I find myself engaging in conversation in various social circles, I often bring up the topic of foraging and eating wild plants and how this survival skill is being forgotten. Oftentimes, the topic of harvesting and eating wild mushrooms is the one that captures the attention of the room.
Those that never experienced more than the store-bought mushrooms show signs of skepticism, and their attitude toward foraging suddenly changes. I often wondered why this general fear of wild mushrooms, and after doing a little bit of research, I found out why.
It turns out that in the United States, there are more than 7.000 annual cases recorded of exposure to toxic mushrooms. This means that people get in contact with various types of mushrooms, intentionally or unintentionally, and due to the toxic nature of these mushrooms, they make the statistics. Luckily, the number of cases that result in major harm or prove to be fatal is quite low, less than 40 people per year.
If you are the type of person willing to give mushroom foraging a try, you will be rewarded with a tasty, nutritional reward. In fact, mushrooms have much more protein than most vegetables, and they hold high levels of vitamins. Also, few people know that mushrooms are the only non-animal food with a vitamin D content.
Besides being a good food source, mushrooms may also have some medicinal properties, and their anticancer, antiallergenic, antioxidant, antiviral, and antibacterial properties are being tested by various scientific communities all over the world.
According to the International Journal of Microbiology, there are between 5,000 and 10,000 species of mushrooms in North America alone, so foraging for edible mushrooms can become quite challenging for the novice forager. To put things in perspective, you should know that of these 10,000 species native to North America, about 100 are considered edible and safe for human consumption.
I often like to joke with friends that all mushrooms are edible once, but you should never test this theory, no matter how hungry you are, if you get stranded in the wilderness. There are other less risky alternatives when it comes to wild edibles, and you shouldn’t consume mushrooms unless you are certain you’ve identified an edible variety.
If you want to become a mushroom hunter, I recommend learning just one or two edible mushroom species each year. After you can identify the two varieties beyond a shadow of a doubt, you can expand your knowledge to other fungi.
For your foraging trip, you should bring along a sharp knife, a few mesh bags to store and transport the mushrooms, a good camera, and one or two field guides. The mesh bags will allow for the mushroom spores to be dispersed as you walk, so make sure you’re using only those types of bags for carrying the harvest. Regarding the field guides, these are useful not only to help you identify the mushrooms but also associated trees.
The camera (which can be the one from your phone) will help you take pictures and post them on certain apps like iNaturalist or on social media, where multiple people and various experts can offer input on the mushrooms you’ve discovered. There are also various Facebook groups dedicated to foragers, and just posting a picture on such groups of a mushroom you’re not certain about will provide you with useful information from other, more experienced foragers.
When taking photos of the mushrooms, make sure you take pictures from above but also from the underneath part of the mushroom’s cap, as well as the stalk. Some species can be distinguished by the presence of pores, gills, or other spore structures.
Another trick you can use to identify mushrooms is to make a spore print and post it online. Take the mushroom cap and put it on a sheet of paper with the spore side down (belly), pour a few drops of water on the cap, and then cover it with a glass for a few hours. You will notice that a spore print of various colors and arrangements will appear on the paper after you remove the mushroom cap.
Another piece of advice I can give you is to join a local mushroom club since no matter how many guides you read or bring along, it fails in comparison to finding and seeing the mushroom in their natural environment along someone who knows how to hunt for mushrooms.
These clubs will often organize and conduct forays where people will learn how to find and identify various types of mushrooms in person. Chances are you will be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with an expert, so make sure you ask questions and bring him/her the mushrooms you find to learn more about them.
Mushrooms are a type of fungus, and unlike most garden vegetables, they grow in composted substrate rather than soil. Straw and hay bales are commonly used as the bulk ingredients in mushroom substrate because they are inexpensive and easy to use. With the right preparation, the average gardener can grow his own mushrooms at home using sterilized hay bales.
Shiitake and oyster mushrooms are the most common mushrooms grown at home, though there are many edible and medicinal species that can be cultivated. Plug, sawdust, or grain spawns cultured with a specific mushroom mycelium are available from mushroom suppliers throughout the country. Once the freshly-cut log is inoculated with the mushroom spawn, patience is the next step. Shiitake takes about a year to begin fruiting; the aggressive oyster mushroom can produce in as little as 3-4 months. Oak logs can produce shiitake for 3 or 4 years, with rest periods in between flushes.
