Friday, November 11, 2011

Expanding into mushroom culture

In which Truffula branches out into new gardening territory...

Some weeks ago, two friends and I pooled our resources and invited a local permaculture expert for a consultation.  We're all trying to redo our yards and gardens to be more edible and sustainable.

As our little group walked our property, we talked about various plant options.  However, it was the shade -- yes, really, the SHADE -- which really excited the consultant.  He found it ideal for considering... mushroom culture!  I smiled politely, and kept taking notes on my clipboard because, of course, I didn't know the first thing about how to proceed with that variety of, er, crop.   When I learned that he was offering a 'shroom workshop, I signed myself up, taking TruffulaBoy the Elder with me for good measure.

My son and I were quick converts.  The workshop began with Paul Stamets' TED Talk on "6 ways mushrooms can save the world.  (If you've got 18 minutes to spare on this, it's worth your time.)  What an eye-opener!  After a short discussion on mushroom basics, we headed outside to make mushroom logs to take home.

We began with a section of poplar log, about 4 or 5 inches in diameter, and about 40 inches long.  Drilling was the first order of business.  We needed to riddle the logs in a diamond-shaped pattern, putting the holes 4 to 6 inches apart.  My trusty TruffulaBoy partner eagerly volunteered to wield the tools.

The drill bits had depth stops.  These allowed us to easily make the holes the perfect size to receive the "plug spawn."  The plugs were bits of dowel impregnated with mycelium.  Mycelium is the "network" which makes up the mushrooms.  No doubt you already had all of that vocabulary at the tip of your brains. ;-)

Drills were traded in for hammers.  A plug needed to be inserted into each hole.  The arrow is pointing to TruffulaBoy's stash of plugs.

The final step was brushing melted beeswax over each plug to seal it in.  The wax smelled lovely!  Voila!  The log was finished!
We drilled-and-filled to create our log.  "Totems" are another method for inoculating logs.  Here, sawdust spawn is used instead of plug spawn.  A layer of sawdust is spread between the log pieces.  The log is then enclosed in a plastic bag.  It spends a few months in a garage or basement, and then goes back outside.

Now, we wait.  Our log, impregnated with oyter mushroom spawn, has a special place in the back yard, nestled on a pallet.  Yes, it is resting in the shade.  It's way too early to expect any visible signs of 'shroomy goodness.  Those are months away.   Still, I cast an expectant eye its way when I visit the adjacent compost piles.

The next part of this project is putting in a mushroom patch or two.  Those will be on the ground, using hardwood chips.

If you want to see more immediate results, or try your hand at indoor mushroom culture, the Back to the Roots Mushroom Garden Kit will get mushrooms onto your plate in days, rather than months.  An enviro-bonus is that its made using recycled coffee grounds.  Green Phone Booth readers can sweeten the deal with coupon code mushrooms4me10 for 10% off the kit price, and free shipping if you buy two or more.

Stay tuned for more on our ongoing garden adventures!




5 comments:

Green Bean said...

Whoa! I'm so saving this. I've wanted to grow mushrooms in our backyard since I found oodles of what I think were morels but I was too afraid to try them under our plum tree. I'm so doing this!

Anonymous said...

Where do you get the starter culture? Can you buy those plugs? I'd love to do this but am not sure where to get something like that.

Robbie @ Going Green Mama said...

OK, I am truly impressed!I've thought about one of those coffee ground kits, but this takes it to another level.

beffuh said...

I grew up with shitake mushrooms that my dad did. We inoculated oak chunks of wood, I think, drilling the holes, plugging in those dowel rods that have the mycelium spores, and every spring and fall they produced shitake mushrooms! Good luck!

Truffula said...

@Anonymous - I apologize! I meant to come back to your question much sooner!

Here are two sources recommended to us during our workshop: Fungi Perfecti, http://www.fungi.com/ , and Field and Forest, http://www.fieldforest.net/

Both of these companies' websites are very informative.

@beffuh - Glad to know of your success!

To all: Happy shopping and 'shrooming!

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