[Hey! Before you read on for instructions and links: I’d love to see what, if anything, grew on your oyster roll. Send me pictures once you see some life in it? Or, if you don’t see life in it after a week or two, I’d also like to hear about that. This whole cloning-fungi-in-a-hotel-conference-room thing is new — I’m curious to see if it worked. My email is email@example.com. Thanks!]
Dear Joanna, I came by your Making and Doing table and made an oyster roll. Now I have some soggy cardboard in a ziploc bag. What do I do with it?
First of all, a few pointers for how to encourage your oyster mushroom mycelia to thrive: don’t open the ziplock bag (this can introduce contaminants); don’t let it get too cold (e.g., put in the fridge) or too hot (sit in direct sunlight); just keep it at room temperature (between 60º-70º).
Other than that, there are many things you can do with. First of all, if you don’t want to deal with it, you can just throw it in your garden or compost. If you have wood chips or a decaying tree, you might find some oyster mushrooms there one day. But I recommend waiting at least a week so you watch the mycelium grow — it’s cool!
Second option, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can try to bulk it up to another substrate and fruit it (i.e., cause it to grow mushrooms). Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) are especially voracious and can grow on almost anything. The trick is to give them a relatively sterile (or “sterile-ish”) environment so they don’t have a lot of competition in the way of bacteria or other fungi (like molds–the usual suspects are Aspergillus). The way to do this in your own kitchen is using a stove-top pressure cooker. You have a couple choices for media: for simplicity, I recommend either organic grains (if you only want to scale up to a mason jar) or straw (if you want to scale up to a bucket). If you’re using a mason jar, you’ll want some poly fill as well to stuff into a hole in the lid; this is a clever DIY invention that allows airflow while eliminating most airborne contaminates.
For both grain and straw, the main thing is to sterilize as best you can, not to make the medium too wet (this encourages bacterial growth), and to store it somewhere not too cold or too hot (65º-75º) and out of direct sunlight. (FYI, the belief that fungus need dank darkness to grow is a myth. It’s helpful if they are tucked away from the sun but they don’t need to be in complete darkness.)
From here, follow the links below. Don’t feel bad if this fails (or if you forget about your ziploc bag of oyster mycelium!). DIY mycology is as much about failure as it is about success and the mushrooms you used are clones from one giant dispersed individual fungus (genetically speaking). It will live to see another day, if not in your kitchen or garden, somewhere else.
• What you can do with your cardboard spawn (Mushroom Appreciation)
• cardboard cloning tek (classic Hippie3 thread on Mycotopia.net from 2005)
• How to Grow Oyster Mushrooms (Low Tech) (Instructables)
• Preparation of Mushroom Growing Substrates (North American Mycological Association)
• Polyfil [sic] filter lid for Simple Minds (FungiFun.org; make a lid with polyfill to filter air for grain spawn jars)
• Hippie3 Super Tek Recipe (Fresno Mycological Society; the classic PF Tek is presented here with innovations from Hippie3, a famous contributor to the Mycotopia forum)
• How To Make Mushroom Grain Spawn: Preparing the Grain (FreshCap Mushrooms 🇨🇦)
• Easy Grain Spawn Prep! WBS Works like a charm (Mushroom Boss; WBS = wild bird seed)
• Radical Mycology’s Mushroom Cultivation for Remediation 2/3 (Radical Mycology; this is Part Two of a three-part series that goes over liquid culture and straw spawn)
• Mycelium Wandering: Growing Oyster Mushrooms (Lab Lulz; goes over the whole process, but with loud groovy techno — you might want to watch on mute)
• Adding Grain Spawn to Bulk Substrate | Growing Oyster Mushrooms (Punky Rooster)
• Radical Mycology’s Mushroom Cultivation for Remediation 3/3 (Radical Mycology, Part Three of the series, on bulking up to straw as a fruiting substrate)
Hi Joanna, I’m really curious about mushrooms in general. Where should I start? What should I read?
The classics for cultivation and identification are:
• Everything by Paul Stamets, especially his two cultivation manuals. His last book, Mycelium Running, is a cult classic but is more speculative and experimental.
• The two field guides by David Arora. Mushrooms Demystified is a tome but is great if you get deep into mushroom foraging. All That the Rain Promises And More… is a “hip-pocket guide” and is perfect for hobbyist foraging, especially for culinary species. Note that both lean toward Western regions and that the Latin species names are sorely out of date.
For cultivation and DIY experimentation, I also recommend:
• The Essential Guide to Cultivating Mushrooms, Stephen Russell (this is the best book for practical cultivation methods, explained well, with no added mysticism)
• Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation, Tradd Cotter (easy to understand for practical cultivation at large scale and techniques for learning how to experiment with remediation using mushrooms)
• Radical Mycology, Peter MyCoy (giant and heavy, with a variety of topics and excursus on the cultural and philosophical questions, chapters by guest authors, and a lot of serious scientific references if you want to go deeper)
• DIY Mushroom Cultivation, Willoughby Arevalo (TBH, I haven’t read this yet! But Willoughby is a great teacher and self-taught mycologist and I’m sure it’s full of good instruction and ways to play around with growing mushrooms)
Lastly, once you have the basics, the absolute best source is The Internet, specifically, the ever-expanding universe of YouTube and then the online forums, Shroomery and Mycotopia. Both of these forums were originally founded for trading techniques (a.k.a. “tek,” in cultivator slang) for growing psilocybin mushrooms, but they now contain threads on medicinal and culinary species and a wealth of lay expertise on growing all kinds of mushrooms at home. (FYI, proper conduct on these boards is to first use the search function to see if your question has already been answered in an earlier thread. And use your good sense re: discussing the possession of illegal substances.)
And of course, if you haven’t already, read Anna Tsing’s wonderful book, The Mushroom at the End of the World. Besides giving an in-depth portrait of mycophilic cultures, she goes over some of the basic science of mycology. Although, be aware that she is writing specifically about a mycorrhizal species, which cannot be cultivated.
Whassup Joanna! I want to hang out with these DIY mushroom people. Where can I find them?
Like fungi, they seem to be everywhere.
Radical Mycology used to have a lot of links to collaborators but it seems a bit out of date. But it looks the convergence they host is coming back in 2020, so check out that website here. New Moon Mycological Summit is another gathering that takes place on the East Coast. Also check out your local mycological society to see what they have going on and if you have a local farmers market, ask your local mushroom farmers if they can recommend anything. It’s a small world.