Here are 3 good reasons to grow your own mushrooms; they are a healthy food, you can ensure they are organic & grown in peat-free compost, and growing your own is good for your wellbeing.
Why grow your own mushrooms?
There are plenty of reasons to grow your own mushrooms – give it a try. Here are some of the main reasons:
Mushrooms are a healthy food. Mushrooms are low fat and low in calories. They contain a variety of plant-based nutrients that have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. They contain B vitamins, phosphorus, selenium, copper, potassium and sometimes vitamin D. Whether a mushroom has vitamin D depends on whether it has been grown outdoors or under special UV lighting. Mushrooms grown in dark conditions don’t have any vitamin D. Mushrooms also have a small amount of protein, around 3.1g per 100g. Mushrooms taste great due to the glutamate they contain. This gives them that umami flavor that makes you want more (Harvard School of Public Health).
Mushrooms can be organic and non-GMO. Like all other foods, look for mushroom kits that are organic and have no genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic food growers use no artificial fertilizers and chemicals. Not all mushrooms are non-GMO. Mushrooms that have been modified using a process called CRISPR have been allowed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as they do not have any introduced genes. CRISPR removes the genes that make a mushroom go brown.
Commercial mushroom growers use peat. The highest yields of mushrooms are those grown in peat. Farming uses high volumes of this natural resource, as much as 100,000 m³ a year in the UK (New Scientist). This is a problem because peat is a great carbon sink, so using it for agriculture reduces our carbon stores. Growers are experimenting with alternative composts for mushrooms made out of coir, coffee grounds, powdered bark and specially treated grass fibers. Both coir and coffee are produced overseas and are therefore transported which is not ideal. An experiment using specially treated grass fibers in The Netherlands in 2021 had similar results to standard peat compost. This could be a great alternative to peat.
Growing plants is good for our health. Gardening or even growing indoor plants is good for us. A 2015 study with teenagers published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology suggested that interacting with plants can reduce stress physiologically and psychologically. Growing plants gives us something to care for. Plus it is fun when we get to harvest the fruits of our labor. And the mushrooms you pick from your mushroom compost are as fresh as ingredients can be.
A grow your own mushrooms kit is not particularly economical, so the benefits are more likely to be seen in other ways; having fun while being educational, being more environmentally friendly and eating healthy foods.
Grow your own mushroom kits
Grow your own mushrooms kits make it easy to grow your own mushrooms. Mushroom kits can be used by even those of us who only have an apartment or balcony garden. They are the perfect way to experiment in a small way with growing your own food. Plus, they make the perfect gift for a vegan friend. We like that they can be used to show children how food is grown, even when there are time & space constraints.
One of the downsides with mushroom kits is that they tend to have a plastic bag to retain the moisture and compost inside the cardboard box.
Urban Farm-It produces a range of grow your own mushroom products, from beginner kits to spawn and dowels for those who have experience and space to grow them. The kits grow white, golden and blue-gray oyster mushrooms. The shiitake and oyster mushroom dowels are sold in 100% biodegradable plastic bags and can be grown on logs in drill holes. The growing bags are 100% recyclable. This is a small business based in Devon in the UK.
Merryhill Mushrooms told us their kits are peat free apart from the chestnut mushroom and the white mushroom kits. They sell pink, yellow and king oyster mushrooms, shiitake and nameko, white and chestnut mushrooms in grow your own mushroom kits. They also sell mushroom seasoning and jerky products. This is a small business based in the UK.
GroCycle have answered the solution of peat free compost with a kit using leftover coffee grounds and straw. They only supply oyster mushroom kits and they have a ‘grow guarantee’. GroCycle is a low tech mushroom farm in Devon in the UK. They teach students how to set up their own mushroom farm and also sell spawn.
Back to the Roots sell organic, non-GMO grow your own mushroom kits in the U.S. Their two-pack includes pink and pearly oyster mushrooms in a plant based soil. They have a grow one, give one campaign on social media that donates kits to schools. This is a small business and B-Corp based in Oakland, CA. If you find that growing your own grows on you, they also do kits for sunflowers, lavender and micro-greens.
Happy Caps is a Canadian business selling oyster, shiitake and lion’s mane grow your own mushroom kits and plugs. Their mushrooms are organic and non-GMO. The blocks in the kits are made of recycled sawdust and wheat bran which is locally sourced. They are all about the joy of growing your own mushrooms.
Grow your own mushrooms on a log
Once you have grown your own mushrooms using a kit, and provided you have space, you might want to experiment with using plugs and drilling them into logs. This is similar to their natural environment and mushroom logs can continue to produce mushrooms for years.
North Spore suggests that different strains of mushrooms will do better in different types of wood. The general rule seems to be that hardwoods like oak and hard maples are better than softwoods. Although softwoods are quicker to colonize (produce mushrooms), they don’t last as long as hardwoods. They recommend that you inoculate your logs within 4 weeks of cutting them.
Will you grow your own mushrooms?
Will you grow your own mushrooms or have you already tried? Kits to grow your own mushrooms are a fun way to get started with growing your own food, even when limited in space. Growing food is good for us and is also educational for children to see how food actually grows. Kits vary in that they are sometimes organic, non-GMO and peat free. In our ideal scenario, from a sustainability point of view, they would also use recyclable plastic bags or be completely plastic free (but this is difficult for mushrooms).