STARTER MUSHROOM GROWERS
I met people wanting to start growing for their first time mushrooms that most people wouldn’t grow (for example turkey tail (Trametes versicolor). Now, this explains that we have our own interests and not everyone wants to start growing oyster mushrooms just because they are easy to grow. Anyways, if you want to grow mushrooms for food then i would recommend you to start with what’s easy to grow so you can familiarize yourself with what means to grow mushrooms. Once you have a general idea on what this means try some other ones and see how the growing process or fungus behavior differs from the previous one. Start by growing the common oyster. This comes in different varieties which is reflected in differences regarding shape, colors, consistency, taste, etc. Try growing the blue oyster (var. columbinus), the white oyster, the brown oyster, the olive-brown, the pearl, gray and so on.
All of these oyster mushroom types belong to the common oyster which is actually a complex [Level 1 -probably the easiest to grow and therefore I recommend you to start your mushroom adventure as grower by trying these ones out].
Oyster Mushrooms –Pleurotus spp. Common oyster (P. ostreatus, var. columbinus, P. pulmonarius, P. florida n.n., etc)
Yellow oysters (P. citrinopileatus)
Pink oysters (P. djamor & allies)
Abalone oyster (P. cystidiosus)
King Oyster (P. eryngii)
Milky (Calocybe indica)
Stropharia (Stropharia rugosoannulata)
Paddy Straw (Volvariella volvacea)
Levels 1 & 2 are easy to grow. For Level 2 -King oysters and Milky: you will notice that growing these two has some advantages over the first level especially because of the prolonged shelf life, edible stem, taste or consistency but using the same grow methods as for those from Level #1 provides fewer mushrooms. Some changes in growth procedure are needed in this case.
So, play around with different strains of these particular mushrooms, take notes and learn what are their requirements in terms of conditions and what their characteristics are. Once you gain experience in growing these mushroom types you may take your mushroom adventure to the next level.
THE AMATEUR MUSHROOM ENTHUSIASTS
Amateur mushroom enthusiasts are already familiar with mushroom growing but wanting to take their mushroom adventure further and optimize what they know and want to learn some more. I believe that mushroom growing is addicting: when you drive on a straight road and see a straw pile on the side of the road, then you realize how addicted you are to this -you start to think that mycelium took over your brain and spreads everywhere..
Every grower has its own way of growing mushrooms which is adapted to what he or she thinks is best and so there isn’t a standard grow method that applies to everyone. With that said, it’s important to find your own way, implement what you learn, explore, take notes and get more experience in time. At this stage, probably you would want to find out ways of learning different mushroom grow methods and use which one is best for the mushroom types you already grew or explore for great strains and of course thinking to try growing some other mushroom types. A good point at this stage is to learn from others as much as you can.
Try something different
This is when you want to know more about mushroom growing and explore methods on how to grow the Level #3 mushrooms. By now, you realized that the Level 3 mushrooms are grown successfully only with equipment. I personally believe that these mushrooms may be grown without any equipment if you know how. Most farms in Asia grow some of these without autoclaves for centuries. Probably they don’t get the highest yields but it’s still doable.
Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
Black Poplar (Agrocybe aegerita)
Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
Shimenji (Hypsizygus sp.)
Ear Mushroom (Auricularia auricula)
Enoki (Flammulina velutipes)
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)
Nameko (Pholiota nameko)
Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
The above have different requirements and it’s a satisfying adventure to try growing these different mushroom types -each one of them unique in what regards shape, color, texture or taste. Some of these are sold in the markets as gourmet or medicine. Once you know how to grow these you’re good to try some of the Level #4 mushrooms.
Should you make your own spawn?
I’ve noticed many amateur growers at this stage being also interested in making mushroom spawn which I believe it’s fair to explore. Btw 70% of the growers out there make their own spawn, so this remains another challenge which is more likely to happen sooner or later in your mushroom adventure. So, why do these farms make their own and not buy it? Well, I guess they all want to cut costs (mainly spawn cost plus shipping). Most startup mushroom farmers purchase their spawn which I highly recommend. I also recommend farmers to purchase their spawn if they don’t have time or don’t want to get into the spawn making challenges -let the experts do what they know best. However, if you’re a farmer on a low budget and already have an autoclave because you grow Level 3 mushrooms or want to explore this side of the industry, then go for it. The good news is that with proper guidance even a 15 year old can do it. Besides, you need to invest in this as much as you like. You may start with low-tech equipment which requires only few hundreds $. It all gets to quality spawn which you can get through low tech or high tech (it doesn’t matter how -mycelium doesn’t care about that). Spawn making is not for everyone but for those with skills required to get that quality final product. Spawn making seems to be easy, but there are many hidden aspects that only experienced people are able to cover. To keep a high standard quality when you produce spawn is the most important task which in many cases cannot be achieved without proper training.
Growing mushrooms for profit
At this point many mushroom enthusiasts are thinking to make a living out of growing mushrooms. Some even think to pay their rent in mushrooms 🙂 There are plenty of positive examples out there which clearly show that growing mushrooms for profit has a huge potential. You can go for what’s on the market already or you may start a new trend throwing out there something unbelievable -you pick. Taste, texture and shelf-life are very important but also the look. Oyster mushrooms and shiitake are leaders among specialty mushrooms but there are some other ones like: beech & black poplar mushrooms, enoki, maitake or nameko which people out there know about. So what should you grow first? what’s easier for you or what has the highest demand? I think you need to keep a balance in between these two. Yield/block is what could lift you higher or drag you down. Every mushroom block has a maximum potential and if not squeezed well you loose time, effort and funds. In such a case the cost could get higher than what you’ve expected that’s why you need to know how to. Make sure you get to that info before you even start your business.
THE EXPERIENCED MUSHROOM GROWER
What does ‘Experienced’ mean? You don’t need to pass all these levels that I’ve set to be experienced. You may grow one mushroom know lots about it and be considered an expert in growing that particular mushroom. This is rather rare among mushroom enthusiasts but I must confess that I’ve met such people. Every expert has challenges even if he or she got to the top of his thing but an expert will constructively think what must be done to improve methodology or other areas to get to best results when growing mushrooms. One rule applies here: two heads are always better than one. Different people -different point of views. Working to improve things in a group seems to be more efficient than working alone to solve any challenges that might arise.
Obsessed with yield?
How to cut costs and still get a great yield or how to get that contamination under 2% are just two of the constant expert thoughts that swirl in the head.
At this stage experienced people in most cases are interested in how to grow the weird mushrooms like the ones of the Level 4. A bit challenging to grow these ones but not impossible, I guess it builds more personal experience because none out there grows these for profit. At the end they remain a nice try or a sweet success.
Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)
Steak Fungus (Fistulina hepatica)
Blewit (Lepista nuda)
Cauliflower Fungus (Sparassis crispa)
How about wild mushrooms?
Wild mushrooms are highly appreciated. You may see them from time to time at Whole-foods and guess what? many people are ready to give away big bucks for em. Restaurants want them! Why not grab a slice of this business too? Why give people only what can be grown? What seems to be important is again: look, freshness, taste, consistency, color, shelf-life and availability. Unfortunately they’re not always available unless you want to put a new candidate on the Level 5 list. At this level probably the famous morel mushroom remains a priority.
Morel Mushroom (Morchella sp.)
The good news is that it can be grown, even though very few out there got to actually grow them and I failed miserably at this but that’s another story. Well, they can be easily grown in your own yard or in the woods which is great. I would encourage everyone to try grow them and share their stories, maybe as a group we’ll do a better job.