Which mushroom variety should I grow?

This blog post will help you determine which species of mushroom and growing method will work best for you. Whether you are a total beginner or a seasoned grower, in an apartment, or on a large farm, there's a mushroom variety to suit you.


It will also discuss how to choose a mushroom species and growing method relative to the seasons: we have a wide range of climate variation in NZ, so understanding which species are best grown at certain times of year is important to ensure strong harvests.




Characteristics of commonly-cultivated mushrooms species in New Zealand



Grey Phoenix Oyster: (Our #1 recommended species for beginners).

Grey Oyster Mushroom cluster ready to harvest
Grey Oysters ready to harvest

Hardy fast-growing mushroom that handles a wide range of temperatures (5-25deg). Grows well indoors-and-out, with excellent yields. Great all-rounder and beginner-friendly.

  • Good shelf-life once harvested (6-8 days in the fridge). Phoenix Oyster mushrooms are very versatile with a wide flavour profile depending on how they are cooked. My favourite is gills-up with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh herbs cooked in the oven. Nutty bacon flavour with a crunch! >> Get our recipe for crispy, pan-fryed or oven-baked, oyster mushrooms here.

  • Best harvested as edges begin to flatten and thin. If you are not sure with oysters you are better off to harvest than wait -- most people harvest too late! Mushroom cluster pictured above is at the ideal harvest time.

  • Best suited to indoor grow kits and outdoor garden bed style growing.


We have both >> DIY and ready-made grey oyster mushroom grow kit options available here.




Pink Flamingo Oyster: (Delicious!)

Pink Oyster Mushroom cluster ready to harvest
Pink Oysters ready to harvest

Eye-catching sub-tropical species of oyster mushroom that grows rapidly in hotter temperatures. Growth is slower in temperatures below 20deg Celsius with growth stopping below 14-15deg. Very fast to produce mushroom with long gaps between harvests, expect slightly less yield than grey oyster. Beginner-friendly when temperatures are right, usually grows best indoors.

  • Shelf life is average once picked (3-4 days in the fridge -- will start getting soggy and soft over 4-5 days). Delicate mushrooms with a delicate flavour, similar to lite bacon or ham. Mushrooms go orange as soon as they hit the hot pan!

  • Best harvested as edges begin to flatten and thin, if you are not sure with oysters you are better off to harvest than wait! Most people harvest too late! Mushroom pictured above are at ideal harvest time.

  • Best suited to indoor grow kit method, in bags or buckets.


We have both >> DIY and ready-made Pink Oyster mushroom grow kit options available here.




NZ-Native Velvet Oyster:

NZ-Native Oyster Mushroom cluster ready to harvest
Velvet Oysters ready to harvest

Similar to the Pink Oyster but will handle slightly cooler temperatures down to 10deg Celsius. Slightly slower growing than Pink Oyster but produces huge yields. This mushroom drops a large amount of spores so be sure to harvest early to avoid a mess! This mushroom has a tendency to sometimes produce some non-uniform growth, some mushrooms can look a little funny but are still perfectly good eating.

  • Shelf life is good (5-8 days in the fridge). Beginner-friendly and will grow indoors and out. Similar flavour to Grey Oyster - but stronger tasting. Base stem is chewy so don't trim too close to the base for cooking. Chewy stems go well in slow cooked soups and crock pot style meals.

  • Best harvested as edges begin to flatten and thin, if you are not sure with oysters you are better off to harvest than wait! Most people harvest too late! Mushroom pictured above are at ideal harvest time.

  • Best suited to indoor growing kit method, in bags or buckets. Also grows well on logs.

  • We have both DIY and ready-made velvet oyster mushroom grow kit options here.


We have >> 5 Step Velvet Oyster mushroom grow kits available here.




Shiitake: (Our #1 recommended species for log-growing).

Shiitake mushrooms ready to harvest from logs
Shiitake ready to harvest from logs

Easy-to-grow indoors year-round with our >> shiitake block grow kit -- produces mushrooms as soon as it arrives. Can be grown on logs using >> mushroom dowels for low-maintenance, outdoor, seasonal growing. Logs usually producing 3-6+ harvests a season. Shiitake is my go-to recommendation for a species suited to mushroom log style growing method.

  • Shelf life is excellent -- similar to button mushrooms in the fridge (10-14 days). Shiitake have a unique earthy flavour with strong umami notes, best served well-cooked.

  • Harvest once gills are visible but cap is still curled over making a nice upside-down bowl. Older mushrooms are fine to harvest but risk bugs eating them outdoors as they get older.

  • Best suited to >> indoor shiitake ready made grow kits or outdoor >> DIY mushroom logs (plugs).

