Psilly Simon's

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 is used.

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 $100US.

Equipment:

Procedure:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  4. 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 canner.

  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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:

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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 random suggestions:

    1. 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.
    2. 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 mycellum.
    3. 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.
    4. 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 :)
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
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).

Send questions to an56806@anon.penet.fi (Psilly Simon)

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