It has been said that we are a country of mycophobes. I’m not sure this is true of the forest. There are many mycophiles in these woods. How about you? Do you know the difference between a chicken and a hen of the woods and a turkey tail? Do you know where will you find judus’ ear? Could you spot a penny bun and horse cap?
Well whether you’re keen to forage for fungi or not if you still want to enjoy fresh mushrooms there are quite a number of mushroom species that lend themselves well to home cultivation. One species in particular, a true wonder of the fungi world is the Pleurotus Ostreatus or Oyster mushroom. It is one of the most ubiquitous and vivacious species of fungi on the planet. Not only is it a delicious gourmet mushroom with many health benefits but it also offers huge potential in the remediation of damaged and polluted environments.
It is the third most commercially grown mushroom in the world not that you’d be able to tell from our supermarket shelves. Many people seem to be under the impression that mushrooms have little nutritional value. Well this is not true of the oyster mushroom. It contains up to 30% protein and it is high in vitamin C and potassium. It also produces Lovastatin a drug approved for treating excessive blood cholesterol and studies have shown it can inhibit the growth of tumours.
Pleruotus ostreatus is among the pioneers in the field of mycoremediation. It is a saprophytic mushroom meaning that it feeds on ligneous, woody material. However, the oyster mushroom is especially adaptable to different types of cellulose rich substrate. So much so that it is being used to denature oil contaminated organic matter reducing petrol-chemical soaked material to organic compost in a matter of months far out performing conventional chemical treatments for oil spills and related pollutants. It does this by producing various enzymes that breakdown a wide assortment of hydrocarbon-based toxic substances. This means it also has the potential to filter such pollutants from water using a fully inoculated substrate as a “mycofilter”.
This virulent versatility means that the you can easily grow this yourself at home on a variety of substrates such as cardboard, straw, paper, to name just a few and here’s how.
You will need:
- plastic container
- plastic bag (freezer bag)
- used coffee granules (optional)
First, soak some cardboard (preferably without print) in boiling water leave to cool, and then drain off the excess water.
Take a healthy fresh specimen preferable with the root or stem butt and slice thinly.
Once the cardboard has cooled and drained (the cardboard should be wet but not dripping) peel the layer and using the corrugated sections lay them in strips in the plastic container. You are trying to create an undulating terrain for the mycellium to grow/run through. Sandwich pieces of the sliced mushroom between layers of the cardboard until the container is full.
Now put the lid on the container but leave it very slightly open, place the container in a dark warm place for one to two weeks until the the mycellium has fully colonised the container.
Once you have a container thick with white mycellium with a sweet nutty aroma you are ready to use it to inoculate your chosen substrate for the mushroom to grow on.
Cut the straw into 1 to 2 inch pieces put into a large saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins. This process of pasteurization should remove most bacteria and fungi that would otherwise compete with the oyster mushroom. Now leave to cool and drain. The moisture content should be 80% basically not dripping wet. Take a clear plastic bag and layer the straw and the cardboard mycellium until full. Tie the bag tight. It’s good to have some air exchange. Ideally at microporus filter would be used to prevent contamination but with oyster mushroom this isn’t so much of a concern. Now leave the bag in a dark warm place for three weeks until it is a firm whitish block of mycellium. Now it’s ready to fruit!
For instructions on fruiting techniques and other mushrooms suitable for indoor and outdoor home cultivation visit our website: http://mycogeneration.co.uk.
A range of prepared Osyter mushroom grow bags are available here at
Dean Forest Food Hub
For more information on mycoremediation visit: http://fungi.com/blog/items/