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Growing Mushrooms at Home: An Interview With Tradd Cotter

Affiliate Disclosure | in Everything Else | by | with 15 Comments

how to grow your own mushrooms

Dear IRS and DEA,

When someone writes “Mommy Pot” next to a transaction linked to my website, they are just making abbreviated notes for their own use. Though I do encourage the medicinal use of plants, I do not, in fact, sell pot.

It seemed like a good idea to get this straight before I admit I am growing medicinal mushrooms in my backyard. Not the kind that make you see aliens dressed up like Hello Kitty. Actual medicinal mushrooms. Are we good?

Good.

Now, To the Rest Of You . . .

oyster mushrooms grown from coffee groundsThe adventurers. The ones who “prescribe” breast milk and know your farmers by name, I have a special treat. Tradd Cotter, an expert in mushroom cultivation, foraging, and mycoremediation is here to teach us how to grow both medicinal and gourmet mushrooms in our own backyards.

He’ll also be covering how to grow yummy oyster mushrooms on your kitchen counter using recycled coffee grounds.

Today we’re going to get started with mushroom basics, then we’ll get to the how-to and medicinal formulas later this week.

Thank you for joining us, Tradd!

Tradd: Greetings everyone! Thank you Mommpotamus for hosting me to field some questions about mushroom production…

Question #1: How Much Moolah Can I Save?

how to grow mushrooms at home

Tradd: It would cost the average homeowner about $16/pound for specialty mushrooms if purchased versus producing them at home or commercially for less than $2 per pound. Since the cultures, or spawn go a long way, you can take advantage of inexpensive growing media that is available locally to minimize costs and increase production based on your skill level.

Homeowners should be able to cultivate fresh oyster and shiitake mushrooms in the range of $2-3 per pound, with very little work involved, since labor is the most expensive component, and it is very uncomplicated to set up a system for as little as a few hours a week to produce 10 pounds or more of mushrooms no matter where you live. Most mushroom gardens only take a few minutes per day to mist and harvest, with a few hours one day devoted to making another batch for continuing a weekly harvest indefinitely. Not a bad reward versus expense!

[Mommypotamus follow up: Not bad at all! For those of us who want to grow a lot less than 10 pounds I’m assuming the time commitment is very minimal then. Yay!]

Question #2: How Much Time Does It Take?

In other words, are mushrooms like high-maintenance gremlins that have to be fed only during certain hours? Are people going to save money or end up spending the equivalent of $100 a mushroom?

Tradd: Mushrooms are super easy to grow, and extremely profitable from a commercial standpoint. It also depends if the grower intends to do homegrown or commercial techniques, but I encourage beginners to start with what I call “training wheel” mushrooms that are almost impossible not to fruit, like the Oyster mushrooms of the genus Pleurotus, such as Blue, Golden, and Pink. They will fruit commercially on agricultural waste such as shredded wheat straw, peanut hulls and whatever your local farmers are shelling out, including urban waste such as paper, cardboard, old cotton clothing and much more…

On a scale of one to ten the oysters are a one, shiitake are second, and king stropharia on wood chips outdoors an easy third for anyone wishing to ramp up their knowledge of mushroom cultivation. Don’t be intimidated to grow mushrooms, but don’t jump up to a difficult species right out of the gate, build your understanding and you will be amazed how many incredible mushrooms you can grow indoors and out anywhere in the world.

how to grow your own mushrooms 4Can You Grow Mushrooms Year Round Or Are They Seasonal?

Mushrooms can grow year-round, depending on the variety of spawn you purchase.  Also some species come in different temperature strains, such as shiitake and oyster, that have cold and warm strains that you can plant just ahead of that season to get fruiting.

Liken it to planting collards and broccoli in the fall, then tomatoes and squash in the spring.  Yes, they can be seasonal in that sense!

Which Types Of Cultivated Mushrooms Grow Best In Different Regions Of The U.S.?

I’m assuming oyster mushrooms don’t thrive in, say, Texas or Arizona?

Tradd: Oyster mushrooms can grow anywhere, there are many varieties and cultivars, both warm and cold strains of species that have been adapted to a wide range of climates and growing substrates, making them extremely versatile and easy for growers everywhere.  The key component is occasional misting or watering during fruiting…

How Long Does It Take For An Oyster Mushroom To Fruit?

