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Mushroom Cultivation Procedures

Although mushrooms have been prized throughout the world for thousands of years, cultivation in Europe dates only to the 17th century and the development of techniques has proceeded slowly. Mushrooms are more difficult to grow than plants and professional cultivators rarely share their secrets. Many mushroom species are edible and the few that are considered delicacies command high prices.

Things You'll Need

  • Agar media
  • 1-qt. flask
  • Pressure cooker
  • 20 petri dishes
  • Spray disinfectant
  • Fresh mushrooms
  • Scalpel
  • 3/4-inch tape
  • Metal or plastic box
  • 25 mason jars, 1-qt.
  • Grain (rye, wheat or milo)
  • Gypsum
  • Rubber gloves
  • Stainless steel blender
  • Syringe
  • Cabinet
  • Wheat straw, compost or wood chips
  • Cookie sheet
  • Tray or bag with holes


  1. Preparing the Mycelium

    • 1

      Mix 1 oz. of agar media with 1/2 qt. of water in a 1-qt. flask with a tight cap and sterilize the mixture in a pressure cooker for 45 minutes.

    • 2

      Let the pressure cooker cool for 30 minutes on a clean work table. Disinfect your hands and pour the hot agar solution into several sterile petri dishes. It is advisable to prepare several dishes -- as many as 20 -- to ensure you get a good culture. Let the petri dishes cool to 70 degrees Fahrenheit or for about two hours.

    • 3

      Extract spores from the cap of a fresh mushroom or mycelium from the stem with a sterilized scalpel. Mycelium may appear on the base of the mushroom; it looks like down or fuzz. Cut sections about as large as the tip of your finger and drop one into each petri dish.

    • 4

      Wrap the outside edges of the petri dishes with 3/4-inch electrical or masking tape to seal them, then place them in a metal or plastic box that has been sprayed with a disinfectant. Keep the temperature in the box at 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Spores may take several weeks to germinate and cover the surface of the agar plate, while pure live mycelium may cover it in as little as seven days.

    Preparing the Grain Substrate

    • 5

      Fill 25 1-qt. mason jars with 1/2 pint of grain. You can use rye, wheat or milo, which is the main ingredient in bird seed. Add 1 cup of water and 1/3 tsp. of gypsum to each jar and mix well.

    • 6

      Punch a 3/8-inch hole in the top of each jar and cover the hole with 3/4-inch tape.

    • 7

      Sterilize each grain jar in a pressure cooker for one hour. Allow the cooker to cool down on a clean work table for one hour. Open the cooker wearing thick rubber gloves and carefully loosen the wet sterilized grain by shaking or tapping the hot jars. Be careful of cracked or broken jars.

    • 8

      Allow each jar to cool down to 75 degrees Fahrenheit after you have shaken the grain.

    Inoculating the Grain

    • 9

      Fill the cup of a stainless steel blender with 1 qt. of water and sterilize it in a pressure cooker for 45 minutes. Let the water cool to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

    • 10

      Transfer the mycelium-covered agar from the petri dish to the blender and put the lid on the blender. Blend the mixture by turning on the blender for three short intervals, each lasting one or two seconds.

    • 11

      Draw the blended mixture into a sterilized syringe. Pull the tape off the holes in the tops of the grain jars, spray 1/3 oz. into each jar through the hole, then replace the tape.

    • 12

      Incubate the jars in a very clean, dry cabinet. Keep the temperature in the cabinet around 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Fruiting the Mushrooms

    • 13

      Pasteurize a growing substrate like wood chips, compost or wheat straw by placing it on a cookie sheet in an oven at a temperature between 135 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit for two to six hours. This will kill or neutralize harmful organisms.

    • 14

      Lay the substrate out on a tray or put it in a bag with holes small enough to contain it but large enough to allow mushrooms to grow through them.

    • 15

      Spread the grain from the jars on top of the substrate. Place the tray or bag in a location at a uniform temperature between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the substrate moist but not wet while the mushrooms are growing.

    • 16

      Pick the mushrooms when they are fully grown. Separate them and clean off the roots so they are ready for consumption.

    • 17

      Repasteurize the substrate after all the mushrooms have been harvested if you want to spawn it with more grain. You can reuse the same substrate up to five or six times.