Mushrooms are considered as a vegetable but are a type of fungus; neither plant nor animal food, grown from spores, usually known as mushroom spawn. They need an organic matter to grow on, which can be mushroom compost, horse manure and straw, depending on the types of mushrooms you want to grow and the growing system you want to use.
You can also buy pre-spawned mushroom plugs and dowels. All you need are some freshly cut logs, drill holes in them and push the plugs or dowels into the holes. Most growers prefer to use beech, birch or oak, but alder, aspen, hazel, maple, poplar and willow can also be used.
Cropping usually starts from 4-10 months and should continue up to 5 times per year for up to 5 years. Refer to the specific growing instructions when purchasing.
The easiest way to grow your own mushrooms is to use one of the pre-spawned mushroom growing kits, which are available from some of the major seed companies and garden centres.
Mushrooms are best grown indoors, but can be cultivated outside. Most mushrooms grow best at an even temperature of about 15-16°C. They do not grow well below 10°C or above 20°C.
When using a mushroom kit, all you do is place the kit in a suitable place, keep it reasonably warm and add water. Place it somewhere out of direct sunlight and keep the organic matter (as mentioned above) moist by daily misting.
The first crop should be ready to pick in a few weeks and you should get at least 2 more crops after that. A cool and dark place to grow them is ideal; like the shed or a cold frame.
Mushrooms are usually ready to harvest when the cap shape is perfectly formed. Don’t harvest them all in one go – leave the smaller ones to grow on. But don’t leave them too long or to grow massive, otherwise they will start to produce spores, by which time they will have gone past their best.
You can either harvest them by cutting with a knife, or by grabbing the mushroom at the base, and by twisting in a counterclockwise motion. Pulling the mushroom straight out of the mycelium (the main white body of the mushroom) with too much force can damage the mycelium and reduce cropping.