Quick and easy guide to oyster mushroom cultivation , starting with the basics of what oyster mushrooms are and why you might want to grow your own. The article then goes on to cover materials needed for spawn production, how many oysters you will need, how long it takes and temperatures to produce spawn, optimal growing conditions for the mushroom itself, and troubleshooting when things don’t go as planned.
Oyster mushrooms are large spring mushrooms that taste much like their seafood namesake.
How long does it take to grow oyster mushrooms?
While you can try to grow oyster mushrooms indoors or outdoors as soon as the temperatures are right, typically indoor cultivation takes anywhere from 3 to 6 months. To create outdoor mushroom beds, you’ll need at least two growing seasons, but even indoors it’s best to wait until summer for prolific harvests.
Oyster mushrooms are a very hearty variety of mushroom that can survive temperatures as low as freezing, so the cultivation process is not restricted to the usual season. However it’s still best to wait until the temperature is consistently above 64°F (18°C) before starting any cultivation projects as these mushrooms prefer warm weather.
Oyster mushrooms are pleurotoid fungi, which means they grow on wood, hence their common name “oyster” mushrooms.
Oyster mushrooms are an excellent choice for beginning mushroom growers. Oyster mushrooms can sometimes be found in the wild, but most of the time you’ll have to cultivate your own as they are not common in grocery stores or shops. While oyster mushrooms can be eaten raw, they’re generally used in Asian cuisine where they are typically stir-fried or cooked in soup.
The rule of thumb is 5-6 grams of mushroom spawn per square foot of growing space. For example, if your growing space is a 6 foot x 6 foot x 8 inch deep container, that’s 144 square feet which means you would need 9 lbs spawn straw (or 15 lbs sawdust).
Oyster mushroom spawn can be made with either straw or sawdust. Sawdust is easier to work with but it will rot more quickly than straw because of the lack of air circulation. There are also many different methods to making oyster mushroom spawn: cold or hot composting, pasteurization or sterilization.
How to make oyster mushroom spawn
Materials: A bucket, a piece of cardboard, a pressure cooker, old newspaper or egg crate, straw or sawdust spawn (rehydrated), water.
Step 1: Sanitize the bucket and pieces of cardboard.
Mix 5 gallons (20 liters) of water with 2 tablespoons bleach and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Fill the bucket half full with water and place the damp pieces of cardboard in it along with your spawn bags.
Step 2: Prep the sawdust or straw.
The spawn should be placed in a bucket of water for 24 hours, allowing it to rehydrate. The water will prevent the spawn from drying out and will also prevent the formation of hormonelike substances that can infect your mushroom farm as well as inhibit mycelium growth. You don’t want to flood the bucket, so use enough water so that your spawn bags are fully immersed and there’s no standing water in the bottom of the bucket when you’re done.
Step 3: After the spawn has finished rehydrating, it’s ready to be mixed with the straw or sawdust.
Decided how much spawn you want and prepare your substrate accordingly. If using straw, be sure to chop it up so that the pieces are small enough to fit into a blender and then run them through a blender with water on a high setting until the pieces are broken up into a pulp. You can also use a sieve to sift through your spawn and compost. For sawdust, mix it with water in the blender on a high setting for 2 minutes.
Step 4: Place the substrate in the pressure cooker directly over heat for one hour.
The pressure cooker will quickly sterilize your substrate, killing bacteria present in the air and preventing airborne pathogens from infecting your crop.
Step 5: Pour the substrate into a plastic bucket or similar container.
Cover your spawn with old newspaper or egg crate. This will prevent contaminants from getting in, and it’ll also limit evaporation which will keep the substrate moist.
Step 6: After one week, drain your spawn and store in a cool, dark place such as an unventilated basement or garage.
The cool, dark environment will prevent the mycelium from going dormant and will allow for optimal growth.
Step 7: Once the spawn has matured, you’re ready to begin growing mushrooms.
Step 8: Once the substrate in your outdoor mushroom bed has reached the optimal temperature (see above), mix it with a drill or some other tool.
Stirring up the material will help distribute moisture more evenly and thus give your oyster mushroom crop a greater chance of success.
Step 9: Keep your bed moist by watering every two days.
