Of Mycelium and Men

Posted Sunday, February 28th, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Yesterday I came home and was ecstatic to find my Gourmet Oyster Mushroom kit had arrived from Funghi Perfecti!

Funghi Perfecti, the company founded by a genius mycologist I’ve recently discovered , Paul Stamets, proudly purports to be “the leaders in a new wave of technologies harnessing the inherent power of mushrooms and fungal mycelium worldwide.” Amen, brother.  Think of Stamets as leading the Department of Diplomacy between the fungal world and ours. Considering the huge gap in our understanding of fungus, and our disdain for it, we’re very lucky to have such an ambassador.

I opened the box to discover an adorably ugly plastic bag stuffed thick with an soft brown substance.  It had a stink my husband thought offensive, but which I found charming. Reading the instruction book, I learned that it was pasteurized wheat straw “impregnated with pure mushroom mycelium.” And that it was “in a state of suspended animation until you receive it.”

Sounded like 2010: A Spore Odyssey.

As a Mushroom Caretaker, the book told me, it’s simply my job to give the patch a good home.  Funghi Perfecti suggests putting it on the kitchen countertop beside the sink. However, my husband immediately objected to that. Alright, I agree, it is probably a little too unsightly and malodorous for keeping in such close quarters. It’s quite the science experiment. So we’re going to keep it on our shady porch, next to the worms, and see how it does.

Keeping mushrooms next to the worms. My how my life has changed since embarking on Farm Apartment. I’ve become increasingly sensitive to the intricate workings of the ground beneath our feet. Without fungi and worms to break things down, earth would suffocate under a blanket of organic stuff. That’s why some people call mushrooms the “lungs” of the earth.

To activate the patch, I misted the surface with de-chlorinated water. This is important: do not use chlorinated water from the tap! Chlorine will kill the growth of the mycelium. Also, don’t use distilled or filtered water as it lacks the nutrients needed for growth.

The easiest method is to simply boil tap water and let it cool. Well or spring water works the best. If you have access to one, I’d like to move into your building! Rainwater also works well.

After misting, I placed  the “humidity tent,” a plastic bag perforated with little holes, over the top.  To prop up the tent, I followed instructions for making a little wire frame, by bending two coat hangers and tying them together with twistees.

Now I just have to keep the whole thing damp. The mushrooms want high humidity in order to grow. So seeing condensation droplets on the inside of the bag is a good sign. Means it’s working.

Within 14 days, bumpy knobs will begin to form. These are primordia. They will grow and blossom into bouquets of Oyster mushrooms. 3-5 days later, the Oyster Mushrooms will reach maturity and they’re ready to harvest. Once harvested, a new “flourish” will grow within 2 weeks, as long as you keep it nice and moist.

Each kit produces two flourishes. After that, you can break up your kit and create an outdoor mushroom patch which should produce for years to come.

Many kinds of edible mushrooms are available in these kits – including shitake, my next project!  The magic kind are unfortunately not sold here. But hey, these Oysters have already altered the reality of my porch and expanded my mind.

Who knew it was so easy to grow shrooms?



  1. melanie watts

    What a great experiment. I like the fact you can transfer it outside and grow mushrooms for, like, ever.

  2. Michaela

    I have always wanted to grow my own mushrooms. I have a spot under the side deck that might work perfectly. Keep us in the loop on progress and thanks for sharing. M

  3. meemsnyc

    Oh my goodness. I’ve always wanted to grow mushrooms. This is an awesome idea! I have to look into it.

  4. Online Engineering Degree » Blog Archive » 100 Brilliant Blog Posts for Small-Space Living

    [...] 96.) “Of Mycelium and Men” at FarmApartment [...]

  5. Herbaloo, Earth Apprentice

    Came across your site today through the Greenhorns. It looks really great, and your concept is wonderful! I am glad to see that you are transfering pavement into lush greenery. Thanks for all you do to make the Earth a ‘greener’ place. Many Blessings!
    ps – you should check out the Truck-Farm from Brooklyn

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    I like a variety of dishes with mushrooms. For this reason, I have always wanted to learn the process of growing them at home. I have never thought that it could be so simple.

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