Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

Western Biologicals Ltd

Western Biologicals Ltd
P.O. Box 283, Aldergrove,
B.C., Canada V4W 2T8
Tel/Fax 604-856-3339
March 2009

Delicious, healthful mushrooms contribute flavour and texture as well as nutrition to many dishes. Mushrooms are low in fat and contain B vitamins, and minerals such as calcium and potassium. 20-30% crude protein as a percentage of dry matter is typical of mushrooms. Many components of mushrooms have been attributed with health enhancing effects. Eritadenine, a purine derivative found in Shiitake, shows anticholesteremic activity. Complex polysaccharides and other components of mushrooms are attributed with diverse effects including: antiviral, anti-tumor, hypotensive, and hypoglycaemic activity. Mushrooms are among the most highly valued foods. Perigord truffle sells for over $1,000 per pound, and a single Pine mushroom button might sell in Japan for $50

Mushrooms are fungi and are saprophytes, growing only on previously formed organic material, which they break down by means of extra-cellular enzymes secreted by the thread-like hyphae. A mass of many hyphae is called a mycelium. Lignicolous mushrooms decay woody material such as straw, sawdust, wood chips, logs, leaves and other plant residues which they convert into humus. Some decay softwoods (evergreen, needle bearing, coniferous trees), but many more decay only hardwoods (deciduous, broad leaved trees), due to differences in the wood chemistry. Some White Rot mushrooms are able to degrade pollutants such as PCBs and Dioxins, and some mushrooms absorb particular metal ions very efficiently. These characteristics are being explored for pollution monitoring and abatement. Some mushrooms are carnivorous. Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) capture nematode worms by means of tiny snares, immobilizing their prey by injection of a paralyzing toxin before partaking of a leisurely meal. Some fungi are important insect pathogens and are being studied as natural insect control agents.

Mushrooms reproduce and disseminate themselves by means of spores, which may be seen as a dust on surfaces near the growing mushrooms. Spores are more like egg and sperm cells than like the seeds of higher plants in that they have only half the full complement of genetic information and that they have “gender” (male/female). Typically, a “male” spore will land on a suitable substrate and germinate, giving rise to a “male” mycelium. A “female” spore similarly will give rise to a “female” mycelium. At some time these independently growing organisms (the male and female mycelia) will come into contact. The cells at the point of contact will fuse, permitting nuclear exchange and combining of their genetic material. New cells growing from this point have the complete genetic information from both parents and form a new dikaryon mycelium, which can produce mushrooms when climatic factors are suitable. Some mushrooms produce spores on one end of club shaped cells called basidia. The basidia are arranged side-by-side on the surface of gills or tubes or tooth shaped structures from which they actively discharge their spores to the environment. These mushrooms are called Basidiomycetes, and include the common gilled mushrooms, as well as the boletes, polypores, and puff balls. Some mushrooms bear their spores inside a sack shaped cell called an ascus. These mushroom are called Ascomycetes and include the Morels and Truffles. Think of mushrooms as apples on a tree. Most of the mass of a mushroom plant is in the hidden mycelium growing in the substrate. Mushrooms (including the mycelium) may be the amongst the largest creatures on earth. An Armillaria bulbosa mushroom mycelium discovered in Michigan is estimated to weigh 100 tons!

Some mushrooms are poisonous , and expert advice should be sought before consuming unknown mushrooms. Toxins from Amanita and Galerina mushrooms prevent the transcription of DNA, thus blocking the synthesis of proteins essential for the life of our cells. Liver cells are particularly effected by these toxins. Compounds in the Inky Cap mushroom may interfere with the metabolism of alcohol and these mushrooms should not be consumed with alcohol. The Blewit mushroom produces hemolysins, which causes the breakdown of red blood cells. However, this particular toxin is readily destroyed by heat, and the Blewit is considered to be a choice edible when cooked. Other mushrooms produce compounds, such as psilocybin which interfere with the function of neurotransmitters in the brain, causing hallucinations. Because some mushrooms absorb heavy metal ions, it may be unwise to eat wild mushrooms harvested from areas which they might be exposed to high concentrations of potentially harmful metals, such as near a smelter or near a nuclear reactor.