If expanding your spawn on spent coffee, cardboard and paper, or shredded straw, the time from planting to fruiting is only a few weeks.  The more spawn you use, the faster the spawn run and fruiting time, but it will not generally produce more mushrooms, that is why using spawn sparingly and trying to expand it to its full potential can be very productive and economical.

Can You Share One Of Your Favorite Oyster Mushroom Recipes?

Olga makes “Mushroom Fries.” Split the oyster mushrooms, pull them apart since they are stringy, soak them in milk and eggs, then coat them with flour and meal. Fry them and serve with a spicy mayonaise sauce.  They resemble calamari but not as chewy, very delicious!

Special Announcement: Mommypotamus Meetup Next Month!

135541319568.115.164.147If you’re interested in learning about homesteading, stocking your medicine cabinet with tinctures from seven common plants, or starting your first garden, join  me at the Organic Growers School Permaculture Conference at the University of North Carolina on March 9-10.

Tradd will be speaking on medicinal mushrooms (yay!) and there will be restaurants on site selling local and organic food. Please let me know if you can make it – I’d love to grab lunch together!

Next In This Series: How To Grow Mushrooms [Video]

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Photo Credit: Shira Golding via Compfight cc

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15 Responses to Growing Mushrooms at Home: An Interview With Tradd Cotter

  1. Ooh, I have been wanting to try this for a long time! With our furniture company, I wonder if we could use the sawdust from the shop as a growing medium…?

  2. Katie says:

    This would be so fun to do at home! I love mushrooms and maybe my hubby would even “grow” to like them. :)

  3. Laurel

    says:

    I’m used to seeing mushrooms sprout up any where an everywhere, including chantrelles in the wood chip piles at paper mills. My sister actually worked at a mushroom plant harvesting them in the dark from under their grow lights. Now that I am no longer in the NW I would like to give growing them a try. Can you list a source for their seeds/spores?

  4. We have been experimenting with mushroom cultivation of (both indoor and outdoor) over the past couple of years with various rates of success. Upstate New York, our shiitake logs have been a huge success http://domaphile.com/2012/08/06/mushroom-mayhem/ but my attempts at indoor cultivation in coffee grounds, sawdust and small oak logs have all ended up producing the wrong kind of mold. I’m not giving up, though! I think it is the perfect kind of microfarming for a city dweller with no outdoor space.

  5. Hi Heather, I love mushrooms and never thought about growing my own. Thanks for sharing how easy it is to do it.

  6. Sarah says:

    Wow this looks really cool! It makes me sad I am allergic to mushrooms :( I am on the GAPS diet right now, so who knows? Maybe eventually I will be able to eat mushrooms again.

  7. Leah G

    says:

    hmm… are the nasty Govt employees starting to stalk you? You are just too knowledgeable. Now for mushrooms. everything else grows so well in this house…milk kefir, water kefir, sourdough, kombucha…etc…if only we could grow to like mushrooms.

  8. Julie says:

    Heather, have a fun trip to our lovely town of Asheville! I have gone to the Organic Growers School a few times before and it really is fabulous – hundreds of classes! Still trying to work out if we’ll make it this year. Since the under 7 kiddo can’t go, we’ll have to scout out babsitters :)
    Anyhow, I highly recommend any of Chuck Marsh’s classes and to visit his booth in the vendors area (Useful Plants Nursery). Also Clint & Luke from Forest Floor Wilderness Program are great teachers! A good thing to remember there is that since there are so many great classes happening at once, and lots of the teachers are volunteers, you may not enjoy a class you’re in, and are free to leave and find another class :)

  9. […] according to Tradd Cotter of Mushroom Mountain you can grow your own at home for as little as $2/pound! I recently “met” Tradd after reading […]

  10. […] Growing Mushrooms at Home: An Interview With Tradd Cotter « The … […]

  11. […] your backyard. I totally get it. After this interview with mushroom expert Tradd Cotter, who wouldn’t want to grow gourmet mushrooms for $2/lb and minimal time investment? The fact […]

  12. Leah

    says:

    Heather, my husband and I will be going to the conference. Are you still planning on a meet-up? I’d love to join in!

  13. […] Think about planting themed gardens. Do you love pizza? Then grow a pizza garden with tomatoes, basil, green peppers, broccoli, and maybe even a mushroom garden.  […]

  14. Az

    says:

    Chanced upon a site with all supplies and tools to grow mushrooms, sharing with you – http://www.mushroomsource.ca

  15. Johng530

    says:

    Im not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back later. All the best degfedegbfcd

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