Mushroom Growin' Guide II
I have tried several methods to grow mushrooms and have run into problems
with all of them. The Oss &
Oeric Method is good but the instructions
can be confusing at times. I have found the "rice cake" method to also be
very fruitless as I could not force any of the jars to actually produce
mushrooms. Eating the mushroomless rice cakes didnt do anything but taste
bad. What is needed is a set of step-by-step instructions that will lead
to mushroom production. Mushrooms are not that hard to grow. You only need
to know exactly what to do and when. I have put together this list of
instructions to make the process a little clearer and more efficient to
promote a higher chance of success. The key to growing is in sterility,
patience and meticulousness. Out of my twelve jars only four were
contaminated and I've killed cacti! The basic idea is never to leave the
jars uncovered for more than an instant. It is very easy to keep things
sterile and grow successfuly if you use your head.
The whole process is a combination of the rice cake and the Oss & Oeric
methods and takes about six weeks. The main difference from the Oss &
Oeric (O&O) method is that the spores are dropped directly on the rye
medium instead of cultivating them on agar first. The reason for the agar
step is to increase sterility and ensure only one strain of dikaryotic
mycellum permeates the rye. However, with the direct spore method many
strains are forced to fight it out in the rye allowing the strongest to
dominate the jar and fruit. I have had no sterility problems with direct
spore innoculation as long as a relatively sterile commercial spore print
There have been a few changes made to the MGG since the first one. Most are
just simple ways to keep things sterile without having to build a sterile
box. All of the equipment and the print should not cost any more than
- Pressure canner: capable of sustaining 15 pounds. Size doesn't matter as
long as you can do all the jars eventually. Canners which can hold 4 quart
sized jars are avaliable at Caldor/Sears/Ames or any other sizeable
housewares store for about $40US.
- 12 wide mouthed, quart sized canning jars: During canning season these can
be found at any grocery store. In the off season they are harder to find.
Check some larger hardware & Housewares stores or flea markets.
- Spore print: FS Books has good prints. Check High Times for the
- 1200ml whole grain rye: not animal feed! get it at a health food store.
Rye is better than rice because rice gumms up the sides of the jars so you
can't see whats growing inside it.
- 1 bag planting soil: peat moss/pearlite/vermacilite mixure only (no
- Styrofoam cooler: large enough to hold all the jars
- Transparent/translucent plastic panel: You can either use plexiglass or
good hardware stores carry panels to cover flourescent lighting units.
These can be cut with scissors easily.
- Lysol spray
- Sandwich sized zip Lock Bags
- Anti-bacterial soap
- Heavy duty zircon encrusted tweezers (Zappa joke. Any tweezers will do
- Scraper: xacto knifes work well
- Flame source: lighter, alcohol lamp, etc. (candles burn dirty. Don't
- Saran wrap & tin foil
- 1 gallon Distilled water
- Water spray bottle
- Wash the jars with antibacterial soap. Use a dishwasher too if you have
it. It is not necessary to get real sterile just yet, just be neat.
- To 3 canning jars add 100ml rye and 175ml distilled water. Close the jar
with the lid upside-down. The lids will remain upside down throughout
their use. Keep the dome loose but secure.
- In a clean container mix some soil with distilled water until it is spongy
to the touch and does not leek any water. The soil should be wet but not
liquidy. You want "moist soil" not mud. Mix enough of the soil to loosely
fill a canning jar. Do not pack the soil in, just drop it in the jar till
it's full. Screw the lid on loosely but securely.
- Place the 3 rye jars and the soil jar into the canner. If you can fit more
than 4 jars in there go ahead, it will save you time. Just remember to
prepare 1 jar of soil for every 3-4 jars of rye. Follow the directions
for the canner to sterilize the jars at 15 pounds for one full hour. If
you can, it is a good idea to let the steam build up a bit before closing
the pressure valve. It is not necessary to use distilled water in the
- When its done let the canner cool to room temperature. When it is safe to
handle you can remove the jars and let them cool seperately. Jars
must be cooled to room temperature before continuing. Store the soil
jar somewhere clean and tighten the lid. Lightly shake the rye jars to
loosen the rye.
- Repeat steps 2-5 until all the jars are done. You should have 1 jar of
sterile soil for each 3-4 jars of sterile rye.
