If you are looking for a nutritious and tasty way to enhance your culinary journeys in the kitchen, look no further than oyster mushrooms. These intriguing large mushrooms are the perfect addition to recipes calling for seafood due to their mild oyster flavor that can be enhanced with seafood seasonings. While it is rarely advisable to pick wild mushrooms unless you are 100 percent certain of what they are, oyster mushrooms can be easily grown on your property so that you have a readily available supply of fresh mushrooms whenever you need them.
More About The Oyster Mushroom
Oyster mushrooms are often found growing in the wild, attached to tree stumps and fallen branches; they are excellent at decomposing wood and can put that tree stump on your property to good use. They are gilled mushrooms that are found in a variety of climates around the world, but they do prefer moderate and tropical climates versus those that experience temperature extremes on either end of the spectrum.
There are dozens of varieties of the oyster mushroom, which can sometimes make wild identification something of a challenge. There are also a few problems that mushroom gatherers run into when hunting for these fragrant and tasty mushrooms in the wild:
- It is difficult to find large oyster mushrooms, as only the smaller mushrooms tend to be found.
- Oyster mushrooms are a favorite for many insects, which means it is difficult to find pristine mushrooms.
- There are several inedible species that can closely resemble oyster mushrooms.
Here are some key characteristics of true oyster mushrooms:
- The gills and flesh are both white and translucent
- The surface of the mushroom is smooth, without hairs so often found on others
- The stem is short and thick, with gills often running down the stem
- The mushroom will have a distinct “fishy” aroma about it
- The decaying wood the mushrooms are growing on will have a slight anise aroma to it
Again, it can’t be said enough that unless you are very familiar with the key differences between true oyster mushrooms and their look-alikes, you shouldn’t risk harvesting them from the wild. You may come across a great selection of mushrooms growing on dead wood, and they may very well be true oyster mushrooms; but the risk of falling ill or potentially breaking a tooth trying to bite into a mushroom simply isn’t worth it.
What you can do however, is grow your very own crops of oyster mushrooms. This will give you plenty of fresh mushrooms to cook with, plenty of mushrooms to dry out for later use, and also give you plenty of mushrooms to trade with neighbors and friends.
Growing Your Own Oyster Mushrooms
Where many mushrooms prefer to grow in manure or compost-rich growing materials, oyster mushrooms are happiest when they grow on fresh or decaying wood. If you have a shortage of wood stumps or logs on your property, then you can raise your oyster mushrooms by using sawdust or straw as your growing media.
Purchase spores from a reputable supplier of mushroom spores. With dozens of available varieties in oyster mushrooms, you should seek out a supplier that will help you to best understand the benefits of each variety, as well as the growing requirements of each kind. This will ensure that you are getting the best spores for your growing climate and your growing abilities.
Some growing kits will arrive with a log or plastic bag of straw that has been inoculated with the oyster mushroom spawn. The kits can make it a lot easier to grow your mushrooms and will cut down on prep time. However, growing kits can be costly and not truly worth your time if you plan on growing large numbers of mushrooms.
You can make your own growing space habitable for oyster mushrooms with just a few simple steps and things you likely already have at home right now. You will need the following:
- Large bucket
- Straw or sawdust
- Water mister
- Clear plastic bag
- Oyster mushroom spawn
While straw or sawdust makes for excellent choices to grow your oyster mushrooms on, a lot of mushroom enthusiasts have reported having great luck growing their mushrooms using coffee grounds. This will not impart a coffee flavor to the mushrooms, nor does it have any key advantages to helping you produce healthy crops; however, it does offer a much more economical choice over straw and sawdust.
- Use your water mister to wet the growing media until it is thoroughly damp.
- Mix your oyster mushroom spores well into the sawdust or straw and place into a clear plastic bag, tied off with a rubber band or by hand.
- Store the bag in a dark area, like your cellar or basement.
- After a week, carefully spread the contents of the plastic bag into a bucket or even onto a large plastic tray. Maintain the temperature around 65F at all times: lower temperature will decrease your yields while higher temperatures could increase the likelihood of mold developing.
- Keep the mixture misted well, fairly frequently, until you start to see pinning. Pinning is the first sign that your fungus is about to bear fruit.
- In a few weeks you should have sizeable mushrooms ready for harvesting. Twist them out gently and enjoy!
If you do have logs or tree stumps on your property, you can utilize that space by inserting spawn plugs into the wood. You may need to lightly mist the wood for a day or two, but if the growing conditions are right you’ll soon have a great crop of oyster mushrooms right outside of your front door. Just be sure to keep an eye on them, because there are numerous insects that will enjoy eating your oyster mushrooms just as much as you do.
Dry mushrooms out by setting them out in the direct sun in a well-ventilated and dry environment. Food dehydrators can also get the job done just as well, and sometimes actually a little faster than relying on nature to get the job done.
Oyster mushrooms are among the easiest of mushrooms to cultivate on your own, which makes them an ideal choice for your first foray into the world of growing your own mushrooms. Once you’ve mastered the art of growing oyster mushrooms, consider moving on to fancier varieties like shiitake.
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