Photo courtesy of Getty Images/peangdao
I love mushrooms. They were always a staple in our diets when I was growing up, and I don’t ever remember disliking them, even as kids famously do. Mom incorporated them into almost anything that it would make sense to put them into — which was just about everything we ate: topping off a homemade pizza, thickly sliced in her famous spaghetti, sauteed and folded into a hearty omelette, sliced and diced in a casserole, whole button mushrooms stuffed with sausage and cornbread filling. The list goes on. Mom loved ‘em, and I got my love for them from her.
As I’ve gotten older and started cooking with more varieties of mushrooms, aside from the good ol’ portobello or button mushroom, it occurred to me that I should learn how to grow mushrooms, too, as well as learn how to go mushroom hunting when I’m on my woodland hikes and strolls. Plus, I love to garden, and there is such a huge variety of mushrooms not available in grocery stores or supermarkets, I want to give it a shot at growing them.
Right now it’s winter in Kansas, which is the perfect time for me to sit down with some hot tea and a stack of books and learn how to grow mushrooms and forage them for food. I’ll bet that everyone has heard stories of ingesting a misidentified mushroom, so I knew I was going to be doing plenty of reading on this topic before I go out mushroom hunting. And on that note, I think if a person is going to forage for food in the wild and go mushroom hunting, I’d suggest getting in touch with a local expert to join you the first couple times you go out, until you get the hang of it, which is what I plan to do when the weather warms up. Until then, I’ll be curled up with a few books.
Cover courtesy of Chelsea Green Publishing
I’m already a fan of Tradd Cotter, so the first book in my stack was his Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation. Not only is Cotter funny, his knowledge on fungi and its many medicinal properties is incredible. He’s led groups of interested mushroom hunters and growers on walks at Mother Earth News Fairs, and they always come back with baskets of mushrooms that beforehand everyone thought would be picked clean or that it would be too dry for mushrooms. And as far as home cultivation, he’s got a multitude of ideas on indoor and outdoor cultivation, as well as growing in tight spaces. No matter the size of space you might have, he’s got a solution for growing mushrooms in it.
Cover courtesy of New Society Publishers
The next book I perused was Mycelial Mayhem by David and Kristen Sewak. David and Kristen have had their fair share of trials and errors when they started growing mushrooms and selling them, and they laid out their highly valuable insight for others to utilize on their own mushroom-growing journey. From learning how to grow mushrooms to finding your mushroom niche to marketing your small business, if you decide selling your homegrown mushrooms is in your future, this book is a must-have. David and Kristen also included several recipes, and cooking is one of my favorite hobbies, so this portion of the book will be dog-eared and well-worn before too long.
Cover courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing
Last, but certainly not least, I thoroughly enjoyed Mushrooming Without Fear by Alexander Schwab, and it’ll be in my day pack when I head out for hikes come spring. While he doesn’t touch on how to grow mushrooms, if you plan to go mushroom hunting in the wild, this is an essential photo book on safely identifying mushrooms while out foraging for food. There is plenty of explanation within the text, but I appreciated Schwab’s focus on studying the clear and detailed photography within the book to get the hang of identifying distinguishing features of delicious and nutritious non-poisonous mushrooms. That way when warmer weather rolls around, I really can “mushroom without fear.”
In Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation, Cotter offers readers an in-depth exploration of best organic mushroom cultivation practices, shares the results of his groundbreaking research, and offers creative ways to apply cultivation skills … whether the goal is to help a community clean up industrial pollution or simply to settle down at the end of the day with a cold Reishi-infused homebrew ale.
Many people find that DIY mushroom cultivation is not nearly as complicated as they expect, but a knowledgeable and experienced mentor is crucial to success. Whether your goal is to harvest homegrown gourmet mushrooms for your table, supplement your income by selling to friends and neighbors, or start a full-fledged niche business, Mycelial Mayhem is packed with the advice and resources you need to succeed with this rewarding and valuable crop.
Novices eager to collect tasty wild mushrooms will find this unique guide, Mushrooming Without Fear, invaluable. Unlike others, it focuses only on those mushrooms that are both safe to eat and delicious. Most important, this book presents the eight rules of mushroom gathering in a straightforward fashion — including "Never, never take a mushroom with gills."