Poplar is commonly used for oyster mushroom production, and being a softer wood, is consumed more quickly by the mushroom, but may still last 2 or 3 years. Logs need watering or soaking in the hot summer months, but can produce mushrooms until the wood disintegrates. Log-grown mushrooms can get very large compared to their commercially produced, store-bought cousins. What reward it is to step outside and pick a 6-inch shiitake for dinner!
Mushrooms can grow in a few different substrates from logs and mulch to straw. In this episode of From the Ground Up we discuss starting mushrooms in straw. The benefit of straw (or mulch) is that you get mushrooms in the same season you plant, with logs you have to wait a year.
Mushroom Club members have also been introduced to alternative methods of mushroom production. Species can be grown on hay bales, straw, sterilized grain, shredded paper, egg cartons, phone books, fabric or many other media inoculated with spawn. These methods generally begin production more quickly but don’t last nearly as long as mushrooms grown on logs.
1 Sterilize the hay bales by placing them in a roasting pan or large stock pot full of boiling water until they are fully saturated. To make this process easier, it is best to use mini hay bales measuring no more than 12 inches in length.
2 Remove the bales from the water using a large pair of tongs and place them on a cooling rack set above a metal sheet pan to drain. You may need to empty the sheet pan several times so it does not overflow. Wait for the hay bales to cool to room temperature before removing them from the cooling rack.
3 Set the mini hay bales in the desired location for growing your mushrooms. Select a location that is out of direct sunlight and, if possible, will retain a stable temperature between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. You can place your bales directly on the ground or on top of a bench or table for greater comfort in caring for your mushrooms.
4 Create openings in the tops of the mini hay bales with your fingers.
5 Insert the oyster mushroom spawn into the openings you just created in the hay bales. Follow the instructions included with the mushroom spawn to determine the proper application rate.
6 Water the hay bales liberally with de-chlorinated water to keep the bales moist as the mushrooms develop. You can either purchase distilled or filtered water for your mushrooms or treat regular tap water with a de-chlorinating solution.
7 Check your hay bales several times a week and water them as necessary to keep the hay damp but not wet. After six to eight weeks, you should begin to see small mushrooms forming on the bales.
Now comes the fun part. The mushrooms essentially double in size every day, so within a week or so you should have good-sized oyster mushrooms. Mist them with water two or three times a day over this period – again, not so they are dripping, just so they are moist. The mushrooms should be harvested while their rims are still curled over a little and pointing downwards. If their rims seem to be turning upward, it’s probably time to harvest.
8 Harvest your mushrooms in the small “button” stage or let them mature for a while before picking them. Separate the mushrooms from the hay bale by gently twisting rather than pulling on them to avoid breaking the stems.
To harvest the mushrooms give them a twist at the base. This ensures that you leave the very bottom of the mushroom still in the bag. You want to leave that part behind as it is needed for the subsequent flushes of mushrooms. If you keep the mushrooms moist and in suitable conditions, you should get three or four flushes of mushrooms, although I’m told the first and second flushes are the most productive. I’m currently harvesting my second flush. When your bags stop producing, the straw can be used as mulch for the garden.
Mushrooms are a very valuable food in every kitchen, as they offer endless possibilities when it comes to using them. However, mushrooms are quite delicate and they require special care to preserve them from spoiling. Therefore, if you want to keep mushrooms in top condition for long periods of time, you’ll need to use a food preservation technique like dehydration, freezing, fermenting or vacuum packaging.
There are various different methods for preserving mushrooms. Mushrooms are being preserved in order to extend their shelf life. Fresh mushrooms only keep for about five days after picking. Preserved mushrooms can be kept for a longer period of time (even up to five years!)
Preserving mushrooms – freezing. Both wild and commercial mushrooms can be safely frozen, as long as they are edible. Choose mushrooms free from spots and decay. Sort according to size. Wash thoroughly in cold water. Trim off ends of stems. If mushrooms are larger than 1 inch across, slice them or cut them into quarters. Heating is required to preserve mushrooms ‘at their best.’ Either steam or saute mushrooms prior to freezing. Delicate mushrooms such as morels will benefit from a light saute prior to freezing.
Preserving mushrooms – drying.
For supreme flavor, try drying mushrooms. Not only is this the easiest way to preserve mushrooms, it also provides you with a real flavor treat. Mushrooms should be dried on a dehydrator, not out-of-doors. Either commercial or edible wild mushrooms can be safely dried. Choose mushrooms free of dirt and decay. Rinse gently and dry. Slice into sections for even drying. Place on a dehydrator tray or rack and dry until brittle or crisp. Mushroom ‘chips’ are a real taste treat. For a flavor boost, dry mushrooms and grind to a fine powder. Spoon the powder into soups and stews, or add to dough when making fresh pasta.
