Fungi lovers know that the tastiest mushrooms are often the most difficult to acquire. If you've been shocked by the grocery store price tag, maybe you've begun thinking about growing your own mushrooms!
Luckily, with some patience and care, you can grow many edible varieties right at home. Though some species are easier to cultivate than others, a little soil and a sunny window can result in more mushrooms than you know what to do with in just a few months.
The Blue Oyster mushroom is one of the simplest and most forgiving to grow. These mushrooms are typically used in Asian cuisine, as they have a subtle flavor that pairs well with other ingredients. They’re a fantastic choice for beginners, because they don’t require any special equipment or climate conditions — just a simple cardboard box full of damp sawdust will do!
Like all oyster mushrooms, these are perennial and can be harvested year-round. Harvesting every week will help keep your crop healthy because you can feed it fresh nutrients each time you cut off some of its produce.
Reishi is notable for its numerous healing properties. It’s been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat a wide range of conditions, including cancer, allergies, and high blood pressure. It’s also said to boost energy levels and improve cognitive function. Also called Lingzhi, studies suggest it could reduce inflammation, inhibit tumor growth, and lower cholesterol, all while boosting your immune system.
Shiitake mushrooms are great for backyard growing. They’re a hardy and inexpensive variety that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance thanks to its preferred habitat: logs and mulch. Keep in mind, you can harvest shiitakes twice during their lifespan; once when they’re young and firm (which works well if you want to use them in your cooking) or later when they’ve grown bigger and softer (which makes them ideal for drying or pickling).
Perhaps the best mushroom for beginners, the Pearl Oyster mushroom is resilient. It grows quickly, produces a large crop, and can tolerate some neglect. It’s also one of only a few edible mushrooms that can be grown indoors, eliminating the need to worry about your backyard weather conditions. Be aware that it requires a bit more maintenance than other species: it needs to be inoculated with spores every few weeks for a couple months before it will start producing fruit on its own.
Though Lion's Mane may look like a bundle of fuzzy creatures, it's one more fungi with a myriad of health benefits. It is one of only two mushrooms that contain nerve growth factor (NGF), which helps to promote healthy brain function and stimulate neurons in your central nervous system. It also contains erinacine, which is thought to be an anti-cancer agent.
In addition to these beneficial compounds, Lion's Mane is high in protein and fiber and low in calories.
Wine Cap mushrooms spread aggressively, making them remarkably easy to grow. They’re also delightful in a variety of dishes and make a great addition to soups or stews. Wine Caps are dark brown with light brown gills on top of white stems that resemble wine bottles (hence their name).
And they taste like wine! The caps are small, but they have a rich, earthy flavor that pairs well with meats or can be enjoyed on their own as an appetizer. They’re also popular in salads because they tend not to get soggy when mixed with other ingredients.
Portobello mushrooms have a very distinctive texture and grow best in mulch or compost. They’re fairly easy to cultivate, and you can expect your first harvest within two months of planting them.
This mushroom is often used as an alternative to meat, as it’s large enough to stand in for a burger patty. It also works well with other vegetables, like corn and zucchini. To get started growing Portobellos, make sure you buy fresh spawn from your local garden center. Remember to feed them; Portobellos are big eaters!
Perhaps the most difficult to forage for, Morels are beautiful and rich, with nutty flavor. Don’t let their elusiveness fool you; they're one of the easiest mushrooms to grow at home. Simply scatter spores over a bed of moist sawdust or straw in late spring and watch them sprout up in as little as two weeks!
Harvest them when they reach about 2 inches tall, then use them immediately or store them in an airtight container for up to a week. Try them sauteed or deep-fried with eggs for a delicious breakfast!
Enokis are recognizable by their long stems and tiny caps. They’re a popular mushroom in Asian cuisine, and they’re nearly effortless to cultivate indoors or out. If you want to try your hand at growing these mushrooms, look for starter kits online or at your local gardening store.
It’s important to choose a kit that comes with instructions, as Enoki are finicky about growing conditions. They like temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and indirect sunlight is best.
Maitake is most commonly known as "hen of the woods" due to their chicken-like flavor. They're a hearty mushroom that can be cooked in a number of ways, including baking, frying, and grilling. They have a firm texture with an earthy taste that matches well with sauces and other strong flavors.
If you want to grow your own maitake mushrooms, keep an eye out for them at farmers markets or grocery stores from late summer through fall. If you can't find fresh ones locally, dried Maitakes are also available online and at some specialty grocers.
Chanterelles have a light, fruity aroma and a beautiful gold-orange hue. They’re popular in French cuisine, where they’re often served with eggs or in salads. These mushrooms are easy to grow yourself, but you should be careful not to over-pick them. Chanterelles can take up to three years to produce fruit again after harvesting.
If you're thinking of starting some Chanterelles, it’s best to hunt down a kit that contains everything you need for success: spores, substrate (the growing medium), instructions, and equipment.
The "Black Poplar" or Pioppino mushroom is popular in dishes around the world, but a lot of people don't know the name. This variety has a black cap with white gills and stems. The flavor of these mushrooms is woodsy, nutty, and earthy, which makes them a good substitute for meat or fish in many dishes.
Pioppino are forgiving to grow and can be harvested about three weeks after planting. They can be grown indoors or out during most months of the year. If you're looking for an alternative to meat or fish that's packed with nutrients, then you should consider growing this tasty species.
Similar to Maitake, Chicken of the Woods has a strong poultry taste. It’s painless to grow yourself in your backyard or even on your windowsill! While it does take about 4 to 6 weeks for these mushrooms to fully mature, they are well worth it: you can harvest Chicken of the Woods for up to 6 months after planting.
This mushroom is versatile because you can eat it raw or cooked, and it pairs well with many types of dishes.
Arguably the most common mushroom in the United States, White Buttons are native to Europe and North America. They’re fairly straightforward to grow and are great for beginners because they’re so prolific. You can expect a crop every two weeks or so.
Button mushrooms have a mild flavor that works well in soups, stews, salads, or as an addition to any meal. The only downside is that their shelf life is short (only about 3 days), so you’ll need to eat them quickly after harvesting.
Comb Tooth mushrooms are soft and chewy with a shellfish flavor and slight sweetness. They grow on decaying wood, so you’ll need to find a fallen tree or log that’s been lying around for a while.
The cool thing about these mushrooms is that they don’t require much upkeep; once you find your log, all you have to do is wait for them to grow! They can take up to two years to mature, but it’s worth it when you savor the end result.