Thursday, December 9, 2010
Growing Mushrooms vs. Growing Plants
Growing mushrooms is quite different. When you start a culture, say with a stem butt, it sits for a day or two. Then it gets a little fuzzy. After a few days of the fuzz getting a little longer, all of a sudden it starts growing rapidly. It covers the surface of the substrate in long strands at a rate of an inch or more a day under ideal conditions. Then, behind the leading edge, the webbing starts to fill out, claiming everything as its own. In just a few days, the surface is covered with a white blanket. Then it sinks in.
After the initial push, the white sort of goes away; it is like it dives down into the substrate to eat. At this point, nothing really happens for weeks to years at a time. If it is a log, it will take 6 months to a year or more before anything else happens. If it is something like sawdust spawn or coffee grounds, it will only take a month or so. During that period, it won’t change a bit. You can look at it all you want, but you won’t see any change.
Then, one day, something new appears. They are called primordia and they look like little pinheads on the surface. They show up overnight, sometimes by the dozens and start to grow. They expand in size and get taller. When they get about a quarter of an inch tall, they stop growing and dry up. I liken this step with testing the water. Maybe the first batch didn’t have the right mixture to survive in this environment, but in my experience, the first flush of primordia almost always abort. A day or maybe two later, a second batch will show up. This one has the right conditions. Pretty soon the primordia have grown into buttons and the buttons have grown into full grown mushrooms. The whole process, from primordia to full grown mushrooms usually takes about 5 days, sometimes less, occasionally more for large or woody mushrooms. It is very exciting. Sometimes you can come back and see noticeable growth after just a few hours. Talk about instant gratification! And when the process is done, you get to eat the results. You just can’t beat that.