Delicate mushroom tissues rarely survive in fossilized form, but a specimen (Coprinus dominacana) from the upper Eocene Age (over 30 million years ago) was discovered in a mass of amber, the hardened sap of ancient trees. Some mushrooms are bioluminescent, and the Jack-O-Lantern mushroom (Clitocybe illudens) may produce enough light to read by. Lichens are comprised of fungi and algae living together in a symbiotic partnership. Lichens often occur in very harsh habitats in which few other organisms are able to survive.

Delicious mushrooms may be grown for personal consumption or for profit, using recycled waste materials as a basis for the growing substrate. They can be grown in the garden, in a woodlot, indoors, or in dedicated controlled environment, depending on the objectives and resources of the grower.

Logs of hardwoods such as Alder, Aspen, Birch, Hophornbeam, Oak, etc., are used to produce mushrooms including Shiitake, Nameko, Shimeji and Oyster mushrooms. Suitable logs are 4-10” diameter, 2-4’ long, fresh cut, and not infested by fungi or insects. Sawdust spawn may result in faster colonization but is more difficult to inoculate into logs than dowel plug spawn, which is moreconvenient for the hobbyist. Holes drilled in the logs are packed with spawn. The spawn filled hole should be sealed to protect the spawn from weather, insects and competitor fungi. Depending on the type of mushroom, type of wood, level of inoculation, etc. the first crops of mushrooms should appear in 6-18 months. Fresh cut logs will cost approx. $1 each, spawn will cost approx. $1. per log. Inoculated logs sell for $5.-$15. each, depending on size and stage of colonization, etc. Each log may produce several pounds of mushrooms, each spring and fall, for up to 5 years. Fresh Shiitake retails for approx.$8-10 per lb, oyster mushrooms retail for approx. $5-$8 per lb. Outdoor production from logs is practiced in climates as severe as Ontario, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Straw or hardwood chips in trays or poly bags may be used to produce Oyster mushrooms, Shiitake, Nameko, Shimeji, Enoki, Pom-Pom mushrooms, etc.

A simple method for growing Oyster mushrooms : place 2-3 kg. straw in a pillow case or basket along with 2 cups of wheat bran and a spoonful of crushed limestone. Immerse in hot (65C) water for 1 hour. Remove from the water and allow to drain and cool in a clean place. With clean hands take the pasteurized straw mix from the pillow case and place it with alternate layers of spawn into an 18x24” poly bag. Compact well and close the bag with a tie. Perforate the bag 50 times with a clean nail to allow for gas exchange (oxygen required for respiration, carbon dioxide must be eliminated). Keep in a clean place, at 15-20C for the spawn run. After approx. 2 weeks, the mushrooms are pinned by lowering the temperature, increasing fresh air (reduced CO2), and providing some light. Mechanical shock is also a factor in pinning the Shiitake Mushroom. Pinning is the term used to describe the process of initiating the growth of the small mushroom primordia (pins). The Florida Oyster Mushroom may yield up to 5 lb. mushrooms for each block. The pink-Strawberry Oyster Mushroom, the Golden Oyster, and the brown capped Indian Oyster Mushroom will yield less but produce very quickly.

A ton of straw costing $100 may be converted into approx. 500 lb of mushrooms. Blocks of hardwood chips or sawdust, mixed with 10-20% bran and 1% crushed limestone may be used to produce Shiitake, Enoki, Shimeji, Reishi, and Oyster mushrooms. The damp mixture is put in heat resistant bags and sterilized in a pressure cooker, autoclave, microwave oven, or a low pressure steamer.

