Move over, victory garden! The latest pandemic trend has homeowners growing something a bit more exotic to add to their plate: mushrooms.
While harvesting ‘shrooms might sound like a tricky endeavor, it’s actually easy—and fast. In fact, you can spawn fungi in as little as three or four weeks, which means you’ll have plenty of pizza and pasta toppings to feed your friends and family pod.
“Interest in mushrooms is certainly on the rise, for consumption and decor,” says Lori Harrison at the American Mushroom Institute. While Harrison says this hobby did exist pre-pandemic, the coronavirus quarantine has fueled this fungus-loving trend to new heights.
“We’ve seen lots of interest in DIY mushrooms—people are growing them both indoors and out,” says Tamara Tripp of Hudson Valley Mushrooms.
For some help starting your own home mushroom farm, here’s more about the best mushrooms to plant, where to plant them, and some top mushroom kits that make fungi fun, easy, and even beautiful.
The best mushrooms to grow for beginners
“Button mushrooms are a great starter as they’re easy to grow and tasty—and you’ll find them in a lot of growing kits,” says Susan Brandt, master gardener at Blooming Secrets.
Button spores thrive in compost, which homeowners may have on hand. Fill your grow boxes or containers with the substrate, and then sprinkle the spores on top.
Where to grow mushrooms
Whatever mushroom you pick, you’ll need to match it with the appropriate grow medium or substrate. For example, blue oyster mushrooms grow well in straw, and shiitakes can be implanted into pieces of oak. Other types can be nestled in sawdust, wood chips, or coffee grounds.
Cultivating your own mushrooms can be done from scratch by mixing mushroom spores with the grow medium. Have no growth medium handy? Mushroom kits with everything you need to get started abound, making fungi a fast DIY endeavor (more on your options below).
Start warm, then go cool
To start, stash your mushroom containers to rest in a warm spot, approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit, for about three weeks. (You can place a heating pad under them to keep the temperature stable.) Once you see some growth (little white stringy things called mycelium), move your mushroom box to a cool, dark, humid place, between 50 and 60 degrees.
Locations for this second phase of mushroom growing could be your basement, garage, a shady area outside, or that dampish spot under your kitchen sink. Harrison has heard of these fungi also growing well in closets and storage units.
Once mycelium appear, wipe over the container with a damp cloth, spraying it occasionally when it dries out.
“The mushroom bed should be wet and humid but not soaking,” notes Brandt.
How to harvest mushrooms at home
When you see good-sized mushroom caps and stems emerging, avoid yanking them out, as this can harm nearby baby ‘shrooms. Instead, use a sharp knife to carefully slice the stalks of the ones you’d like to eat—this way, you should be able to continue picking mushrooms for several months.
Best mushroom-growing kits
Want an easy way to get started? Try one of these mushroom-growing kits.
Lion’s mane mushrooms
White and shaggy, just like the lion’s mane they’re named for, this log-as-kit is 100% guaranteed to work. The set ($26, Amazon) comes with the log and a humidity tent (you just need to mist it with water), and in seven days you’ll have a burgeoning ‘shroom to nosh on.
This pick is a little pricey, but we love it for the beautiful bouquets it creates. Pink, white, and brown oyster mushrooms quickly sprout in just 14 days—and if you follow this company’s video tutorial, you can get a second harvest from the kit ($80, Amazon).
Shiitakes on a log
If you’re playing the long game and have access to a log and some tree canopy in your yard, this shiitake set ($30, North Spore) is for you. It’ll take several months for the mushrooms to colonize, but this kit is beginner level and comes with everything else you need, including the spawn to plug into the wood and a drill bit to create the holes.