Beginners Guide to Growing Oyster Mushrooms

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

Why grow mushrooms?

Many kiwis grew up watching our parents or grandparents picking tomatoes, silverbeet, carrots, and the odd field mushroom in the paddock. Today, it is still fairly uncommon to see people growing gourmet mushrooms at home, as it hasn't been a big part of the culture of farming here in NZ. Along with a ranging flavour profile, mushrooms have plenty of health benefits and can be expensive to buy in shops, especially high-quality fresh ones! Cultures throughout Europe, North America, South America and Asia have been enjoying a large variety of mushrooms in different cuisines as well as for medicinal purposes for many generations. Oyster mushrooms are also especially high in selenium, which kiwis are commonly deficient in!

Beginner friendly grow kits..

Growing mushrooms at home can be a fun and rewarding addition to the garden, not to mention a perfect opportunity for those of us in an urban setting, as they take up very little space. Most mushrooms can even be grown indoors within a matter of weeks from purchasing a kit. Unlike the common button mushroom varieties, the range of mushrooms we offer need reading level light to grow, rather than the old expression of 'being kept in the dark and fed only horse sh$t.' Don't worry, the varieties we offer don't smell!

The easiest mushroom to start with is the grey oyster mushroom. We have three different products pertaining to growing oyster mushrooms. One is a 'mini-mushroom farm' (see first photo) that is very easy and requires nothing other than a decent spot and some patience. This is perfect for kids as well as a good gift for that person that has everything, especially gardeners! Very low maintenance and doubles in size everyday once the mushrooms start 'pinning.'

The next is an oyster 'fruiting block' that is basically a block of sterilized substrate that has already been inoculated and partially colonized with the grey oyster culture, all you are required to do is find a good spot and cut a hole in the bag when it is ready. This option is a bit more advanced and requires slightly more maintenance (such as a bit of humidity control and a bit of fresh air), but can produce higher yields given the right environment.

Lastly we have designed a '5-step kit' that contains substrate, hydrated lime for pasteurization, 'spawn' or grain that has been inoculated with the oyster mushroom culture, and a bag to put the mixed materials in. This kit is designed to teach you the basic steps of how to grow oyster mushrooms at home with little equipment, eventually using your own substrate.

This is perfect for the hobbyist interested in growing mushrooms but doesn't know where to start. This kit gives you a great idea of the growing process. Once you understand this, you can continue growing oyster mushrooms at home so that you have a consistent supply of fresh mushrooms for the family using your own substrate and only buying in spawn.

This 5-step oyster kit comes with everything to make up a 5-6kg bag of sawdust, usually producing up to 1-2kg of mushrooms by the end of its life.

Each kit will produce about 3-5 'flushes' of mushrooms, each flush getting smaller and producing less yield until it runs out of nutrients. Then you can take the contents of any of the kits and spread it out in the garden, potentially getting a few more rounds of mushrooms!

Mushroom Growing Seasons

Grey oyster mushrooms will grow all year round, however they prefer autumn and spring environments, but will even grow through winter down in the South Island. Midwinter oysters tend to grow slower while in summer heat, they will grow quickly and have less colour in the caps however still produce similar yields. Once harvested, they will last up to a week or more in the fridge.

Pink Oyster Mushroom

We do offer a pink oyster strain which can be a bit more temperamental in growing but thrives in summer heat. They will not grow in temperatures below 15C, but produce beautiful eye-catching tropical mushrooms that are bright pink! These are similar in taste and have a much shorter shelf life only lasting about 5 or so days in the fridge. They are best eaten as fresh as possible, as they are very fragile and will go off quickly.

In summer, or year round for those in the far North Island, you can purchase pink oyster spawn for the '5-step kit refill' and follow the same steps as the '5-step kit.' We also offer a pink oyster 'fruiting block' the same as the grey 'fruiting block' shown above.

For those that are new to the world of growing mushrooms, we highly recommend starting with grey oyster mushrooms! Oyster mushrooms are a high yielding, fast growing crop. They can be grown relatively low tech and are tolerant of varying environmental factors such as humidity, temperature, light levels, and carbon dioxide levels making them a perfect choice for first time growers.

There are tons of resources available online of different growing methods on different substrates. Oysters have even been used successfully in breaking down pollutants such as E. coli and hydrocarbons, pesticides, heavy metals and motor oil! (Some of these methods will not produce mushrooms that are edible, but do a great job at cleaning up toxic sites safely for very low cost, see photo below.) If you are interested in doing any 'bunker spawn' for mycoremediation projects, please reach out!!

Oyster Mushrooms Growing On Egg Cartons

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