Long Live the Fungi Kingdom: Growing Mushrooms

Class: Grow Your Own Mushrooms

Oh Beer, Scotch, and Sake classes — you lured me into the Kingdom of Fungi with your tales of yeast and fermentation. Well now I’ve discovered a bit about mushrooms, too, and I’m hooked. Everyone put on your party hats, we’re taking a learning trip on the fungus fun bus.

Mushrooms have way more capabilities and reasons for being than I ever remembered. Before this Lifelong Learning class, I categorized mushrooms as either edible or potentially poisonous. Edible ones came from a market or restaurant; poisonous ones did not. But mushrooms are so much more than that: they are nature’s housekeepers, too.

Our instructor, Kristen, started off our Growing Mushrooms class by explaining the main types of mushrooms and how they contribute to our ecosystem as nutrient recyclers and decomposers. She also shared an overview of some experiments she had done with mycoremediation; her results showed that special mushroom mats were able to filter toxins out of industrial waste water. Obviously those mushrooms weren’t headed for the saute pan, but the story really opened my eyes to researching the mycological possibilities beyond our dinner plates.

We were in the Red Butte Garden greenhouse to learn how to grow edible mushrooms, though, and that’s when the fun tasks of hammering and wax painting started. Inoculating wood logs for outdoor mushroom growing is like biology craft class at cool camp.

Each log was drilled with about 30 holes spaced out around its circumference. We hammered small dowels that had been coated with spawn from the Shitake mushroom into each of the holes. After all of the dowels were flush with the bark, we then sealed the holes and the cut ends of the logs with melted soy wax. The goal was to allow the log to breathe, but also to keep the spores protected inside of the log so they can get busy turning themselves into mushrooms (without being bothered by other fungi passersby).





This method of growing mushrooms produces a beautiful display as the flushes of mushrooms appear on the log. However, it does require some patience — six months to two years worth. In other words, I’ll have to practice waiting with this log.

Meanwhile, I want to keep feeding my re-fascination with the wonders of biology, so I’m already looking into additional options for mushroom cultivation. Lifelong Learning is offering more mushroom-growing classes this summer as well as classes with mushroom-foraging field trips. If you’ve been hibernating all winter, signing up for a mushroom class seems like the perfect way to emerge.