelic kind. I grew good old-fashioned Agaricus bisporus, the common button mushroom. If I was a purist I would have made my own mushroom compost, bought spores and propagated them myself. However, sometimes I like things to be easy and I always find value in learning things from someone who’s already figured it out. So, I bought a mushroom kit. In my mushroom kit box came a bag of composted, sterilized horse manure, (no worries, just fluffy “peat moss-ish” soil) a bag of inoculate and instructions. I was instructed to take the inoculate and soak it good with water until very sloppy. Then, I took that sloppy goo and spread it over the compost layer -like a mushroom lasagna, (only before I actually had mushrooms). After that I was to cover it with plastic and let it sit somewhere cool until I could see spider-web like fungus spreading across the top. It took several weeks and I ended up having to move it somewhere warmer but it did eventually happen. At that point I opened the plastic waited for the little tiny white pin-heads to appear scattered in groups across the compost. Here will be my one word of advice from my vast mushroom growing experience: watch those mushrooms like a hawk once they start to appear. Many of mine grew out of control big in only a couple of days! Our community leopard gecko named Geckie really seemed to enjoy climbing on our overgrown mushroom. Oh, and by “community” I mean that we share him in different seasons with other families. We have him now because we have a nice warm wood stove that keeps him toasty during the winter.
All in all growing mushrooms was a fun experience. The kids really enjoyed it and they were able to do the work themselves since it only required occasional misting with a plant mister or spray bottle. The speed with which the mushrooms mature also keeps kids on their toes and they will check that box everyday for a new mushroom to harvest. I also found that my kids were especially interested in eating the mushrooms they had harvested. My 2-year-old insisted on munching on them raw. Then again, I find as a general rule, that kids are very interested in eating things that they help to grow or see growing. It must be in our nature to want to have that basic understanding and connection to our food in order to trust it and want to
consume it. One other piece of advice. If you talk to someone who actually grows their own mushrooms then you’d better learn-up on your mushroom varieties and Latin mushroom names if you want to keep up. They apparently don’t use common names for mushrooms. I bounced some questions off of a local who grows mushrooms and felt rather uniformed having to ask things like, “Is that the one with the umbrella-thingie on the top? Do they sell that one in the store? Are you sure you can eat that one? etc…”. We can’t all be mycologists, I guess. In any regard, whether or not you know their Latin names, mushrooms are a great and fun thing to grow in the winter!