Dehydrating mushrooms in the air: either on a rack or by hanging them on a line, as if you were hanging clothes. You should place them in a place that’s hot or has good air flow but without much humidity.
Drying mushrooms in direct sunlight: the problem with this option are insects, bad weather, etc. Also, if you live in a humid place, it is recommended that you do not leave them outside overnight.
Using an oven to dry mushrooms: at a low temperature and with a lot of patience, as this process requires hours. Electric ovens are preferred and use a fan if you have one.
Preserving mushrooms: in their juice
This technique involves preserving mushrooms naturally in their own juice, packaged in vacuum jars. First of all, you should sterilize the jars or bottles that you will to keep the mushrooms in good condition.
Then, wash the mushrooms, chop them, blanch them and do not throw away the resulting water. Put the mushrooms in the jar with their cooking juices, filling it up to the maximum, and put the lid on firmly.
To seal the glass jars, you should boil them in a pot that is large enough so the water covers all the containers.Here you can learn more about how to seal glass jars to preserve food.
Preserving mushrooms in vinegar, oil or salt
Mushrooms can also be preserved in vinegar or oil. In Eastern Europe they mostly use vinegar, while preserving in oil is common in the Mediterranean. A well-known example are mushrooms eaten as an Italian antipasto or starter. In China, mushrooms are often preserved in salt. The distances to preserving factories in China are too large, which makes it impossible to process fresh mushrooms. A disadvantage of preserving in salt is that the mushrooms have to be rinsed in a large amount of water to prevent them from tasting too salty. This does not have a favourable effect on the flavour. That is one of the reasons why consumers around the world choose Dutch preserved mushrooms. Because the processing industry and the growers are located so close to another, mushrooms can be processed immediately after harvest. Therefore Dutch mushrooms retain their strong fresh mushroom flavour, whether packed in a can, jar, bag or bucket.
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Most oyster mushrooms will grow extremely well on straw and sugarcane mulch. King oyster will produce small fruits on straw and mulch but will perform notably better on hardwood substrates. Other straw loving species include agaricus species, psilocybe cubensis, panaeolus cyanescens & volvariella volvacea.What mushrooms grow well in straw? ›
You can cultivate many different types of mushrooms on straw such as enokitake, the garden giant, certain Agaricus species, and oysters. Growing oyster mushrooms is often easiest for the beginner, and I'd recommend this if you're just starting out.Can you eat mushrooms that grow on hay bales? ›
In “Straw Bale Gardens Complete,” author Joel Karsten says that the mushrooms, though not edible, are harmless to the plants and to simply plant vegetables among them.How do you prepare straw for mushrooms? ›
- Soak straw until thoroughly wet. Drain. ...
- Soak straw in peroxide solution: 1 liter 3% peroxide to 1 gallon. Or 0.6% final concentration.
- Keep straw submerged in peroxide solution 24 hours. ...
- After 2nd rinse and drain, immediately inoculate straw with spawn.
The results showed that shelf life of the straw mushroom based food enhancer were 77.58 days at 30°C, 70.85 days at 40°C and 65.07 days at 50°C.How do you preserve straw mushrooms? ›
Store the mushrooms in a paper bag in your refrigerator for a few days, or dry them out and store them in an airtight container until you need them. After your first harvest, the bed will rest and then fruit once more.Do I need to sterilize straw for mushrooms? ›
Here is what we learned about pasteurization after a couple of years of trial and error: You need to pasteurize the straw in hot water. Pasteurizing straw for oyster mushroom cultivation requires you to soak your chopped straw in 160°F water for an hour.Does straw mushrooms taste good? ›
It has a delicate and slightly earthy flavor, which becomes more intense with drying. The texture is meaty and firm, making it a good meat substitute in vegetarian dishes and also a great addition to stuffings.What are straw mushrooms good for? ›
Straw mushrooms are an excellent source of copper, which provides anti-bacterial properties, and potassium, which can help regulate fluids and maintain optimal blood vessel functioning. The fungi also contain vitamins B, C, and D, fiber, zinc, iron, and amino acids.How long does it take to grow mushrooms? ›
It takes about three weeks to produce the first mushrooms for harvest. Throughout the growing period, mushroom farmers play Mother Nature, manipulating water, airflow, temperature fluctuation and more.
