How to: how to grow mushrooms even at home

How to: how to grow mushrooms even at home

Matteo Medros, founder of the Mushrooms Growers Italy group, teaches us step by step how to grow mushrooms at home.

There are a myriad of Facebook groups that talk about hobbies that have to do with food. There are countless those dedicated to baking and cooking in general. For those who try their hand at home productions, it ranges from beer to cheeses. Among the most unusual communities we can include that of mycology enthusiasts : strange as it may seem, there are in fact people who grow mushrooms at home or in outdoor spaces such as balconies and gardens. We talk about it with Matteo Medros , founder of the Mushrooms Growers Italy group .

When was the Mushrooms Growers Italy group born?
The first post I published on November 22, 2019. I live in England and I was already following a similar English group; looking for an equivalent in Italian I realized that it didn’t exist. The problem is that in our language there are also few bibliographic resources on the subject. So I thought I’d share this passion with my compatriots. In just over a year we have exceeded 3000 members.

What do you need to start growing mushrooms at home?
The entry level is represented by the bales (a bag) containing a straw-based substrate already inoculated with the mycelium and subsequently incubated. In short, ballets ready to bear fruit.

How do they work?
The mycelium will tend to propagate in the straw, until it becomes a single body. Once it has fully colonized the substrate, it will finally go on to create the fungi. I simplified a lot, I hope the real mycologists don’t get angry.

Despite the simplification, we need to take a further step back. What are spores and mycelium?
Premise: mushrooms are obviously a separate kingdom from the animal kingdom, but they are not plants either. However, forcing a comparison: the mycelium that colonizes the straw-based ballet we can consider it the body of the plant, while the fungus is considered the fruit, which in turn will release the spores, comparable to the seeds.

Let’s go back to our ballet…
For convenience, let’s take the example of the cardoncelli . We open the package at the top and add two centimeters of soil free of plant residues to the ballet. The ballet must be darkened on the sides, perhaps with black plastic bags, it can be kept both on a balcony and inside the house, exposed to non-direct light and a temperature ranging from 12 to 18 ° C. The earth should be moistened with a spray once a day . After about 2 weeks the mushrooms will be born.

And for those who want to try their hand at a higher difficulty level?
One could think of making bales at home , rather than buying them ready-made. Just get the mycelium and crumble it into a pasteurized straw substrate. Everything is to be placed in a container, such as polypropylene bags, equipped with a filter or side holes depending on the mushrooms we are going to grow.

And then there are the more experienced ones who even make their own mycelium at home.
A minimum of microbiological knowledge is needed to isolate the mycelium at home. The instrumentation is also not something you normally keep in the kitchen or garage. Wanting to simplify a lot, let’s say that we start with a portion of stem tissue taken under sterile conditions and placed in a closed jar but with a filter in the cap for air exchange, with the sterilized grain inside. In two weeks you will see the formation of a colony, which will appear as a white mold. I have friends who started with a simple store-bought oyster mushroom.

What are the ideal environmental conditions for mushroom growth at home?
It obviously depends on the variety. Champignons do not have particular needs for light, but only for humidity. On the contrary, cardoncelli need not direct light only in the fruiting phase. Substrate characteristics are also an important variable.

Is growing mushrooms at home convenient?
Surely it is suitable for a speech of freshness . The mushrooms are picked and eaten within minutes. From a purely economic point of view, a 4 kg bale of cardoncelli, against a purchase cost of about 4 euros, produces about 1.5 kg of mushrooms.

What are the most home grown mushrooms? And which are the most difficult?
Not all naturally occurring mushrooms are cultivable. The easiest are the Cardoncelli and Pleurotus Ostreatus , then the Shiitake . In the group we have very good users who work little miracles with really difficult species to grow. One of our administrators, Alberto Melappioni, managed to make mushrooms bear fruit which, although inedible, are beautiful to look at because they are fluorescent: in the dark they emit their own light, like fireflies!

We seem to understand that in the group there are not only hobbyists.
I had the intuition to create the group, but apart from the passion, my knowledge is not thorough. Fortunately, there are people like Alberto Melappioni , who is a mycologist and a real scientist. Fabrizio Marongiu, on the other hand, is a professional farmer who produces tons of mushrooms. Both are administrators of the page and it is they who have made the group grow by sharing a lot of valuable information for free. Recently 3 administrators took part in the team: Andrea Angioni who carried out many experiments, even a little out of the ordinary, and an expert grower of mushrooms on the trunk; Lucia Zaquini, an internationally renowned researcher and Massimiliano Vivaldi founder of the historic blog Top Cultivation Funghi.

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