Humble University - Learn and Grow
What is a mushroom Fruiting Block
Mushroom fruiting block unboxing and how to side fruit
Top fruiting and maximizing pinset
All about lions mane fruiting and harvesting
Mushroom pins and harvests
More detailed written instructions and methods.
We've provided instructions below for our mushroom farm kits as we humbly presume that these products are being purchased primarily by people who don't have much, if any, experience, growing mushrooms. Since the steps one needs to take to grow the different species of gourmet and medicinal mushrooms are more similar than different, we thought it would make sense to provide a unified set of instructions, with addenda noting additional directions where necessary for certain species. Pardon the length, but we really do think a full read through will answer almost any question you may have, and we've endeavored to cover as much as we can so that your experience is as fun and stress-free as can be!
What You Received:
One Fruiting Block
Fun Stickers! Yay!
What You'll Need:
Choosing Where To Grow:
You’ll only need about a cubic foot of counter space, and as you'll see from the discussion below, a kitchen counter or other convenient space, will suffice. Mushrooms need just four things to prosper: some light, adequate humidity, proper temperature, and sufficient air exchange.
Humidity: Misting 2 or 3 times a day with the finest mister you can find (we personally love this one) will provide sufficient humidity to see a pleasant flush. However, the real trick to robust harvest is having a steady humidity level. If you are interested in optimizing the humidity to obtain larger fruiting, see below under Optional Tips for Maximizing Results It's not much extra work, and you may enjoy experimenting with the variables.
Light: Normal indoor lighting is fine and mushrooms aren't too picky about it--remember, they do not engage in photosynthesis at all--but having a light source of some kind helps the mushrooms "understand" day and night and will also grow somewhat toward it. Many of our customers put them on their kitchen counter or corner table where indirect sunlight (not direct sunlight!)is available so as to naturally mimic the outdoors. IIf unable to put near a natural light source, an indoor light is fine and turning it off at night is perfectly fine. Just make sure they’re not cooped up in a cabinet or elsewhere without proper airflow.
Temperature: While all species have slightly different optimal temperature requirements, 65-75 is ideal for most species which fortunately happens to be temperatures we humans find comfortable (random fact: Humans share more DNA with Fungi than with plants!). Also good news is that those species which prefer a little colder or a little warmer than this temperature range will do well enough that you shouldn't have to change your environement.
- Air: Mushrooms need fresh air and by having your fruiting block out in the open takes care of that already. Issues with fresh air exchange (or "FAE" as you'll come to learn the lingo) is only an issue when fruiting mushrooms in an enclosed space.
Sitting your Block: Take your fruiting block out of the box and stand it right side up, which means in an ideal situation, the filter patch will be at the top of the bag and the bag will stand on it owns. However, do not be alarmed if some of the substrate may be loose or, in rare cases, the whole damned thing may be busted into several chunks. This happens for two reasons: (i) colonization does give the substrate some strength but does not result in a break-proof block, and (ii) all shipping carriers, especially as of late, like to play football with boxes, and there's only so much jostling they can take before they separate. This is simply out of our control. The good news is that mycelium is extremely hardy and will recolonize. To ensure that you are back on track in the event of breakage, just squeeze it back together as much as possible and, if possible, keep it in a closet, and wait a few days till you see white mycelium starting to cover the exposed substrate before continuing. We actually recommend using saran wrap or moving tape, to wrap and shape the block somewhat, but not overly, tight. This has the benefit of allowing the mycelium to recolonize the substrate and will lead to an opacity that will prevent mushrooms from growing on the side, also known as "side pinning", which will inevitably abort.
Observe the Block: Even if you mushroom block arrives in one piece, please observe your block. If you notice any extremely foul odors or weird colors like green, orange, or pink (except if your block is colonized for pink oyster) send us some photos. Your mushroom block should have healthy white mycelium running through the moist brown substrate, and a very faint sweet mushroom/wood/earthy smell.