Volvariella volvacea (also known as paddy straw mushroom or straw mushroom) is a species of edible mushroom cultivated throughout East and Southeast Asia and used extensively in Asian cuisine.Why are straw mushrooms so expensive? ›
Two of the main reasons for the limited enoki mushroom supply are crop contamination and transportation issues. The prices of this delicious mushroom have more than doubled over the past 4 to 5 years, but there are other ways to get enokis, like foraging or cultivating your own.Is straw or sawdust better for mushrooms? ›
Straw may be a better substrate for taste, texture, smell, and appearance due to its higher water retention level which means more water available for the mycelium to use. Sawdust is better suited for growing mushrooms that require dryer conditions such as shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes).What is the best mulch for growing mushrooms? ›
Softer hardwood wood chips, like Poplars and Aspens, are ideal but winecaps are pretty adaptable. Softwood wood chips, like Pine, are usually a big no for growing mushrooms, but Winecap can tolerate a little bit, but no more than 50% of the mix. A combination of sawdust and hardwood chips is fine.Can you freeze straw mushrooms? ›
Mushrooms can be frozen to prolong their shelf life and reduce food waste, especially if you've purchased more mushrooms than you can use at one time. While freezing mushrooms may cause some nutrient losses and texture changes, these are slight and still allow the mushrooms to be used in many ways when you're ready.Is straw better than hay for mushrooms? ›
You can use mushroom grain spawn in a similar way, and the fungi will facilitate the faster breakdown of the straw while growing mushrooms. TIP: Be sure to use straw, not hay because the seeds will sprout and become weeds.Which mushroom has the longest shelf life? ›
Portobello and cremini are long lasting while white button mushrooms tend to spoil more quickly. Form. Whole mushrooms will last longer than sliced. Storage.What is the best way to preserve fresh mushrooms? ›
The secret to mushroom storage is that they stay fresh longer if you take them out of their container. Wrap them in paper towels placed in open plastic bags (paper bags are even better) and keep them in the fridge.Is it better to freeze or dehydrate mushrooms? ›
Wild mushrooms in the slimy-capped Suillus genus are tasty, but they have such a high moisture content that they are almost impossible to dehydrate well—they are definitely better preserved by freezing them raw.How do you preserve mushrooms without drying them? ›
"Simply put whole, unwashed mushrooms in a brown paper bag and fold the top over to seal it up. The paper bag will absorb any moisture, keeping your mushrooms safe," says Weintraub.
Some mushrooms known for their rich flavors are chicken of the woods, truffles, morels, porcini, shiitake and portobello mushrooms. Many of these delicious gourmet mushrooms are also some of the most expensive mushrooms in the world, as they're not easy to cultivate.What is the strongest tasting mushroom? ›
Maitake. Also called Hen-of-the-wood, this is pound-for-pound the most flavorful mushroom around. You could definitely say we're maitake fans.What is the cheapest way to sterilize mushroom substrate? ›
Sterilizing a mushroom substrate with a pressure cooker
Sterilising substrates in a pressure cooker works well, especially for small batches. The pressure cooker chamber reaches temperatures high enough to destroy bacteria and mould spores.
- Get a large, watertight and heat resistant vessel. ...
- Pack the vessel tightly with straw. ...
- Fill the vessel with very hot, near boiling water. ...
- Leave for 1-2 hours. ...
- Drain the straw and allow to cool before spreading out and inoculating with mushroom spawn before packing into grow bags.
Paddy straw mushroom's health benefits include reduced cholesterol in the digestive system. It has natural insulin which is good for diabetics, the beta-glucan prevents the growth of cancer cells and vitamin D strengthens bones. It also prevents anaemia and is good for heart health.Do mushrooms regrow after being picked? ›
Yes, most mushroom varieties will grow a second and sometimes a third crop or flush after the first harvest.What is the fastest growing mushroom? ›
The fastest-growing mushrooms are oyster mushrooms. What is this? Substrate bags will become fully colonised by oyster mushroom mycelium in just 10-14 days. Oyster mushrooms will then be ready to harvest 7 days after fruiting.Do mushrooms need a lot of water to grow? ›
Not only do mushrooms use very little water and energy, they also don't require a lot of land to grow compared with other foods.What is the name of straw mushroom? ›
Paddy straw mushroom (Volvariella spp.)
It is an edible mushroom of the topics and subtropics, and began to be cultivated in China as early as 1822. Around 1932-, the straw mushroom was introduced into the Philippines, Malaysia, and other south-east Asian countries by overseas Chinese.
