As a kid, our family would spend fall afternoons hunting wild mushrooms in the forests of the southeast Olympic Mountains. Our favorites were chanterelles, russulas and an occasional boletus. It was like hunting for the pot of gold among the salal, huckleberry and beds of fir needles. At that time of year, we always had bread sacks and a knife just in case we hit the jackpot. One time my husband and I stumbled onto a giant patch of chanterelles in the Oregon Cascades. After filling multiple bags and our coats, we descended on my mother-in-law’s kitchen, she wasn’t a fan of wild mushrooms, to cook up our golden treasures for winter.
When we moved to Spokane’s dry climate, mushroom hunting wasn’t as easy unless you were willing to travel to Douglas fir forests at higher elevations. I missed these fall treats, so the only option was to try a mushroom growing kit and grow them indoors.
I picked up two kits from Skagit Valley Gourmet Mushrooms last month at the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival in Seattle, one for growing golden oyster mushrooms and the other was for king oyster mushrooms. The kits are blocks of hardwood sawdust inoculated with the appropriate mushroom spawn and then housed in a plastic bag.
Growing mushrooms from kits isn’t difficult but it does take some planning and attention to detail. To grow well, they need humidity, good air flow, temperatures between 55 and 70 degrees and good indirect sunlight. “In a dry climate like Spokane’s that means putting the kits in a plastic container with holes drilled in it.” said Mark Rickard, owner of Skagit Mushrooms.
Skagit Valley Mushrooms offers kits for oyster, cinnamon cap and lion’s mane but other kit suppliers will have other varieties including shitakes. Oyster mushrooms, of which there are several varieties, are the easiest to grow. Cinnamon caps and lion’s mane take a little more finessing to grow according to Rickard. Each type will have a different flavor and texture.
The kit arrives in a plastic bag that, after opening, will need to be misted with distilled water or tap water that has been set out overnight to allow the chorine to dissipate. The blocks are then placed in the plastic container and loosely covered with the lid. The container needs to be placed in a cool location that gets good indirect sunlight. A good place is a near a shaded patio door. Daily care includes misting the blocks several times a day.
Oyster mushrooms will take as little as a week to begin growing while the cinnamon cap and lion’s mane may take several weeks. A block will usually produce two flushes of mushrooms. After the last flush is done, the blocks can be buried outdoors in the late spring in a moist and shaded garden spot that gets regular watering for another flush in the fall. Bury the block so the top is no more than an inch below the surface in soil rich in organic material.