By Frank Prem, Stanley
Today there’s great excitement in the garden shed. My first king oyster mushrooms have finally transformed from snowy mycelium into the characteristic fat-stemmed shapes of baby fungi.
I’ve been growing edible gourmet mushrooms for the last eight months in a space approximately 3m x 2m, after giving much thought to alternative sources of home-grown protein.
Research led me to firstly to the definitive texts of American mycologist Paul Stamets, an undisputed guru in this field (see Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Save the World), and secondly to an Australian-based online edible mushroom forum (www.ediblemushroom.net), a fantastic group of knowledgeable enthusiasts and producers willing to offer every kind of assistance a beginner could want.
Fungi are a fascinating and important part of our lives, even though many varieties go largely unnoticed and unappreciated. The good news for home gardeners is that some of the varieties which decompose organic tissue, called saprophytes, can be successfully grown in controlled situations – including my garden shed. Mycelial matter can also be put in the compost, and later distributed through the garden with beneficial results.
Usually it’s recommended that the growing materials for the mycelia, known as substrate, be treated by pasteurisation to knock out some of the less savoury competitors to the mycelium. But not yet having a pasteurisation machine, I’ve initially decided to bypass this step. My starter equipment therefore has been:
• recyclable food-safe containers
• salvaged foam boxes for humidity control
• mycelium purchased online
• household waste such as newspapers, coffee grounds and eggshells
• other experimental additives, like bran and wood shavings
So far I’ve had small but regular harvests of blue and white oyster mushrooms, picked in bouquets of around 100 grams. These have been eaten fresh in stir-fries, soups and stews, and also dried in our home-built solar food dryer for later use.
The big failures have been attempts at growing shiitake, which have produced green mould in abundance, but no mushrooms. Sigh. I’m trying again with a change of formula.
In future I’m hoping to grow a greater variety, including yellow and pink oysters, and wood ears. Now, however, I’m thrilled with the king oysters. They’ve taken so long to advance, and yet today there’s the beginning of a harvest peeping up at me, and I couldn’t be happier.
Photos of my progress so far can be found at www.noodlybark.com.au/news.htm.