Mushroom gills are totally edible, but in some cases, they make a dish unsightly. Thankfully, removing them is pretty simple. Most recipes that call for mushrooms don't require that you remove the gills on the underside of the caps.
What are Matsutake Mushrooms and why are they More Precious Than Gold? Matsutake mushrooms, the highly-prized autumnal delicacy revered by fine-diners in Japan, are the world's most expensive mushrooms. Their disappearing habitat in Japan means the price continues climb.What is the most expensive mushroom in the US? ›
Portabella (Portobello) Mushroom
They are very absorbent and will soak up any flavor you marinate it in! It is also very easy to find and is extremely versatile due to its size. You can roast, grill or sauté this fan favorite. Learn more about cooking portabellas here.
Oaks and hard maples are the preferred wood-types for most mushroom species because they're very dense and offer plenty of nutrition for a longer, sustained fruiting period. Poplars and other soft hardwoods will colonize faster and produce mushrooms sooner but generally don't yield as much or produce for as many years.Do mushrooms make soil better? ›
And hyphae are incredibly helpful! They help break down organic matter into nutrients that plants can use, hook up with plant roots to help them access water, and improve soil structure. They even help plants communicate with each other! In short, a healthy fungi population is essential for healthy soil.
Unlike plants, mushrooms do not grow best in potting soil. They are more likely to thrive in wood chips, hardwood sawdust (good for shiitake mushrooms), composted manure (good for white button mushrooms), straw (good for oyster mushrooms), or coffee grounds (also good for oyster mushrooms).What are the stinky mushrooms in mulch? ›
Stinkhorn fungi start out as white, egg-like structures in mulch or other damp, decomposing material. Most of this fungal structure is underground. When enough water is available, this egg-sac structure will rupture and the mature mushroom (the “stinkhorn”) will emerge.What grows in straw bales? ›
Some of the best vegetables that you can grow in a straw bale include zucchini, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and cucumbers because they'll thrive in the nutrient-dense and warm environment. Herbs such as cilantro, basil, and parsley do well in this type of garden bed.Can I grow lion's mane mushrooms on straw? ›
The best substrate for growing this specific type of mushroom is hardwood sawdust amended with bran. Another option that works well is straw, although it can be messy.Can I grow lion's mane on straw? ›
If you want the most simple substrate to grow Lion's Mane Mushroom on, then straw is a respectable option – although, a wood based substrate is known to be more reliable in yielding better results than straw.
Lingzhi or Reishi medicinal mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum, is generally cultivated on hardwood logs or sawdust/woodchips based formulations. More than 100 million tonnes of paddy straw is being produced in India per year, and almost 50% of the straw is potentially available for growing mushrooms.Are there bugs in straw bales? ›
An unwanted guest you may be brining into your yard with the hay bales are straw itch mites (Pyemotes tritici). These mites are associated with stored commodities including hay and have been commonly found in wheat straw hay.Does straw bale attract bugs? ›
In most, if not all cases of home infestation, the insects come in on the bales and are already in the straw when you build your house. They take a relatively high level of moisture to live and so keeping your bales dry will almost always end any infestations.What kind of fertilizer to use in straw bale gardening? ›
Complete fertilizers, such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10, is an option for maintaining plant health. Evenly apply ½ to 1 cup of fertilizer per bale each month and water in adequately.Why can't you eat lions mane mushroom raw? ›
Lion's mane should be well-cooked and not eaten raw: like all raw mushrooms they contain chitin in their cell walls, which can cause gastric upset, or even an allergic reaction in high concentrations. It is decreased through cooking.What can you not mix with Lion's Mane? ›
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs) interacts with LION'S MANE MUSHROOM. Lion's mane mushroom might slow blood clotting. Taking lion's mane mushroom along with medications that also slow blood clotting might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding.When should you not take lion's mane? ›
People who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid lion's mane, because there isn't enough safety information available yet, Delk says. In addition, lion's mane may slow blood clotting. This may cause excessive bleeding or increase your chances of bleeding, especially if you have a clotting disorder.Will Lion's Mane grow back after harvest? ›
After harvesting the mushrooms, keep the block in the grow space and continue maintaining conditions. Lion's Mane mushrooms will spontaneously fruit again after approximately 2-3 weeks rest time, increasing slightly with each subsequent fruiting.Who should not eat reishi mushroom? ›
Pregnant and breastfeeding women, people with low blood pressure or certain bleeding disorders, and those who are undergoing surgery should avoid reishi. People who take certain drugs (including drugs to slow blood clotting and chemotherapy drugs) should talk to their doctor before taking reishi.