Full sterilization requires steam under pressure, but partial sterilization at low pressure or pasteurization may work well if the moisture content of the material is reduced. The cooled bags are inoculated with spawn and placed in a clean environment to colonize. When ready, the bags are placed in a fruiting environment. A block formed from 5 lb. dry sawdust should yield 2-5 lb fresh mushrooms. Fully colonized sawdust blocks, collars, foam plugs, Unicorn polypropylene autoclave bags, etc. are available from Western Biologicals.

Fresh wood chips or straw in a bed or trench in the garden may be used to produce mushrooms such as the Garden Giant, Shaggy Mane, and the Almond mushroom. The thatch in a lawn may help to support the growth of mushrooms if spawn is sprinkled at root level just under the grass along with compost/straw/wood chips. Compost made from straw and horse manure is best for mushrooms such as the Button Mushroom, Portobello, and Almond Mushroom. To prepare compost, straw is pre-wet by soaking for a few days, then mixed with approx. 20% by volume of horse manure and .5% by volume of Gypsum (Cacium sulphate). In order for good composting temperatures to be attained naturally (approx. 150oF), the compost pile will need to be about 8-10 cubic yards. The pile should be completely turned over every 5-7 days. With each turning the layers of the compost pile should cycle to a new position. Thus, the outer 6-12 inch layer should form the core of the new pile, the anaerobic core should form the new active middle layer. Actinomycete bacteria growing in the active regions of the compost appear as white flecks which are called fire-fang. The pile should be sprinkled lightly every few days to maintain moisture, so that a small fistful of compost will just barely release moisture when squeezed as hard as possible. Do not water so much that it runs off as this will promote anaerobic conditions. Exposure of every part of the compost to high temperatures in the active region is important in order to kill mold spores, eggs of mushroom flies, nematodes, etc. Gradual cooling after peak heat is important in conditioning the compost and producing a selective growth medium. At the end of about 3 weeks, the pile should have begun to cool down, and should have no residual ammonia smell. Strip off and discard the outer 3-4 inches of the pile and select the white-flecked, clean smelling inner material.

Where they are available, cotton seed/hulls are an excellent medium for growing many types of mushroom. This material is often clean enough that it does not require sterilization. Many other type of agricultural and forestry residue are suitable substrates for growing mushrooms.

Most mushrooms prefer a relatively high humidity (75-90%), but do not like to be continuously wet, as they must transpire moisture in order to transport nutrients and grow. Fruiting temperatures at the low end of the growth range often produce better quality, although growth will be slower. Outdoor environments are often better than indoors for the amateur, since heating air reduces its humidity. A poly sheet enclosure may control humidity, but be careful of excessive heating due to greenhouse effect. Many mushrooms require some light to develop properly (the White Button mushroom is an exception). Light does not provide the energy to produce food by photosynthesis as it does in green plants, but acts as a triggering factor in mushroom development (morphogensis). This is analogous to the production of essential vitamin D in human skin by the effect of sunlight. Bright light is usually detrimental to mushrooms since it is accompanied by excessive heat. Almond Mushroom - Agaricus subrufescens. Has a distinctive almond aroma when bruised. Cultivation on compost as for the white Button mushroom except at slightly higher temps (70-80oF). It will also grow on hardwood chips and/or straw. It may be identical with Agaricus blazei, the famous Brazilian mushroom (ABM).

Champignon, White Button Mushroom, - Agaricus bisporus - It is challenging to grow this mushroom on a small scale due to the relatively long growing cycle, the difficulty of preparing small quantities of compost and due to its requirement for casing soil. Naturally composted manure from a stable may give good results and it is possible to produce mushrooms from ordinary garden compost, or straw or mulch. The compost is spawned and following several weeks of colonization a layer of casing soil, which may be clean soil or peat moss mixed with crushed limestone, is placed over the compost. When the mycelium grows through the casing, the mushrooms may be pinned, which requires fresh air, and a temp lower than 17oC. Pinning is the name given to the process of forming the mushroom primordia. Brown Button Mushroom - A.bisporus/A.brunnescens - Large, mature, open mushrooms are called Portobello. The smaller mushrooms are called Portobellini/Cremini. They add flavour, visual appeal and variety to various dishes. Cultivation similar to White Button, but a few degrees cooler for fruiting.