- Prepping the Block for Side-Fruiters: You will need to prep the block one of two ways, depending on which species you have. Some species, including any of the Oysters, Lion's Mane and Chestnut are best fruited from the side, after "tucking the top" and making the applicable opening on the side of the block.
Tucking The Top: You will begin by nicking a small hole at the top of the bag. This is to let the CO2 that has built up escape so that you can "deflate" the bag and begin to fold down the top of the bag, making sure that the filter patch gets folded in, and then flip the bag over so the bottom becomes the top. This may sound more confusing than it actually is, so have a look at our friends at Southwest Mushrooms who demonstrate this perfectly here. It is very important to make sure that the bag is as fully deflated (and therefore snug around the substrate as possible) before folding down the top, tucking, and flipping over. Gaps between the substrate and plastic are a perfect environment for side pinning. The goal is to get them to grow out only our of the the cut(s) you will be making shortly in the
- Creating the Fruiting Opening:
- For Oysters and Chestnut, cut an X in the plastic about 2.5-3 inches on the side of your block with enough pressure to also cut about a half inch into the substrate below the plastic. Importantly, you do not want to make the hole any larger than 2.5-3 inches and should not pull back the flaps to “open” them. The mushrooms will still sense the fresh air, and making too big an X or peeling back the flaps will lead to drying out your substrate.
- For Lion's Mane, you'll want to make a half inch slit on 3 or 4 sides of the bag, which allows for a nice medium sized "pom poms". However, Lion's mane is quite flexible, and some folks only make one slit in front, or even just poke a hole. You can actually top-fruit Lion's Mane to, but in doing so, you reduce the amount of flushes you'll get. We like to do 3 small slits, one on the "front", and two "sides" of the block, high enough on the side that the Lion's Mane has room to grow out and down.
- Prepping the Block for Top-Fruiters: Are you growing, King Oysters, Pioppino, Wine Cap, White Button, or Reishi? You'll need to do these slightly differently since these are best fruited from the top and not through slits on the side of a block. [You'll start by nicking a hole in the top of the bag. You then take a rubberband and cinch the bag closed -- now you see why we nicked the hole so air can escape to do this -- around the bag such that there is a space of 1 to 2 inches above the top of the block itself. This allows for the perfect micro climate to exist. You will then leave the block alone and keep and eye out for "pins" or baby mushroom to begin forming on the top of the block.]
Caring for Your Mushroom:
Mist 2-3 times a day. Use the equivalent of about a tablespoon of water per misting session. If you see puddles accumulating, you’re misting too much. All of the moisture that the mushroom needs is already inside the bag. You just want to maintain that moisture and prevent it from drying out from the outside. There is no need to completely soak the surrounding cardboard or mushrooms, but it's not catastrophic if you do so once or twice. You'll quickly get a sense of how much to do as your mushrooms grow!
The mycelium will form baby mushrooms or “pins” within two weeks, though some may take longer. Once they have “pinned”, growth will start to occur really quickly -- this is when the real fun begins! Oysters are legendary for obscenely fast growth, going from pins to harvestable fruits within 5-7 days, and you can see time-lapses all over YouTube that demonstrate this. Lion's mane is a bit slower and can take up to two weeks to mature.
Remember how we said that "side pinning" can occur? While we want to avoid it, in some species -- looking at you Oysters! -- it's almost guaranteed given how aggressive they are and if you see some baby mushrooms forming under the plastic, it may be best to let them enjoy some hard-earned freedom with a small incision in the plastic. Typically they will find their way out on their own, but you will see quicker results if you liberate them. Again, it is important to remember that cutting the plastic excessively or removing the whole top of the plastic will increase your chances of the substrate drying out and discontinuing to produce, so this is not recommended! If you choose to free the mushrooms, keep the cuts small—under 2 inches.
- As soon as the baby mushrooms form, they will need less misting and more fresh air to develop big meaty caps and dense clusters. It’s the most important step for developing aesthetically pleasing clusters. A tell-tale sign of insufficient air is when the mushrooms grow tall and spindly, as they are looking for oxygen. Again, not a problem with open-air growing but if you choose to use some optimized tricks below, you should be on the look out.
