How to Grow Mushrooms on Your Jeans

Learn how to grow mushrooms indoors using an old pair of jeans.


  • Old jeans or any material composed of natural plant fibers, including cotton, hemp, and bamboo, can be used to cultivate mushrooms.
    Photo courtesy Chelsea Green Publishing
  • "Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation" offers readers an in-depth exploration of best organic mushroom cultivation practices, for both indoor and outdoor growing of a wide variety of species.
    Cover courtesy Chelsea Green Publishing

Rather than getting rid of that old pair of jeans or composting those spent coffee grounds, consider using them to grow mushrooms instead. Mycologist Tradd Cotter has been researching innovative mushroom cultivation practices for more than 20 years. In his new book, Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation , he takes “organic” one step further by introducing an entirely new way of thinking—one that looks at the potential to grow mushrooms on just about anything, just about anywhere, and by anyone. In the following excerpt, Cotter explores how to grow oyster mushrooms using recycled materials.

Buy this book from Chelsea Green: Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation

Use Recycled Materials to Grow Oyster Mushrooms

In the United States, an average of 35 percent of home waste and 60 percent of business waste is suitable for use as a mushroom growing substrate. Mushrooms can be grown on toilet and paper towel rolls, egg cartons, newspapers, magazines, coffee grounds, tea bags, old cotton clothing, tissue boxes, shredded paper, cardboard boxes, and many other common materials. In addition to yielding a bountiful mushroom harvest, these products can also be used to expand myce- lium into a biomass that could conceivably be used to inoculate larger waste streams or substrates for a wide spectrum of applications, including composting, mycoremediation projects, and creating value-added consumer goods such as insulation.

To recycle and compost with mushrooms, start by simply identifying your biodegradable waste. Separate your weekly garbage for a few weeks to de- termine exactly how much waste of each type—paper, cardboard, glass, plastics, food—you are generating. (This will also help you determine where you can improve consumer packaging decisions, reducing your plastic and Styrofoam purchases as you shift to packaging that can be put to better use with mushrooms.)



Open your cupboards, look in your refrigerator, and peek in your cellar for anything you are consistently producing as waste. Check with local businesses about the waste they pay to get rid of, and you may be surprised to find them willing to let you cart off some of their trash. Dumpsters and other sites where debris is often piled up on street corners or behind restaurants and businesses are also great areas for collecting recyclable debris. Smaller companies that cannot afford or don’t have the space for a recycling dumpster often just flatten boxes and stack them up for trash removal; those boxes can be gold for a mushroom cultivation operation.

I try to think of treating my home and life like a “space bubble,” attempting to minimize the nonrecyclable goods I bring in, pretending that landfills do not exist. Thinking this way involves a shift in consciousness where you start to look at everything available in terms of its potential to be recycled and its potential as a cultivation resource. Here are a couple of my favorite mushroom composting and recycling projects.

Penster47
2/5/2015 12:22:19 PM

Where do you find the mushroom spores and how many varieties can you grow like this?






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