Cinnamon Cap – Hypholoma sublateritum - Attractive, slow growing mushroom with cinnamon brown caps, usually grown on sawdust. Fruit at 10-15oC.

Enoki, Snow Puff Mushroom Golden Needle Mushroom, Winter Mushroom, Velvet Stem - Flammulina velutipes. Fragrant and mild flavored, this long stemmed mushroom is used raw, in salads and as a garnish. Add to soups and stir fries in the last minute of cooking, to retain its crispy texture and delicate flavor. They are usually grown on sawdust and fruited at 5-15oC. Grown in the dark they will be white in colour, grown in light they will be golden-yellow.

Garden Giant, Giant Stropharia, Wine Cap - Stropharia rugoso annulata. Mix habitat spawn with wood chips or straw in a trench, frame or pot. Hardwoods are preferred but Hemlock, Fir, Spruce are quite well tolerated. The burgundy coloured caps may be 12” or more in diameter.

Kombucha or Manchurian Mushroom - A symbiotic association of Acetobacter bacterium and several yeasts. Touted for beneficial health effects.

Maitake, Hen of the Woods Mushroom - Grifola frondosus is much sought after for its immune-stimulating effects. It may be cultivated on freshly cut stumps, as well as hardwood sawdust or chips. It is fussy and slow to fruit, and requires time to mature following completion of the spawn run. Fruiting 15oC.

Milk Mushroom – (Calocybe indica) – warm temperature species

Monkey Head, Pom-Pom mushroom - Hericium erinaceus. This white coral mushroom is very easy to grow on straw or sawdust at 15-20C. The highly dissected fruit body requires a high humidity to develop fully.

Morel - Morchella esculenta/M.angusticeps. Since the first work by Ronald Ower was published in 1985, there are now 3 U.S. patents (available from WBL for $5.00 each plus $5. postage) describing methods for growing Morels. A substrate for Morels may be prepared from composted household and garden residues. The Morel is fussy and unpredictable.

Nameko - Pholiota nameko. Flavourful mushroom with chestnut brown, slimey caps. Grown on sawdust blocks and fruited in high humidity at 10-15oC. Oyster mushrooms almost fit the concept of “designer” mushrooms since they come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colours - red, white, blue, golden, grey and brown. The wide range or fruiting temperatures ensures that some variety will be suitable for virtually any environment. Oyster mushrooms are species of the genus Pleurotus - The white to fawn coloured Tree Oyster mushroom (P.ostreatus florida) fruits at 5-25C, the white oyster Pleurotus ulmarius fruits at 10-20C, the Brown Abalone mushroom (P.cystidiosus) fruits at 20-30oC. The slow growing White Abalone “Bai Ling” (P.nebrodensis) fruits at 10-15oC. Dense, firm and delicious white flesh has this mushroom becoming popular worldwide as delicious, healthful meat alternative. The Blue Capped Oyster mushroom (P.columbinus and P. ostreatus hybrids) fruits at 10-20oC, the Golden Oyster (P. cornucopia/P. citronopileatus)) at 15-25oC, and pink Strawberry Oyster Mushroom (P.flabellatus / P.eos/P.djamor) at 17-30oC. Oyster mushrooms may grown on hardwood logs/chips/sawdust, straw, bagasse, cotton processing wastes, paper wastes, corn stover, tea leaves, etc. Spawn run is rapid on particulate substrates, and for some species it is possible to pick mushrooms in less than 3 weeks from starting, with straw. The Strawberry Oyster mushroom will not tolerate cold below about 5oC. The Florida Oyster mushroom will continue to grow after freezing.