- Heres the tricky part. Most people complain about contamination but if you
use this method to innoculate the jars you wont find it a problem. I used
this procedure with my last batch of 12 jars and none of them
were contaminated! The trick is to open the jar lids as little as
possible for as short a period of time as possible. Also, try not to stand
over the jars when they are briefly cracked open.
Place the rye jars in the styro-cooler, close the lid and wait. It takes
about 1-2 weeks for the mycellum (fuzz) to permeate the jars. Small clumps
of white fuzz will appear in the jars. When the growth is about 50%
permeated shake the jars and let the fuzz grow again. I have found the Ott
& Oss ratio of rye to water to be far too dry and take twice as long
as 100ml to 175ml. This also uses less rye so the jars are permeated
faster. It usually takes ten days. If, at any point, you see any non-white
fuzz or non-rye gunk in the jar then it is contaminated. Dump it out.
There's no hope for it and it is not healthy to ingest. It could be fatal
or worse. Be merciless. Thats why you did 12 jars, so you could sacrifice
a few if necessary. Regular room temperature is fine for the whole growth
cycle but don't keep them next to heaters or air conditioning. Although
several sources suggest keeping the temperature at 85 degrees (f) room
temperature is fine.
When all the jars are ready take them out of the cooler. At this point you
need to get 1.5-2 inches of the sterile soil onto the rye. This is called
"casing". There are two ways to do this without sacrificing sterility:
- Take a shower. Clean off a desk or table and sponge it with antibacterial
soap. Spray it with lysol. Screw off the domes but leave the lids on. Wash
your hands again with antibacterial soap.
- Ready the spore print. Do not take it out of the bag!!! Flame the
scraper and the tweezers until they glow then let them cool. The tweezers
are used to hold open the bag while the scraper collects spores. The spore
print never leaves its bag though. Dont spray lysol near open flames!
- When a visible clump of spores have been scraped off quickly carry them on
the scraper to a jar. Anything you can see is thousands of spores. It
doesn't take much. Crack open the jar just enough for the scraper to
enter and drop in the spores. Close the lid and screw on the dome firmly.
The lid should have only been cracked open for about 2 seconds; not enough
to contaminate it. When all the jars are innoculated shake them until all
the rye is loose and the spores are distributed. Loosen the lids.
- You can turn the cooler sideways, cover the inside and the opening with
saran wrap, and cut two holes in the saran wrap over the opening to make a
sterile work box. You can then transfer the soil to each jar in the box
using the holes for your antibacterial soap washed hands. Wash the spoon
you use to transfer the soil after every jar so that contaminates don't
transfer from jar to jar.
- Close the rye jar lid tightly. Wash the outside of the lid with
antibacterial soap and Lysol. Do the same with a soil jar. Take the dome
part off of the jars but leave the lids on. Turn the soil jar upside down
holding the lid on and place it on top of the rye jar. The lids should be
facing against each other. Spray the area with Lysol then carefully slide
the two lids away letting some soil fall through into the rye jar. Be
careful not to let too much fall in. It may not be necessary to slide the
lids all the way off to get the dirt to fall in. Slide the lids back on
when the rye is covered.
Cut the plastic panel to fit over the cooler. Wash and lysol the panel.
Wrap each jar with tin foil up to the top of the soil. Remove each lid
and at the same time place a zip lock bag over the opening. The opening
of the bag should cover the opening of the jar. This way air can get in
but it is still covered. The jars can be easily aerated by sliding the
bag up and down over the jar slowly. Jars can be watered by sticking the
nozzle of the spray bottle in under the edge of the bag. This way the
jar is never uncovered. Place all the bag-covered jars in the cooler
and keep the cooler in a clean location. I have found that these bags
and sterilized soil are the key to sterility. The plastic lid really
does not keep that much out. Each time you open it all kinds of dust
floats in. I have had no sterility problems on jars which were
bagged and used sterilized soil. Never take the bag off any more
than just enough to stick the nozzle of the spray jar in there. Aerate the
jars as described slowly so dust doesn't get sucked into the jar.
At this point the jars will need to be sprayed with distilled water
daily. You don't want it to be too wet though. After a week or so you
should see the mycellum begin to clump together at the edges of the jar.
They should clump together even more in the next week as they grow into
the soil. Keep these misted with a fine spray of water. If they grow
too thick you should spray them a little heavier to knock them down.
