the home grown institute
"After hundreds of millions of years of evolution, functional alliances have become part of nature's body politic. It is time for our species to partake in this ancient mycological wisdom."
Paul Stamets in Mycelium Running
When I talk about The Home Grown Institute, sometimes people say things like "my whole backyard is shady. I can't grow anything!" Or "I live in an apartment and don't have space to grow food." Well, that can be an excuse no longer because as it turns out, one can cultivate mushrooms in both small and shady spaces.
One of the most exciting things about evolving a homestead is that each project presents as a world of its own. Nowhere is that more true than with mushrooms. I had heard that mushrooms had antibiotic properties and also that they were a good source of protein. What I didn't know was that in their most basic form - mycelia - they are a virtual neural network for all that grows green on the earth. Whereas I had thought that plants get nutrients through their roots from the soil, it turns out that actually they get their nutrients from nodules on the mycelia in the soil. And it gets more interesting when you discover that the mycelia actually "decide" which nutrients to send to which plants based on what is going on with a large community of living organisms. If you are interested in more about mycelia, check out Paul Stamets' book, Mycellium Running by Ten Speed Press. He'll tell you about mycorestoration (cleaning up polluted and toxic soils using mushrooms), using mushrooms as antibacterial, antiviral and anti cancer agents, and even using mushrooms as pesticides. He's most definitely The Mushroom Man.
The mushroom is fruit of the mycelium. In addition to all the uses mentioned above, it also is a culinary delight. While many varieties will only grow in the wild, and others only in laboratory environments, there are a few varieties that are easy enough for the urban and suburban homesteader. Here we go...
Oyster mushrooms are probably the best example. Toss some spores onto a substrate of straw or even coffee grounds, put it in a bag with some holes poked in it, and hang it somewhere not in the sun and within days the grayish mushrooms will start to fruit.
For those whole have a little outdoor space and want a little more challenge, there is the wine cap wood chip bed. In the spring, dump a pile of hardwood chips (not pine or cedar) one foot deep mixed with spawn of stropharia rugoso annulata (wine cap), monitor the moisture and in a few months, the burgundy colored 'shrooms will begin to show their caps. Leave a few beyond harvest time and they will drop their spores for the next generation.
For the most patient among us, there is the prospect of cultivating shitake mushrooms on oak logs. 6 to 12 inches in diameter, 2 to 4 feet long, fresh cut logs - highest sugar content - are best. After drilling 1.5 inches deep, you insert a inoculated plugs into the holes and cover them with wax. 6 to 18 months later, the fruits should be ready for harvest. And you are rewarded for your patience... the logs will continue to fruit for years.
Growing Mushrooms in Small and Shady Spaces
Thursday, April 4, 2013