Growing Mushrooms: Sterilizing with Hydrated Lime

Happy 2017 folks! I hope you all enjoyed as much of 2016 as you possibly could; I know for certain that it was quite the year for me. Lots of changes were lingering underfoot that managed to push their way to the surface. I have been extraordinarily busy the last 9 months, as is evident due to the lack of posts that I have been writing, although I’ll have you know that I would have much preferred to have had the time to do so. Continue reading “Growing Mushrooms: Sterilizing with Hydrated Lime”

Mushroom Cultivation: Straw Bucket Tech

There are so many different ways to grow oyster mushrooms it’s almost but not quite unbelievable, so do yourself a favor and please don’t for an instant think that this is the only way, or necessarily the best way, to go about the process. Oyster mushrooms (Basidiomycete fungi of the genus Pleurotus) are an incredibly adaptable and resilient bunch that can perform well under a comparatively wide range of growing conditions that would be completely inappropriate for other varieties of edible and medicinal mushrooms.
Continue reading “Mushroom Cultivation: Straw Bucket Tech”

Mushroom Cultivation: Cardboard Spawn

It has been quite a while since I last experimented with oyster mushrooms, and even longer since I decided to take note of my methods and record them all to then post here at your convenience as well as for my own record keeping. Indeed the pervasive nature and tenacity of the mycological world couldn’t keep me away for too long before the urges of wonder and discovery had me crawling back for more. Continue reading “Mushroom Cultivation: Cardboard Spawn”

Growing Oyster Mushrooms from Wild Grasses

I consider myself to be quite opportunistic, readily willing to identify and take advantage of the potential benefits of any given circumstance, no matter how bleak or uncomfortable they appear from the outside. This being said, I got to thinking about one of the most popular commercial substrates for commercial oyster mushroom (Pleurotus spp.) production, straw, and whether or not the old, dried, fibrous stalks and leaves of various wild or naturalized grass species could be used in much the same way as straw derived from commercial cereal grain crops. So I decided to put on my mushroom cap and put this one to the test myself. Continue reading “Growing Oyster Mushrooms from Wild Grasses”

Oyster Mushrooms & Spent Brewery Grains

Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) and it’s close relatives, being the generalist-adaptable type that they are, grow wonderfully from a wide variety of different substrates in addition to spent coffee grounds (which you can explore in my previous post on the subject right here). This time around I am trying out a few different modifications to my original method of culturing oyster mushrooms, the most obvious being the substitution of spent barley brewing grains instead of used coffee grinds, and wrapping a double layer of cheese cloth over the top of the mason jar in order to improve air circulation.

Unfortunately, the majority of the oyster mushrooms that started off so well in my previous posts did not make it past the 2nd or 3rd week. There were a number of different contamination issues, particularly Trichoderma harzianum, a green mold which can grow under anaerobic conditions and out compete the oyster mushroom mycelium, reducing future yields once the substrate is fully colonized. In order to remedy the situation, I decided to increase the air circulation and see if that will alleviate the problem at least a little bit. Because the mushroom start isn’t completely sealed off from the outside world, regulating humidity and moisture levels is now a concern. When I notice that the coffee grinds (or any substrate for that matter) are not glistening with moisture, I open the jars and spray them a few times using filtered water that I boiled and then allowed to cool to sterilize it.

So that is my rationale behind why increased air circulation might be a good idea. You will find out whether or not this adjustment is successful in one of my future posts on the matter. The focus of my article today however is introducing you to a new substrate: spent brewery grains. Grains, as well as pasteurized wheat straw, are traditional ingredients in commercial substrate mixes for oyster mushrooms and a few other different species. They work very well because they contain enough nutrient and cellulose (fiber) that the mycelium needs to grow strong and produce bountiful mushrooms. Usually various other additives are included in the mix to regulate acid/alkaline levels of the substrate and for added nutrition, but we aren’t looking for industrial scale efficiency here (or at least I’m not) and so for the time being I am going to skip those details.

Spent brewery grains, mainly barely or wheat, are a readily available byproduct of commercial beer production. Once germinated, mashed and boiled in water to make wort for the beer, the grains are ready to be disposed of. They could be composted, given away to livestock farmers (I know at least one brewery that donates their spent grains to a local pig farmer as feed) or down right thrown out, but that as we all know is tremendously wasteful considering you could also grow mushrooms in them. Like coffee, the grains are boiled and therefore sterilized when they are processed, so further sterilization (as long as the grains are stored in clean air tight containers or used almost immediately) should not be necessary. The spent grains that I used I saved from a past home brewing experience and frozen them. Today, when I began a new mushroom starter, I thawed the grains in advance and mixed them with my oyster mushroom cuttings following the same protocol as I always have.

So if you are interested in experimenting with other re-purposed mushroom growing substrates, give brewery grains a shot. If you live in southern Ontario, as well as most places in Canada or the Unites States, local craft breweries which use good quality malted grains are not something that you will have to try very hard to find. Give them a call or drop by their retail outlets and inquire about whether or not they can save you a bag of grain. Like coffee shops, breweries have to pay for their byproducts to be picked up and hauled away, so by diverting some of their grain you are helping them to save money. Just another fantastic reason to grow some mushrooms and go take a visit to your nearest brewery.