Don't spray the soil too much as you might invite other molds. In two
weeks from casing the mycellum from the rice cake will have grown through
the soil and may start to break through the top of the soil. If this
happens spray the soil a little more to knock them down. The
cooler should get about 12-13 hours of light a day through the lid.
Ambient room light is fine. Keep it out of the direct sunlight so it
doesn't get too hot. Be on the lookout for any mold in the jars and
be prepared to immediately remove them from the cooler. Mold can be
very hard to spot so be meticulous. The most common molds to look out
for are a green mold and a yellowish slime. If a jar is contaminated,
carefully check the jars it was sitting next to. They may be contaminated
as well. For this reason it is a good idea to space the jars as far apart
as possible in the cooler. Don't try to salvage contaminated jars; it
won't work. If contamination is found wash off all the outside jars with
anti-bacterial soap, change the tin foil, and spray the cooler and lid
with lysol before replacing the good jars.
The first flush of mushrooms should appear in about 2-3 weeks after
casing. Each jar will continue to produce mushrooms for 40-60 days.
Pinheads start off as tiny white dots and grow into what looks like
miniature mushrooms with brown heads and thick stalks in a day or two.
Shrooms grow from pinheads to full mushrooms in about a week. When the rim
of the cap separates from the stalk it is ready to harvest. Use tweezers
to grab the base of the stalk and wiggle it out. It is also a good idea to
fill the hole that is left with new casing soil. This will make the jars
fruit longer. Pinheads may form below the soil near the glass and never
break through to the surface. These can be removed and the hole filled
with casing soil. After the first flush of mushrooms has grown and the
block of rye has pulled away from the sides of the jar, O&O advise
digging out the casing soil and recasing the whole thing. I've never
done this but it supposedly makes the jar fruit longer.
There are some changes which you will notice in the jar as it grows. You
should expect these things to happen if the shrooms are healthy. These
are some major changes in order of occurence along with some other
So there it is. There are some good instructions on how to dry mushrooms
without heat at this document, although I have not tried it yet.
Basically you put dry rice on a tray, cover them with a paper towel, lay one
layer of mushrooms on the paper towel, and cover them with another paper
towel. Then keep the whole thing in the fridge for a while until the rice
leeches out all the water. My guess is that you can just bury them in rice
and put them in the fridge. Dosage is 50g wet weight and 5g dry weight
according to O&O. A US penny weighs about 2.5g -- build a scale and
weigh them. It's about 2-3 fresh shrooms. Fresh shrooms are more potent
than dried ones since the heat breaks down the goodies. This is why the
rice & fridge method might be better. You can make spore prints on
lens cleaning paper which is sold in any drug store. Just cut a square and
leave the cap on it for a day. Do it on a sterile surface and cover it with
something clean (like a clean drinking glass). Store the print in a zip lock
baggie and keep it cool and dry (don't freeze it though).
After casing, ropy runners will appear near the edge of the glass in the
casing soil. These will darken in color into a yellowish brown as they
mature. Don't mistake this for some kind of infection. I think it is
just the color of the nutrients which the runners are carrying
throughout the jar. Runners in the rye will stay white.
Some pinheads will grow deeper in the jar despite the tin foil wrap.
They seem to have no idea which way is up. Don't worry about it. If
you dig in there trying to remove them, you'll probably contaminate the
jar. Most likely they'll stop growing and revert back to ordinary
When the mushrooms first grow they will appear to be thick. When they are
ready to open the stalk near the cap will shrink and the cap will get a
little bulbous (fast and bulbous :) This is normal. Your mushrooms are
not wasting away -- they are supposed to get thinner.
I think I have noticed a subtle difference in the way mushrooms
respond to light. They seem to grow taller in the dark and
thicker in the light. I may just be hallucinating though :)
There will be a thin line of darkening where the cap meets the veil just
before the veil tears open. I think this is due to bruising. Shrooms
stain blue when bruised. The stretching veil must bruise th edge of the
cap a little.
Most of the mushrooms grow near the edges of the jar. Some even grow on
the jar itself! If clumps of white mycellum grow on the jar above the
soil, leave them alone. Some of the best mushrooms come from them.
If the mucellum really overgrow the top of the soil, I have found it very
successful to just add another inch of casing soil. This may not be
necessary but it works for me.
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