What makes oysters so popular?
Oyster mushrooms are generally considered a warm weather mushroom. They can survive subzero temperatures but they don’t grow well in subarctic environments. The ability to tolerate extremely cold environments comes from the fact that they’re pleurotoids, which means that these mushrooms grow on wood. Wood is the wood of dead trees, and because there are few living trees in cold climates with high altitudes, oyster mushrooms are not likely to be found growing wild.
The other reason why oyster mushrooms are so popular is that they are the easiest mushroom to grow. Unlike shiitake or turkey tail mushrooms, oysters don’t have a short shelf life and can be eaten straight away after they’ve been harvested.
Flavor and texture-wise, oyster mushrooms can be compared to the flesh of a cooked scallop or shrimp. Some people describe the flavor as being similar to chicken breast or veal, but with a softer texture.
How to Use Oyster Mushroom Spawn
Properly preparing your substrate is the key to growing a huge, successful oyster mushroom crop. Oyster mushrooms will grow on a wide variety of substrates such as straw, sawdust, and wood chips. However, the texture of the substrate you use matters when it comes to growing oysters. They should be used with substrates that are finely ground and have a texture similar to wet flour.
Oyster Mushroom Spawn vs Kits vs Plug Spawn
Mushroom kits and plug spawn are popular for growing all sorts of mushrooms, but what is the difference between them and oyster mushroom spawn? Mushroom kits include all the materials you need to grow a crop of mushrooms like brown rice flour, sawdust, and instructions. Plug spawn is essentially ready-to-grow oyster mushroom mycelium that has been inserted into a hard wood block or dowel. Spawn is perfect for those that want to grow mushrooms in tight spaces because it colonizes so much faster than plug spawn materials.
When choosing oyster mushroom spawn, you have a few different options. At the top of the list is plug spawn. This is where a solitary piece of mushroom mycelium (which contains all the nutrients required to grow a mushroom) has been inserted into a growing medium like wood chips.
Next on the list is oyster mushroom spawn. Oyster mushroom spawn is essentially a brick of compressed sawdust and sphagnum peat moss that contains thousands of pieces of growing mycelium.
How to Grow Mushrooms with Oyster Mushroom spawn
The growing process is very simple when you are using osyter mushroom spawn. While it does take some time, you will be able to harvest your mushrooms in just a few weeks once you have started growing them. You can use oyster mushroom spawn as either a substrate or as a container for fruiting mushrooms.
Oyster mushrooms can be grown just about anywhere. In fact, many people grow oyster mushrooms on their deck because they are so fast-growing. This makes them perfect for New Englanders who want to eat a fresh oyster mushroom on the deck without having to wait for the winter months to grow.
The other benefit of oyster mushroom spawn is that it is easy to find in most grocery stores. Select a brick of oyster mushroom spawn and keep it in your fridge for the months you want to grow your mushrooms. When you’re ready for your first harvest, simply dump the contents into a growing medium or directly into the growing pile. The oyster mushroom spawn will colonize without any additional prep work required. Oyster mushroom spawn will not contaminate your harvesting mushrooms, so feel free to eat as many oyster mushrooms as you like during the growing cycle.
Now that you’ve learned how to grow mushroom your own oyster mushroom farm. You can start on a small scale and then grow. If you’re interested in growing mushrooms, oyster mushrooms are a perfect first vegetable to get into. They are easier to grow than shiitakes, and their taste is more like seafood than mushrooms. In addition, because they can be grown in practically any space from the kitchen cabinet to the refrigerator, oyster mushrooms are ideal for beginners of all ages. Your oyster mushroom spawn will be fully colonized in about three weeks, at which point you can begin to grow your mushroom crop. Longer incubation times will not increase the yield of your crop; however, they can sometimes decrease yields due to bacterial or fungal contamination.
Oyster mushrooms can be grown relatively cheaply, so you can start your own mushroom farm simply because you want to eat healthier food. Oyster mushrooms have a low-fat, high-protein and an excellent source of calcium, all of which makes them an ideal food for vegetarians and vegans. Oyster mushrooms are also ideal for people who want a quick and easy way to grow their own vegetables.