For the ultimate experience in fresh organic food for your favorite recipes, nothing beats growing produce in your own home or small farm. Mushrooms are a unique food because they don’t grow out of soil like other produce. If you’ve never grown mushrooms, it might seem mysterious or daunting, but the process is just as straightforward as other types of foods. Mushrooms add great flavor to a lot of popular recipes, so they’re a great way to diversify the foods that you already grow.

Determine your goal

What are you hoping to do with your mushrooms? If you are only going to use them in occasional home recipes, your project will be different than if you are planning to distribute or sell them. Before you start growing your own, it is helpful to observe mushrooms outside in their natural environment to see how they grow. Your own project will look similar to the way it looks in natural environments that you can see if you have some forests near your neighborhood.

Getting started

To get some initial experience, it’s a good idea to start with an at-home mushroom growing kit. This will give you an initial sense of the growth cycle, and you’ll know what essential materials and tools are needed to grow mushrooms. Most kits enable you to grow oyster mushrooms, which are the easiest type to manage at home. You could opt for other species, but oysters are probably the best for a beginner.

Understanding the mushroom growth cycle

The first step to growing mushrooms is to understand the gist of how it works. Most people picture mushrooms as a stem and a cap, but there is a much larger structure involved in the growth process. Mushrooms grow out of a network of organic material called mycelium that is similar to a root network in most kinds of plants.

This organic network is much larger than the mushrooms that you harvest and eat. The mushrooms grow out of the mycelium similarly to the way fruits grow from a plant. The purpose of the mushroom in the life cycle of the system is to produce spores for reproduction. This is similar to the function of fruits that spread seeds or pits. When the mushroom reaches its later stages of life, it drops spores onto the growth surface to mix with other spores. This promotes growth of the mycelium network.

Mycelium networks can be small enough to fit into a corner of your apartment, or they can grow to tremendous size on commercial farms that span thousands of acres. When the mycelium develops, it produces the first stage of mushrooms that appear as pinhead-sized growths. These grow into the next stage called primordia that are essentially baby mushrooms. The third stage in the growth stage is the full-sized mushroom that you have seen in the grocery store produce isles.

Learn more about your new hobby

When you start any new hobby, it’s usually essential to do some reading on the subject. There are also plenty of video tutorials available online if you are not fond of books. One of the best tools you can have is a comprehensive guide on the subject for those inevitable occasions where you may not be sure of what to do during the early stages of your journey. Some guidebooks are aimed at helping home growers, and there are also ones that focus on the needs of commercial growers. Choose the one that is right for you.

There are many other helpful resources for new mushroom growers. If you need help, nothing is better than interacting with people who can give you advice. Since there are thousands of people who grow mushrooms at home, you could join some online communities or participate in Reddit groups. You’re also likely to have a local mycological society where you can meet mushroom growers in your community.