- Top-Fruiters: [Insert]
Additional Species-Specific Guidance:
- Oysters: Continue misting the baby mushrooms directly and lightly around the bag to promote humidity. Oyster mushrooms grow extremely quickly and should be ready to harvest in roughly 4-5 days after pinning. Temperature often affects the hue. Blue oyster mushrooms will be a dark indigo color if grown at temps in the high 50s-mid 60s, but if grown approaching 80 degrees they can be more of a light gray/blue. You’ll want to harvest your oyster mushrooms before the caps begin to flatten out. It's better to be on the safe side. Here's a picture of a perfect time to harvest. To harvest, simply grab the cluster firmly by the base and twist/rock it back and forth until it pops right off. Remove any leftover mushroom material from the fruiting hole. Mist the fruiting hole and get ready for the next flush. Start back at the “Caring for Your Mushroom Farm” section and repeat! You can expect a couple of harvests that decrease in size each time. The average amount of harvests for the oysters is 2 to 3, but don't be surprised to get a few more!
- Lion's Mane: Continue misting your baby mushrooms, but not directly. Lion's mane is quite sensitive to water droplets on it. Leave some distance between the spray bottle and the mushroom to avoid soaking it. About 2 feet of distance does the trick! Direct misting can cause some yellowing/browning, and it may happen anyway. Don't worry! This is where using some of the Optimized Tricks Below can help. Your mushrooms will grow quickly from the pinning stage. You can expect them to be ready to harvest in just about a week. You’ll notice as it reaches full size it will start to drop “hairs”. You’ll want to harvest the mushroom when the hairs reach about 1/8 of an inch long. To harvest, grab the whole cluster/ mushroom and twist/rock back and forth until it pops right off. Remove any leftover mushroom material from the fruiting hole. Mist the fruiting holes and get ready for the next flush. Start back at the “Caring for Your Mushroom Farm” section and repeat! The average amount of harvests for the Lion's Mane is 2, but don't be surprised to get a few more!
- Pioppino: Continue misting your baby mushrooms, but not directly. Leave some distance between the spray bottle and the mushroom to avoid soaking them. About 2 feet of distance does the trick! Your mushrooms will grow quickly from the pinning stage. You can expect them to be ready to harvest in just about 6 days. You should harvest your Pioppino as veil (the membrane connecting the cap to the stem of the mushroom, covering the gills) begins to break. To harvest, grab the whole cluster/ mushroom and twist/rock back and forth until it pops right off. Remove any leftover mushroom material from the fruiting hole. Mist the fruiting holes and get ready for the next flush. Start back at the “Caring for Your Mushroom Farm” section and repeat! The average amount of harvests for the Pioppino is 2, but don't be surprised to get a few more!
Optimizing Tricks for Full Harvests:
So far we've discussed what you can do to make the growinf of mushrooms as easy and unburdensome as possible. However, to really get the most out of your Mushroom farms -- larger flushes, more flushes -- ensuring your mushroom farm has *consistent* high humidity requires putting them in a closed space where you can control nearly all aspects of its environment. That's where the use of clear storage bins come in. If you make use of what's known as a Shotgun Fruiting Chamber, you will be able to provide your blocks with the continuous, high levels of relative humidity that truly replicates the native environments of mushrooms. While we could describe how to construct and maintain such chambers, that is beyond the scope of these instructions. However, have no fear! YouTube is littered with folks demonstrating their SGFC's -- both in how they are built, and used. We really like this video as it gives step-by-step instructions to make one. There are countless variations but they all operate using the same basic principle, which is to take advantage of the micro-environment of a clear storage bin to trap humidity but also allow for air flow. With such a setup, all you need to do is mist and fan as directed above and then close the top. The humidity will stay higher than a simple openair environment, allowing for bigger, more rewarding flushes.