How to grow your own edible mushrooms

BRF tek is a fast method of growing your own mushrooms, with the whole process taking just two to three months.

By Matthew Roderick.

Book cover "Mushrooms," with photo of mushrooms.
Mushrooms: Cultivation, Nutritional Value, Medicinal Effect, and Environmental Impact (2004) by Philip G. Miles and Shu-Ting Chang is a good source for information on growing your own edible mushrooms.

Mushroom cultivation at home may be simpler than you think. As a hobby, for profit, or as a viable means for developing food security, growing mushrooms has become an increasingly popular practice for those who enjoy the healthy and flavorful benefits of mushrooms. These would be edible varieties such as shiitake, portobello, oyster, lions mane, and pioppino, to name just a few.

Mushrooms have been renowned for thousands of years for their therapeutic effects, medicinal nature, and highly nutritious quality. In addition to containing a good source of protein, many mushrooms, especially gourmet varieties, are shown to have antiviral, anticancer, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as immune strengthening and cardio protective  compounds.

Mushrooms are the surface level fruiting bodies of a massive, subterranean network which is the collective and living body of the single organism, sort of how a fruit is to a tree. Fungiculture, as some would like to call it, utilizes the natural process of decomposition, the recycling of organic wastes, as a means for producing food, medicine and other products for human use. Fungi will efficiently utilize the last bits of stored energy within these wastes; they are heterotrophic, like animals, absorbing nutrients from the food that they depend on to find in their environment.

In my experience with growing mushrooms, the easiest way to start off is to buy a syringe of suspended culture solution from one of the many mycology supply shops online, anywhere from $15-$30 per syringe. The nice thing is that a single syringe can inoculate dozens of substrates, with each individual substrate producing up to five or six harvests; you can then simply continue to culture off those harvests to spawn more generations in an almost endless cycle starting with that original syringe.

Outdoor methods most often involve spawning the culture on grains within quart sized mason jars which you then open up and inoculate a secondary substrate for the growth of the edible fruiting bodies, such as hard wood logs, wood chips, stumps from felled trees, laundry baskets of compacted straw, or even shredded paper in plastic bags with holes cut in it for the mushrooms to poke out through. Indoor methods can use the same grain spawn to inoculate foil food trays filled with composted horse manure.

Fast DIY growing method

My favorite indoor method so far is the Brown Rice Flour technique (BRF tek). BRF tek is by far the fastest method I’ve tried with the whole process taking two to three months.

Brown rice flour and vermiculite are mixed with water and the mixture loaded into half-pint, wide mouth jars. Four small holes are punched into the lids for inoculation later on. The jars with the substrate are placed into a cooking pot with enough water to boil and produce steam. The jars are steamed for 90 minutes, allowed to completely cool and are then inoculated through the four small holes via syringe. They  are stored in a cool, dimly lit area for two or three weeks until the white mycelium completely covers all visible surfaces of the substrate.

You then pop the cakes out of jar (they resemble white birthday cakes at this point), and place them in a terrarium made of a plastic Sterilite container, with a lot of holes drilled in it for ventilation. The terrarium is lined at the bottom with a five- or six-inch layer of perlite for humidity control and the whole thing is sprayed or misted once every other day.

Mushrooms will pin one or two weeks later, and after three weeks you will have a nice harvest, with two to four subsequent harvests later on.

Depending on the method that you choose, you can have harvestable mushrooms anywhere from two to 12 months.

One very important thing to keep in mind when starting off is to make sure  that you sterilize your primary substrate, such as the grains in the jar before you inoculate them with the culture.

If you are interested in growing mushrooms, please consult the many resources available online or in book form. Listed below are some good resources for research, supplies, methods, and video instructions; all of which are true and tested. I encourage you to check them out.

-This article was originally published in the Feb. 2013 issue of the UH Hilo Agriculture Club newsletter. Matthew Broderick graduated from UH Hilo in Spring 2014.