Grow Your Own Mushrooms

Home kits offer an interesting and entertaining way to grow your own mushroom.

| October/November 2004

Grow Mushrooms

Two of the best reasons to garden are to grow things you would otherwise have to pay too dearly for at the supermarket and to grow great-tasting things you cannot buy at any price. Mushrooms often fill both bills.

Photo courtesy Fotolia/F_studio

Two of the best reasons to garden are to grow things you would otherwise have to pay too dearly for at the supermarket and to grow great-tasting things you cannot buy at any price. Mushrooms often fill both bills.

Home gardeners in China have been growing mushrooms for more than 1,000 years, and it’s finally catching on among North Americans. Instead of being associated with witches or psychedelic drugs, mushroom gardening has moved into the culinary realm on this side of the world. And growing your own is about producing a truly superior fresh food — and not having to rely on the luck of the hunt.

The surest (and most entertaining) way to grow mushrooms at home is with a mushroom kit, which makes a great winter tabletop project. Depending on the kit, you can grow several types of gourmet mushrooms in a matter of weeks, including oysters (Pleurotus species) and shiitake (Lentinula edodes), as well as various button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus). Then you can take what you learned from the kit to move on to more sustainable outdoor projects, such as growing oysters in boxes or shiitake on logs. You can even introduce the delectable wine caps (Stropharia rugoso-annulata) to old compost heaps or a shady area of your garden, where they’re apt to naturalize on their own. Start with these easy species and soon you may find yourself dreaming of — and growing — cinnamon caps, lion’s manes or black poplar mushrooms, too.

“It’s fun to cultivate your own mushrooms,” says mushroom expert Thomas Volk, a professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He describes growing mushrooms as more art than science, which involves “a lot of watching, adjusting, figuring out what works.” Although mushrooms tend to be slow to “fruit” compared to vegetables, once established in a suitable site, they often stick around a long time, fruiting in flushes for years.

Here’s the best part: You can start with a mushroom kit now, fruit it indoors and use the remains to start a more permanent outdoor colony. Paul Stamets, founder of Fungi Perfecti of Olympia, Wash., and author of six books on mushroom culture, says that’s so because “mushroom mycelium is hungry. It wants to run.” Like a sourdough bread culture, a good strain of mushroom will keep going and going when given the right growing conditions.

A Few Fungi Facts 

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi, which grow quite differently from plants. Beginning as dustlike spores released from the gills or pores beneath the cap, mushrooms spend much of their life as mycelium — a network of moist fibers that use powerful enzymes to penetrate wood or other organic matter. Chemically, mycelium does the opposite of what plants do. “It’s the reverse of photosynthesis,” Stamets says. “Mushrooms take in carbon and consume oxygen, while plants consume carbon dioxide, and create carbon and oxygen.” Materials rich in carbon that tend to break down slowly, wood, for example, are the preferred substrate of many culinary mushrooms, but there is a fungus at work in nearly every ecological situation. “Fungi govern the decomposition cycles, and make it possible for natural biological systems to operate,” Stamets says. “They are tremendous allies for the health of people and the planet.”

11/29/2017 4:43:26 PM

Glancing, I see that you mention that a spent medium can be restarted in a garden... but say too little for any likely chance of success. Nor do you point out that a "kit" costs as much as store shrooms, and thatnit ought to be a training aid, much akin to buying seedlings, versus planting and later even saving seeds, when one has some experience. Nice flow - lacks necessary substance to capture the imagination... of its future with yours, long term. One para of the natural progression in skills... eh? BillSF9c

8/19/2015 9:36:38 AM

Thanks for share. Learned a lot from article. Similar post:

Nick Ritar
12/27/2014 5:36:18 PM

Great article. For anybody living in Australia, I teach a two day intensive mushroom cultivation course in Sydney and Byron Bay, all welcome :)

2/28/2014 9:05:56 AM

Great resource you have here and a good variety of shrooms. Looks like a good complement to go with the terrariums at

8/5/2013 4:09:18 AM


Thanks for sharing these useful information about grow your own mushrooms. It is very informative and knowledgeable for the readers. For more information about growing mushrooms go to


Ken Alston
2/4/2012 4:35:36 PM

I recently spoke with the CEO of a company making simple mushroom growing kits using old coffee grounds as the growing medium. I tried a kit myself and had fresh organic mushrooms in about 14 days. Worth a try if you love mushrooms!

9/29/2009 1:57:32 PM

Great read and really informative. Thank you for posting this great resource. For more mushroom growing information, go to

1/19/2009 8:35:41 PM

The most informative place to go for information on cultivating mushrooms at home is Fungi magazine see their website at

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