Read out >> guide on how to grow mushrooms on logs here.



King Stropharia (Garden Giants):

King Stropharia mushrooms ready to harvest from the garden
King Stropharia ready to harvest from the garden

The best option for outdoor garden growing. Can be slow to get started taking 3-6 months to begin producing. Once established the garden giant can provide huge volumes of mushrooms and spread to other areas of the garden naturally. A must for the keen gardener! This mushroom does wonders for your soil and attracts worms, a mushroom that brings more than just some flavour to the plate! This is a permaculture gardener's favourite mushroom! Produces year-round to seasonal depending on location. Adding more woodchip before each winter will help protect from frosts and keep the patch going with fresh food.

  • King Stropharia is a strong meaty flavoured mushroom. Best option if you are a button lover and love a heavy mushroom. Excellent shelf life in the fridge (10-14 days when harvested young).

  • Older mushrooms can have a bitter flavour so try to harvest young before gills are visible.

  • Only suited to outdoor garden bed growing >> King Stropharia garden grow kits can be ordered here. You will need to source your own woodchip from your local landscaping centre or arborists.




Turkey Tail:

Turkey Tail Mushrooms ready to harvest
Turkey Tail Mushrooms ready to harvest

A very aggressive growing mushroom that is best grown outdoors on logs using >> mushroom dowels. Very hardy mushroom that will grow all over NZ with a wide fruiting season. Turkey tail mushrooms are prized for their medicinal properties, immune regulating properties and are believed to be of great benefit when used along side cancer treatments.

  • Mushrooms store well dried and make excellent tea. Simply boil with ginger turmeric and honey for a tasty health drink. Flavour is unique and not mushroomy. Fruit body is not advised to be eaten. Water in tea can be re-boiled many times and frozen into ice cubes for convenience. Goes well in soups and all slow-cooked meals.

  • Best harvested when colours on top are still bright and mushroom is firm to the touch, turkey tails pictured above are ready to harvest.

  • Best grown on logs using >> mushroom dowels (plugs). You will need to source your own logs.




Hericium Novae-Zelandiae / NZ Lions Mane:

NZ-Native Lions Mane Mushrooms ready to cook
NZ-Native Lions Mane Mushrooms ready to cook

A native relative of the famous lions mane mushroom. Slower growing species that requires patience. Grows well across NZ, producing fruit bodies with a wide fruiting season. Lions mane is famous for its promise to help protect against Alzheimer's and other forms of brain-related illness -- while possibly helping stimulate Nerve Growth Factor in the brain & improving cognitive function. (Monks in Asia have used Lion's Mane since the 1200s - taken to assist with concentration during meditation practice).

  • Fruit body stores very well in the fridge (10-20 days) and can be dehydrated and powdered to take as a nootropic supplement.

  • Best picked as teeth begin to elongate and fruit body begins to open up more.

  • Best grown on logs using >> mushroom dowels (plugs). You will need to source your own logs.




Tawaka / Poplar Mushroom:

Poplar Mushrooms ready to harvest
Tawaka ready to harvest

A native parasitic mushroom that can slowly kill sick or dying poplar trees, native beech and possibly other trees -- doesn't attack healthy trees. Beautiful, dark caramel-top mushroom, that grows well all over NZ.

  • Tawaka are good eating with meaty flavour, stores well in the fridge (7-12 days).

  • Best picked when skirt under gills breaks and gills are visible

  • Best grown on logs using >> mushroom dowels (plugs). You will need to source your own logs.




Enoki:

Enoki Mushrooms ready to cook
Enoki Mushrooms ready to cook

Very common in Asian style cooking. When grown naturally on logs it will not have long white stems like when purchased from a store. Cold-loving mushroom that grows very well in winter when temps are below 10deg -- great option for those in the Deep South.


  • Enoki are very mild in flavour, adding great texture and taking on the flavours of the dish.

  • Best grown on logs using >> mushroom dowels (plugs). You will need to source your own logs.






Seasonal Considerations for choosing a mushroom species to grow in NZ


The information below is mainly relevant to outdoor mushroom garden bed and mushroom log style growing methods. Indoors kits can usually be grown well year-round (the exception is the pink oyster and native oyster -- which do not tolerate cold deep-South Island winters even indoors).

By Location:


Just a note for alpine growers, recommendations below are based on being below 100m above sea level. For growers 100m+ above sea level consider your own unique location and use information above to determine what mushroom type is best for you to grow the different seasons. Outdoor beds will best be setup in spring to summer when frosts have finished. If you are still unsure please feel free to contact us and ask.