Paddy Straw mushroom - Volvariella volvacea. Well known and popular in south Asia. Grown on fresh or slightly composted straw, cotton processing wastes, etc. Fast growing but needs high temps (~30-40oC). Pine mushroom, Matsutake - Armillaria ponderosa/A.magnivelare. This mushroom, like the Truffles, is mycorrhizal (grows in symbiotic association with the living roots of trees such as Pine, Douglas Fir and Hemlock in the case of the Pine mushroom). Production of Truffles from root-innoculated Hazelnut seedlings has been reported. Forest trees rely on their mycorrhizal mushroom partners to extract nutrients such as phosphate, from the soil.

Piopino/Sword Belt - Agrocybe Agaerita – fast growing mushroom on sawdust or wood chips. Fruit at about 15-25oC

Puff Ball – Calvatia (Langermannia) gigantia – Giant Puff ball may be grown on woody substrates. Fruit at about 20C

Reishi Mushroom, Ling Zhi, Mannentake - Ganoderma lucidum. This woody mushroom is used in powdered form or as a tea, for its health giving properties. Reishi is easy to grow on sawdust substrate, and may also be grown on logs. Fruiting temp 25-30oC. The mycelium may also be grown on grain and the colonized grain consumed without resorting to production of sporocarps (mushrooms).

Shaggy Mane - Coprinus comatus. Grown on compost prepared as described for the Button mushroom, or on wood chips or straw. May be seeded into your lawn if spawn is placed under the turf along with wood chips.

Shiitake, Donku, Shiangku, Black Forest Mushroom, Chinese mushroom - Lentinus edodes. Next to the Button mushroom Shiitake is the most extensively cultivated mushroom in the world. It is used in many Asian dishes for its meaty texture and flavour. Traditionally grown outdoors on logs. The “flower” cracking pattern, resulting from cycling temperature and humidity, is considered the hallmark of quality. Shiitake is now grown on sawdust substrate in controlled environments. The resulting mushrooms tend to be lighter in colour and lack the flower pattern of log grown mushrooms. As well as being a source of B vitamins, minerals and protein, Shiitake is attributed with many health giving properties including lowering blood cholesterol, immune system stimulation, and anti-tumour activity. It is fruited at 5-20oC.

Buna Shimeji - Hypsizygus tesssulatus. Grown on sawdust. Tessulatus refers to the attractive tile-like pattern on the cap. Grey-brown caps, excellent flavor and texture. Slow growing at 7-17oC.

Hon Shimeji –Lyophyllum descastes. Grown on sawdust. Pale brown to white colour. Nice flavour and texture

Tempeh is a tasty, nutritious food made by fermenting soy beans (also peanuts,etc) with the fungus Rhizopus oligosporus

Partial list of spawn and growing supplies available from WBL (add shipping and tax as apply)

Self-contained growing kits for Shiitake, Shimeji, Nameko, Enoki, Maitake, Reishi, or Strawberry/Golden/or Tree Oyster mushroom - $25. plus shipping, taxes. Self-contained growing kit for Portobello mushroom - $40.

Dowel-Plug spawn for inoculating logs with Oyster mushroom, Shiitake, Reishi – 250 plugs for 5-10 logs - $15, 500 plugs for 10-20 logs - $25., 1000 Dowel-plugs for 20-40 logs - $35. Over 10000 plugs at $30/1000.

Sawdust spawn for inoculation of Oyster, Shiitake, Reishi mushrooms into logs. It takes more effort to inoculate logs with sawdust spawn than with dowel plugs, but may result in faster colonization and better yields. 6 lb. bag sawdust spawn $25. Single 24 lb case $80, 3 or more cases $65 each. 100 cc Seal and Heal sealant $3.50, (also an excellent sealant for after pruning or grafting fruit tees). Acrylic rod tamping tool and plastic funnel - $5.

Inoculated natural logs for Shiitake, Oyster or Reishi mushroom . Approx 4”x40” ready to fruit log - $15.

