Why Grow Medicinal Mushrooms at Home?
The medicinal mushrooms loaded with powerful polysaccharides – such as shiitake mushrooms, reishi mushrooms, and maitake mushrooms – have amazing health benefits. Amongst other things, these mushrooms have been clinically proven to help prevent and fight cancer, boost the overall health of the immune system, and some even reduce inflammation problems, such as arthritis. But there’s a problem with getting these medicinal mushrooms: these mushrooms can be hard to find, and once they are found, they tend to be very expensive. It is not easy for the budget of the average person who wishes to enjoy the health benefits of, for example, shiitake mushrooms to buy them on a regular basis. One possible solution is to grow these mushrooms at home.
The easiest way to get started with growing mushrooms is to purchase a mushroom kit. There are several vendors online who sell these kits, including Mushroom Adventures, Mushroompeople, and Field & Forest Products. The mushroom kit allows mushroom enthusiasts to grow their favorite mushrooms indoors or in their gardens. It’s not too hard to transplant a few of these mushrooms outdoors to start a larger, more permanent mushroom colony.
Not all medicinal mushrooms can be cultivated at home. Chaga mushrooms, for example, grow in the birch forests of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. They are primarily only sold as supplements after being harvested from their wild form. Cordyceps mushrooms prey on insects in the forests of the Himalaya Mountains. Although these mushrooms are grown in lab settings today, they are not easy to grow at home.
A few medicinal mushrooms, however, are relatively simple to grow at home. Here’s a look at growing a few favorite medicinal mushrooms.
Growing Shiitake Mushrooms
Start out growing shiitakes in sawdust to get them started. They grow faster in sawdust, but hardwood logs produce better mushrooms than sawdust. The shiitakes will continue to produce flushes of mushrooms for a few years on a given log, until that particular log is “used up" from the mushroom’s point of view.
Shiitake mushrooms ready to spawn are sold in “plugs". A shiitake plug is a piece of wooden dowel that has been infused with shiitake mycelium. With the hardwood log, drill one inch deep holes 1/4th inch wide and insert the plugs into these holes. For an aesthetically pleasing look in the garden where the log is “planted", drill the holes in a spiral formation going down the log. Gently tap the plugs into the holes, and seal the holes with cheese wax to protect against insects and other fungi. The log should then be placed in a shaded area. It can be rested against a wall or fence, or one end of the log can be planted into the ground.
Just like other vegetables in the garden, water the mushroom log on a regular basis – about once every two weeks. In six months to a year, the shiitake mushrooms will begin to appear. The log should continue to produce mushrooms for three or four years.
Grow oyster mushrooms in almost the exact same way as shiitake mushrooms. Like shiitakes, oyster mushrooms have cancer-fighting properties, but some people prefer the taste of the milder oyster mushroom.
Other Types of Mushrooms to Grow at Home
Shiitake and oyster mushrooms are some of the most popular and well-known medicinal mushrooms, but many other types of medicinal mushrooms can also be grown at home.
Reishi Mushrooms – Used in Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years, reishi mushrooms have a reputation for healing arthritis, fighting disease, and reducing stress. Like shiitakes, reishis can be grown outdoors on logs for large crops, or they can be grown indoors in sawdust. Be careful – these mushrooms don’t like cold weather.
Lion’s Mane Mushrooms – This odd-looking mushroom (its name reflects its look) is used in Chinese medicine for digestive problems. Because it stimulates Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), it may have a future in fighting diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Lion’s mane can be difficult to grow, sometimes taking years before it fruits. Lion’s mane also grows on logs, but prefers dense woods like maple or oak.
Morel Mushrooms – Who knew this tasty, gourmet mushroom is also medicinal? Studies with lab mice have shown morels to fight kidney problems and increase antioxidant levels. Morels are one of the most expensive gourmet mushrooms to buy, and for good reasons: these mushrooms can be grown at home, but they are very finicky and difficult to cultivate. These grow best in compost areas with decaying organic matter.
Considering the health benefits of some of these mushrooms, and the expense of getting them at the health food store, growing medicinal mushrooms at home is a great and fun alternative to buying them. Starter kits are relatively easy to find online, and even the most gourmet mushroom starter kits cost less than $40. With a log cut from one’s own backyard, a little water, and a lot of love, these tasty, healthy medicinal mushrooms can be enjoyed for years for a fraction of the cost of buying them at the store.