The taste of homegrown mushrooms is a million miles away from the ones generally bought in supermarkets. It’s also a fascinating process.

How do they grow?

Mushrooms grow from spores so tiny they can’t be seen with the naked eye. These spores rely on substances such as wooden plugs, straw, wood chips, grain, compost or liquid for nourishment. Mixing spores and the substance results in spawn.

Grain spawn for mushroom growing enables growers to follow the traditional method of growing on composted manure either indoors all year round or outdoors from spring to August.

Mushrooms prefer dark, cool, moist and humid growing environments. Commonly growers use their cellar or attic but it must be a steady temperature of around 16 degrees centigrade, away from draughts and direct heat.

Each type of mushroom has its preferred method of growing so do your research before you begin.

Mushroom kits

Mushroom kits are probably the easiest way to start as they are already packed with a growing medium that's inoculated with mushroom spawn.

Keep them moist and out of direct sunlight and you can expect up to three crops, the first ready in a just a few weeks.

Growing in compost

Tightly pack a bed about 25cm deep of compost or if you’re using a box then 20cm deep. Add 25g of gypsum per kg of compost. Pack boxes tightly with compost. Be sure that the temperature is steady and do not let it rise above 20 degrees centigrade.

Scatter the mushroom spawn over the surface and mix in until it is 5cm deep. Firm the surface down and cover with damp newspaper to keep the compost dark and moist. After two or three weeks, thin white threads will grow. When they have, remove the newspaper. Make a mixture of either 45% garden soil, 45% peat/peat substitute and 10% chalk or 90% peat/peat compost and 10% chalk. Wet it thoroughly and let it drain before covering the compost and growth with it. Use a mist sprayer to keep it moist and after about three weeks you should see tiny pins – your first crop of mushrooms.

Growing on Logs

Some oysters such as oyster and shiitake can be grown on logs. Wooden dowels are impregnated with spawn and are ‘planted’ into pieces of hardwood.

The logs should be cut from healthy trees during the dormant season and oak, birch, beech, hazel and willow are best. You need logs with a diameter of around 10-15cm and if they are around 50cm long they can support up to 15 dowels.

Drill holes down the length of the log about 15cm apart and fill them with the dowels, making sure they are flush. Seal these holes and any imperfections in the logs with a layer of wax. Place the logs either in a shady area and keep an eye for splitting. If they do, soak them for two days.

When you see growth move the logs to a warmer, moist area but do make sure they’re leaning, not lying on the ground.