Sunday, January 22, 2012

Excuse Me ... Your Sex Organs Are Showing!

My MooseBoots journey found me attending, with my mother Gar, a Mushroom Cultivation class at the Urban Farm FermentoryWendy and I have been watching the upcoming classes with great interest.  This workshop was the first in a series on mycology, of which I know very little.  My mushroom skills, and understanding, were very limited to a few easy-to-identify mushrooms and the fact that the main part of the organism grows out of sight.

The class was led by Dan, a gentleman who claims to be a hobbyist mycologist with 10 years of experience, in spite of the fact that he grows mushrooms to supply to several local restaurants.  He began by explaining the life cycle of a "mushroom".  Of course, the mushroom is the organism's sex organ with the bulk normally, in nature, hidden under the soil or in the tree.  Here is a diagram borrowed from

After the biology lesson, he began describing the process of taking the spores and growing them into food.  It is a very detailed process that, while it did not put me off, bred a bit of scepticism in Gar, who was a bit intimidated by the very technical description of sterilization processes and such.  I assured her that while the process was described as "required" that mushrooms grow in the wild without any of it.  The techniques as described are put in place to provide a more reliable result, primarily for commercial reasons.  My particular bent, as in brewing, will be to try to mimic, as much as possible, the events in nature.

After a verbal description of the process, we, the participants, were invited to prepare our own bags to take home.  We  could chose Elm Oyster or Blue Oyster mushrooms.  Both Gar and I opted for the Blue Oysters.  After the hand on portion, there was a bit of informal discussion about how to care for the bags and what to expect.

I am eager to watch the growth and to try my hand at cultivating mushrooms.  I am, of course, thinking about attending a few of the follow on classes and picking up the recommended The Mushroom Cultivator: A Practical Guide to Growing Mushrooms at Home.  As has so often happened, this just illustrates how much there is to learn.  These organisms are incredible and fill such a valuable role in nature, to assist in the decomposition process.  I have a much greater appreciation for the machinations of Nature and the Earth.  And, so my MooseBoots education continues.


  1. Woo hoo! Welcome to our world, Deux Ex Machina!

  2. Julie, thank you. I have not been terribly successful with the Shiitake. I hope to be more "fruitful" with the Blue Oysters.

  3. :-) From my (short) experience with growing mushrooms, the sterilization practices are to ensure that you know what you're growing, and then eating. There are soooo many spores floating around on any given day that if you're not careful, you'll seed your growing medium with a bunch of random spores along with your intended spore. Hopefully you've got a medium that favors the mushroom you want to grow, but if you get something in there that also likes that medium, it could out compete the intended mushroom, and you won't know until it fruits, and by then you've wasted a whole ... month? two? of space and time and medium.
    Granted, I only saw a couple of random mushrooms in the half a year or so I tried my hand at it, so I never actually saw anything contaminate a batch and take over, but that was how the precautions were explained to me.
    Mother Nature doesn't care who's mycelium is breaking down her mess, she doesn't have to weigh the costs of time and space and effort. :-D
    Good luck!

  4. Jennie, yes, that was the point I was trying to make, albeit rather poorly. If I know what I am eating (must be able to ID) and I grow something else, I am not out anythins except the effort.

    Welcome to MooseBoots!


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