North Island


North North Island:

Most mushroom species will grow well year-round in this part of NZ -- apart from Enoki. Enoki may fruit ok over winter up here but probably best sticking to the other options as it may not get cold enough to stimulate good harvests. Indoor and outdoor growing methods will work well year round.


Mid North Island:

All mushroom species will grow well year-round in this part of NZ. Indoor and outdoor year round.


South-North Island:

All mushroom species will grow well over spring, summer and autumn in this part of NZ, I wouldn't recommend pink oyster for the coldest month (Late June to Early August). Outdoor beds are best setup early spring through to early autumn. If you don't get frosts outdoor beds could be setup over winter, but success rate maybe be slightly lower. Indoor growing year round and outdoor year round to not planting out during coldest months (location and micro-climate dependent).

If you get frosts add woodchip to outdoor beds before frosts begin to protect over winter -- mycelium will retreat down over colder months and regrow in spring.


South Island


North South Island:

All mushroom species will grow well over spring, summer and autumn in this part of NZ. I wouldn't recommend pink oyster for the coldest month (Late June to early August). Outdoor beds are best setup early spring through to early autumn. If you don't get frosts outdoor beds could be setup over winter, but success rate could be slightly lower (location and micro-climate dependent).

Add woodchip to outdoor beds before frosts begin to protect over winter -- mycelium will retreat down over colder months and regrow in spring.


Mid South Island:

All mushroom species will grow well over spring, summer and autumn in this part of NZ, I wouldn't recommend pink oyster for the coldest months (June, July & August). Outdoor beds are best setup early/mid spring through to late summer/ early autumn. I don't recommend setting up outdoor beds over winter unless on warmer parts of the West Coast or in warmer micro-climates.

Logs should be protected from direct hard frosts for their first winter. Add woodchip to outdoor beds before frosts begin to protect over winter -- mycelium will retreat down over colder months and regrow in spring.


South South Island:

All mushroom species will grow well over late spring, summer and early autumn in this part of NZ. I wouldn't recommend pink oyster for the coldest months (May - September). Outdoor beds are best setup late spring through to late summer once frosts finish. I don't recommend setting up outdoor beds over winter at all. Logs should be protected from hard frosts for their first winter.

To protect outdoor beds over winter, add generous layer of woodchip before frosts begin -- mycelium will retreat down over colder months and regrow in spring.



Closing Thoughts


Choosing an appropriate species for your own individual location, season and micro-climate will help you get better results on your mushroom growing journey, treat it just like deciding what plants to plant for summer, winter etc.


If you have read through all this and are feeling overwhelmed and are still not sure what mushrooms to grow, don't overthink it, follow these simple guidelines:


Indoor Kits -- Work well for most indoors year round, go with grey oyster if you are not sure. Very beginner friendly.

Outdoor Garden Beds -- Late Spring to Summer setup (simply once hard frosts have finished) will generally work fine for all areas of the country.

Growing on Mushroom logs -- Focus on shiitake and turkey tail and simply keep logs out of direct frost for their first winter where possible.


Personal recommendations -- Species for beginners to focus on for best results:


Oyster Mushroom's (Grey, Pink & Native), Shiitake, Turkey Tail and King Stropharia are the easiest and most prolific mushrooms to grow, these four species will give you a diverse range of flavours with the medicinal Turkey Tail covering food and natural remedies. I strongly recommend focusing on these for your first year or two of growing, once you have these species mastered look at moving into some of the others.


New growers often want to grow one of everything right from the start. Initially, you are better off to focus on Oyster Mushrooms, Shiitake, Turkey Tail and King Stropharia. Once you are having good success with these venture into the slightly advanced and slower growing more exotic species. The best way to grow the more exotic species (Lions Mane, Tawaka, Enoki) is growing on logs using >> mushroom dowels, mimicking nature!


Ordering mushroom spawn & grow kits:


All of the mushrooms mentioned in this blog are available year round in our >> shop here. If you are in a location and the time is not right for setting up your outdoor patch please wait to buy your spawn, we always have it in stock. We regularly get people buying the spawn early wanting to store it for 3+ months so they have it ready for spring, you are better off to wait and order the spawn when you need it - freshly made spawn that's healthy and ready to go is best! Try to order your spawn/ outdoor grow kit with the goal of using it within 3-6 weeks or so of purchase.


Sourcing mushroom woodchip and logs:


We do not sell or supply woodchip or logs. If you don't have access to either we recommend talking to friends or family, local arborists or gardening & landscaping centres. If you are struggling to find either it can be better to find the logs/ woodchip first, then order the spawn or mushroom dowels once you have secured the mushroom food.






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