Growing mushrooms can be a fun and rewarding hobby. Not only are mushrooms delicious, they’re low in calories and very healthy. Portobello and crimini mushrooms contain trace elements necessary for a healthy diet. In addition to the dietary benefits, organic mushrooms contain conjugated linolenic acid (CLA), a compound which is thought to reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer. However, fresh mushrooms can be expensive, so more and more health-conscious individuals are growing their own mushrooms at home.
Many people don’t realize that crimini and portobello mushrooms are both the same species. Whether you get small, fresh little crimini or big burger-sized portobello is only a matter of time. Fortunately, that means that it’s easy to grow either one at home using the same methods.
Portobella mushrooms are not as difficult to grow as one may think. They can be grown both inside and out successfully. The key to their production is to use the correct materials and to plant them when the temperature is right.
Method 1-Indoor Portabella Mushroom Production with a kit
It’s important to understand the life cycle of the mushroom before you start growing. Mushrooms start out as spores which germinate and grow root-like mycelia. This mycelia grows throughout the soil, or substrate, in a process called colonization. Once fully colonized, the substrate is ready to produce mushrooms in a process called fruiting. Conditions for colonization and fruiting are both different, and the temperature and humidity need to be adjusted for each part of the process.
Most people who grow mushrooms at home choose to skip the process of germinating spores altogether and buy pre-made spawn. Spawn is usually a jar or bag of grains that have been exposed to mushroom spores in a warm, sterile environment. The spores germinate and the mycelia colonizes the grain, making it appear white or tan and fuzzy. The home mushroom grower then introduces the spawn to their prepared, pasteurized substrate and the mycelia continues to grow and colonize. The process is analogous to buying seedlings at a nursery.
For quality organic mushrooms it’s important to choose the proper substrate. Although most mushrooms will grow on straw alone, crimini and portobello mushrooms prefer a mixture of straw and a natural fertilizer. Aged manure is sometimes used, but worm castings are popular, effective, and have no scent. Mushroom growing kits will often include substrate. If you aren’t using a kit, plastic bags or bins make excellent containers for your mushrooms.
After pasteurizing and mixing the spawn into the substrate, it’s important to seal the container and put it somewhere warm and dark. Temperatures can affect the outcome greatly, and for the best results use a thermometer and incubate the substrate at between 70 – 77F. Over the course of days or weeks, depending on the ratio of spawn to substrate used, the mycelia will colonize the substrate and turn it into a firm, solid block.
When colonization is complete it’s time to introduce your substrate to fresh air, high humidity, and cooler temperatures. These changes will stimulate the colonized substrate to begin fruiting. It’s important to keep the conditions stable, with humidity between 65 – 80% and the temperature between 60 – 65F in order to grow mature mushrooms. If the conditions vary too much the fruiting process will end prematurely.
Once your substrate is fruiting all that’s left to do is wait and pick your fresh, organic mushrooms at whatever size you prefer. Typically crimini mushrooms are picked before the cap starts to open at the “button” stage and portobello mushrooms are allowed to mature fully.
Although it can seem daunting at first, growing your own organic mushrooms is easy with a little practice. Mushroom growing is a fun hobby, and it’s a simple way to save money and help your health at the same time.
Method 2- Indoor Portabella Mushroom Production without a Kit
For some, growing portabella mushrooms indoors is better alternative. The temperature of the environment can be controlled, which allows the gardener to grow the mushrooms year-round.
To begin the process, one will need to set up a tray as the bed. This tray will need to be 8 inches deep and 6 to 8 feet long. Place 6 inches of seasoned manure based compost in the tray. Sprinkle with portabella mushroom spores, mix gently into the compost and then press down. Put the tray in the dark until you begin to see white growth. After this growth has been observed, lay down a layer of damp peat moss and top with a layer of newspaper. Mist as above for 2 weeks. Then remove newspaper and check for mushroom development. If you see little white heads forming then leave the newspaper off. If you do not, place the paper back and continue to mist daily for another week. After that week has passed check again for mushroom development.
After the paper has been removed continue to mist daily. You should be able to get several flushes of mushrooms from this initial process.
Method 3-Outdoor Portabella Mushroom Production
This form of mushroom grows well in compost but before you begin the process you will need to build a raised bed that is 4 feet wide and at least 4 feet long with a depth of 8 inches. Once that is done, fill the bed with 5 to 6 inches of well-seasoned manure based compost. Cover with cardboard and then top with black plastic. Attach the plastic to the bed. This step will sterilize the soil through solar radiation. Keep the plastic on for at least 2 weeks.
While you are waiting for the soil to be sterilized, order your portabella spores.
After the 2 week period has passed, remove the plastic and cardboard. Sprinkle a 1 inch layer of portabella spores on top of the compost and gently mix in. Let the inoculated compost set for 2 weeks. Once this time period has passed, one should begin to see a white film appear over the soil. The presence of this white film is proof that your spores are growing.
Now, pre-moisten peat moss and apply to the compost making sure that you lay an even 1 inch layer. Top the peat moss layer with newspaper and mist with distilled water. Continue the misting twice a day for 10 days. After the 10 day period has passed, remove the newspaper and continue with the misting schedule for another 10 days.
Monitor soil moisture and adjust as needed. Harvesting can be done anytime and is up to personal preference.
When planting portabella mushrooms outside make sure to monitor the outdoor temperature. Portabella’s require daytime temperatures that do not exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temperatures that do not dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.