Wood Chip based "habitat spawn" for seeding outdoor patches with Garden Giant, Almond Mushroom, Shaggy Mane, Portobello, or Morel. Wood chip based spawn is better for this application than grain spawn, as birds and insects are not able to eat it so readily. Not all of these mushrooms are equally easy or reliable. 7 lb. pack - $25

Millet or Rye grain-based spawn for 50 different strains. Approx. 5 lb. Bag - $25. Commercial quantities - single 36 lb. case - $75.00, 3 or more cases of the same at $60.

Live spawn-culture of any strain - on a plate or in a culture tube - $35.

Polypropylene autoclave bags ("Space Bags") - with and without breathable patch, breathable foam plugs; and polypropylene collars for use with autoclave bags.

Pressure cookers/sterilizers, HEPA filters, blowers, Petri dishes, glassware, and culture media.

Books: (add shipping and tax as apply)

Plants from Test Tubes by L. Kyte and J. Kleyn (1996). Excellent introduction to plant tissue culture, with detailed procedures and recipes. Hardcover, 140 pages. $41.

The Shiitake Growers Handbook by P. Pryzlbylowicz & J. Donoghue (1990). Discusses Shiitake mushroom cultivation on both logs and sawdust. Softcover, 230 pg. $32.

The Mushroom Cultivator by P. Stamets and J. Chilton (1983). Softcover, 415 pages. $35.

Growing Shiitake Mushrooms in a Continental Climate by Mary Ellen Kozak and Joe Krawczyk. Step by step guide for log growers. Softcover, 115 pages. $20.

Mushroom Cultivation - by Peter Oei (2003) - Practical information on the commercial cultivation of specialty mushrooms. Softcover, 429 pages. $65.

Workshops: Mini-Workshops: $30 plus taxes, materials included. These workshops typically run about 3 hours.

Registration MUST BE RECEIVED 1 full week before workshop date – to give us enough time to prepare workshop materials.

-Growing Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms on wood logs. March 28, 2009

- Extracting and Refining perfume/essential oils – extraction, steam distillation, chromatography. March 28, 2009 -

Extracting Caffeine from Tea – a model for natural product extraction and purification. April 12, 2009

- Propagating and Growing Wasabi –March 29, 2009

- Propagating and Growing Stevia, the "Sugarleaf" Plant –April 12, 2009 ***

Full Program Specialty Mushroom Workshop: Saturday and Sunday May 2 and 3, 2009

Agenda Includes: Spore and tissue culture. Preparation of mushroom spawn. Liquid spawn techniques. Cultivation of Shiitake, Oyster Mushrooms, Enoki, Nameko, Shimeji, Ling Zhi (Reishi), etc. Alternative methods for preparing mushroom substrates, including chemical pasteurization, low temperature sterilization. Hands-on sessions – participants prepare spore and tissue cultures, as well as mushroom spawn, and blocks of growing substrate which will produce crops of mushrooms after the workshop. We will also have sessions on medicinal uses of mushrooms, cooking with mushrooms and dyeing with mushrooms, and there will be a Mushroom farm tour. Participants receive several free mushroom cultures. Registration fee includes materials, and lunch on both days - $250 + taxes No registrations will be accepted after April 1, so that we have time to prepare workshop materials.

Full Program Plant Tissue Culture Workshop. Meets on a Saturday or Sunday every 6 weeks or so from February to July, 2009 Practical, hands-on sessions. Participants learn to prepare tissue culture media as well as make tissue cultures of a variety of plants. We will build a horizontal laminar flow clean air cabinet as a class exercise. Registration fee for 5 sessions includes materials. $250 + taxes.

To request a current workshop schedule, or for other information contact: Western Biologicals Ltd., P.O. Box 283, Aldergrove B.C. Canada V4W 2T8 Tel/Fax 604-856-3339 email:

To learn more about wild mushrooms: (Vancouver Mycological Society) or (South Vancouver Island Mycological Soc.) or the Mission Mushroom Club Tel 604-814-3580 - participate in field trips, mushroom fairs and other events.

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May 3, 2009

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture