In recent years, there has been a growing appreciation for edible mushrooms; many people are opening their eyes to the health benefits of fungi and their versatility in cooking. The shift in perception has also fostered a surge in interest (and sales) of specialty and wild mushrooms. But commercialization comes with its own pitfalls, leading many to ask the question: what are the best mushrooms to grow at home?
As people look for new, wholesome, and exciting ingredients to incorporate into their diets and wellness routines, the benefits of becoming a grower are clearer than ever.
Access to a regular supply of organic mushrooms? Check. Medicinal properties from something you had a hand in nurturing? Got that, too.
Fortunately, you don’t have to start a full-scale mushroom farm to grow your own mushrooms. All you need to know is where to start. That begins with understanding what you’re growing.
What many people know as mushrooms are actually the fruiting part of a larger fungal organism. Like trees, bushes, or vines, fungal systems also have an under-the-surface nutrient support system. Theirs is known as mycelium. Like many other edible plants, most (if not all) of the nutritional and culinary benefits are found in the fruiting body. After all, it’s not an apple root a day, is it?
Thanks to modern mushroom growing kits, nurturing your own fungi at home is easy and affordable. Not all shrooms grow the same, though.
Gourmet mushroom varieties like morels and chanterelles can be challenging to cultivate. These species are considered mycorrhizal fungi, and because of the symbiotic relationship they require with plants and soils, the conditions they need to grow are hard to recreate — unless your name is Mother Nature.
Another class of mushrooms, called saprobic fungi, are easier to produce in controlled settings. Since these types of fungi spawn fruit by decomposing a growing medium (aka a substrate), it’s easier to replicate their natural conditions.
As fate would have it, you can DIY many of the most useful (and tasty) mushroom varieties.
King oysters, pearl oysters, and pink oyster mushrooms are classified under the pleurotus family. Apart from being delicious, these mushrooms can fruit quickly; by some estimates, mushroom spawn starts 2-4 weeks after inoculating the substrate.
Some oysters grow better on cereal grain substrates, like wheat or straw, while others, such as king trumpets, require sterilized sawdust. Regardless, nearly all of these mushroom varieties are delicious. Thanks to their meaty texture and rich flavor, oysters make great culinary ingredients, but home growers can also extract them for making mushroom supplements.
Shiitakes (Lentinus edodes) are another variety of medicinal mushrooms with distinct culinary value. An intense, earthy flavor lends a unique profile to your kitchen rotation, and the various health benefits of shiitake often see it mentioned as one of the “Sacred Seven” mushrooms. Plus, for beginner growers looking to ditch plastic bags or avoid growing mushrooms indoors, these are the perfect fungi to practice with. Shiitakes grow on hardwood logs, and while Cornell University states they can be grown under four walls and a roof, they’re also reliable outdoors.
Another one of the Sacred Seven, lion’s mane will make a great fungal addition to your garden and your brain; lion’s mane has been shown to have positive effects on neural health (1). With a briny burst of umami, they also offer a unique seafood replacement that fruits fast and plentiful.
Another plus, this fungus toes the line between shiitake and oysters, giving you a chance to grow indoors or out. Lion’s mane can be cultivated in grow bags with hardwood sawdust or on rotting, dead, or new hardwood logs.
Some of this list might be unfamiliar to you, but we’re willing to bet that if you’re here, white buttons are not a new mushroom in your kitchen repertoire. Mild tasting, buttons are one of few varieties that are just as good raw as they are in a blended soup or stir-fry.
Button mushrooms are one of the least fussy fungi you can begin cultivating. They’ll grow well in a bed of manure mixed with compost, especially if the latter concoction contains nitrogen-dense coffee grounds.
Although edible, reishi has less attraction for aspiring home cooks than for those wanting to cultivate mushrooms for at-home mushroom powders and extracts. Widely known as the “mushroom of immortality” in Eastern medicine traditions, reishi has a slew of adaptogenic benefits that make it worth considering from growing at home.
Unlike low-maintenance varieties, reishi requires an especially cared-for climate. These mushrooms have to be kept warm without becoming too hot to kill. Additionally, your substrate choice needs to be made carefully, per FreshCap. That said, if you’ve tried other varieties first and you’re looking to expand, reishi is a good place to start.
According to Field & Forest Products, Winecaps are some of the easiest mushrooms to grow, showing up in as little as two months after spreading the spores over substrates. They can be grown on wood chips or a sawdust block and require lots of moisture, with many growers saying that fresh flushes will burst on the scene after rain.
Stropharia will add big-time flavor to your next meal. The burgundy brown caps have a woody flavor, sometimes bordering starchy, like a potato. Between the impressive color and full flavor, these shrooms are a great one to start growing.
Although maitake mushrooms are native to North America, they’re not as easily found in a typical grocery store. You’re more likely to see them on the menu at your local Japanese restaurant than on the store shelves. Highly valued for the depth of umami they’ll bring to your plate, maitakes also have medicinal benefits for your immune system (2).
Like reishi shrooms, maitake, also known as hen of the woods, can be a little more difficult to grow. Specialized substrate brags can be used, and maitakes can also be log grown, which is more common. Be warned, this process involves an abundance of steps, and it also takes time. Maitakes will fruit for multiple years after the first spawning, but it’ll take some time to get there.
We’ll level with you here, along with maitake; few grow-at-home mushroom productions are as involved as chicken of the woods. Otherwise known as sulfur shelf, these shrooms require a well-prepared hardwood log for inoculation and eventual spawning, per Field & Forest. Even then, the fruiting bodies won’t be seen for around a year.
However, once they do grow, they will continue to do so for six to seven years. With a color and flavor that’s this bright, your investment is way worth it. They’re called chicken of the woods for a reason, thanks to the mineral, poultry taste, and lush texture. Plus, they’re one of the highest-protein mushrooms, with 21 grams of protein per 100-gram serving! Chicken of the woods is one of the most decadent meat replacements around, so long as you can deal with foraging until yours come in.
Compared to maitake and chicken of the woods, enoki is a fungus that’s incredibly easy to foster at home. The medium to firm texture, spindly shape, and sweet, umami-forward flavor makes a great addition to any kitchen crisper as well — downright crave-worthy if you follow these enoki recipes.
Enoki shrooms aren’t finicky. Rather, they can be grown on a simple substrate (think hay or even just coffee grounds, according to some sources). Grow kits can significantly speed up the process of inoculating, covering, and harvesting, taking a week or less for fruiting.
Yet another popular mushroom that you can find in stores, but why not grow your own instead? The rich umami flavor profile and brawny physique make them perfect for stuffing, grilling, and cooking in a multitude of other ways. Plus, growing them isn’t as hard as you might think.
Portobellos can be cultivated indoors and outdoors, though the conditions must be carefully maintained. For outdoor growing, that means carefully monitoring soil temperatures and shade levels.
A decade ago, it was unlikely that you would find pioppino mushrooms on the average restaurant menu, let alone being sold in liquid culture form on Amazon (unless you were in Campania, Italy, that is). Thanks to its unique shape and flourishing reputation as a nutrient-dense, functional food, the desire to consume pioppinos is increasing — as is home cultivation.
Grocycle reports that pioppino’s prefer to fruit in colder periods of the year — they say autumn, specifically, but we’ve also seen them fruit in spring. This makes them the perfect pairing for dishes that’ll warm you up on the inside, like risotto.
Cordyceps are by far one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms added to wellness products and supplements these days. But if you’ve been watching the Last of Us, you may assume that cordyceps can grow easily and quickly. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Mushroom Revival shares that it is possible to grow cordyceps at home. There’s proof enough in the fact that they’re sold prolifically in the market these days. Yet, raising cordyceps is a science, and it takes patience. There are many ways to go about it, and if you have the time and attention, they can be an excellent base for making your own supplements.
Turkey tail mushrooms are a superstar ingredient for anyone looking to produce their own teas, tinctures, or mushroom supplements at home. They’ve long been used as a component in Eastern Medicine, and Western science evidence suggests turkey tails are immune system supporters that may also reduce fatigue.
Plus, turkey tail mushrooms are relatively simple to grow. Full grow kits are common these days, and they range in methods. You can purchase a pre-spawned substrate or inoculate your own logs. By some estimates, grow kits can provide fresh turkey tail fruiting bodies in as little as one month.
Growing mushrooms at home require a range of supplies that depends on your method and shroom of choice. There are some basic items needed for all operations, though, including the most important pieces: your mushroom spawn and a substrate for it to grow on.
Substrates can be anything from sawdust to cereal grains to coffee grinds — they may even be a specially-treated hardwood log; it all depends on the fungi in question. As for spawn, it can be a liquid culture, a plug filled with spores to fit into a log, or a pre-inoculated substrate.
Along with these components, having spray bottles, thermometers, gloves, and grow bags is helpful. You’ll cover your inoculated substrate with the latter piece to maintain moisture and temperature.
Whether you want to produce a consistent supply of rare, gourmet shrooms or start making your own medicinal mushroom products — growing fungi from scratch is the next step on your journey. It’s even a fun experiment for those interested in science. Whatever your motivation, give it a try! You might just find your new obsession.