Milwaukee Mushroom Growers Unite!

(→)The Milwaukee Mushroom Growers group was birthed the night of October 25th, 2010 with it’s first big event: a hands-on oyster mushroom growing demo turned extravaganza! Held at the Bayview Ecovillage, an intentional community of individuals sharing living/gardening space, meals, kayaks, compost and friendship, the demo started with twenty participants and slowly grew into a packed house of 70 consisting of an equal representation of the organizations from which the Grower’s Group was spawned, the Wisconsin Mycological Society, Victory Garden Initiative, and Transition Milwaukee. With everyone settled in, we discussed starting cultures from spawn and mushroom butts, proper fungi fruiting conditions, the sordid world of mushroom sex, and the not-so-fun of indoor fungi (imagine a closetful of tiny flies and a condition known as spore lung). Spent coffee grounds were innoculated with spawn & everyone went home with a sample that they could propagate into their own oyster garden. Mark Gill, Victory Garden Initiative board member, passed a bucket to raise over $100 to plant fruit and nut trees in Milwaukee to provide a sustainable, local food-source for inner city folks with limited access to fresh food (part of the Fruitty Nutty Event, see more on Victory Garden Initiative’s website, Plans also started to resolve for a Milwaukee Mushroom Growers Group spring shiitake log-drilling and oyster totem-building party thanks to WMS members like Steve Shapson (yeah, Steve!) offering to lend their expertise, tools & resources. Despite the risks, e.g. converting the supporting beams in your home into oyster mushroom food, enthusiasm for fungal cultivation was maintained and future oyster demos, a trouble-shooting session, movie/discussion nights (anyone want to talk about how to make wine using mushroom enzymes?) are all in the works!
(→)Thanks to everybody that made it out! If you’d like to have another oyster demo, want to host a demo of your own, let us know! E-mail Tina Samuels, Find a re-cap of the de-structions below & stay tuned for more on upcoming events! You can receive notifications of upcoming events through our Facebook page (Milwaukee Mushroom Growers) Transition Milwaukee and Victory Garden Initiative Google/Yahoo! Groups or through by joining the Wisconsin Mycological Society (

Easy Indoor Oyster Mushroom Cultivation

Pleurotus ostreatus, the oyster mushroom, is one of the most amenable mushrooms to indoor growing in the urban environment. Google oyster mushroom cultivation and you’ll find oysters growing on anything from corn cobs to cottonseed hulls. Their adaptability to growing on a variety of common urban “waste” products and ability to thrive in a household environment (easier than housepets, they love room temperature & all they ask for is carbon, air, light, and moisture!) makes them perfect for a year-round source of food for the city-dweller.

Growing Your Own on Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds (brewed on the day of mushroom culture preparation)
Mushroom spawn
Clean, clear plastic bags

1) Substrate preparation. In mushroom cultivation, a growing medium is normally pasteurized/sterilized/composted prior to use. This knocks back other fungi, bacteria & microbes to give your fungus of interest a competitive advantage. Your most common enemy to oyster growing will be a green mold. If your bag turns green rather than white in a week after growing, toss it out! All it will produce is a sinus headache ;) As for our coffee grounds which were brewed the day of mushroom culture preparation, thank your local brewer, they’ve just been sterilized for you!

2) Innoculation. Here we’ll be innoculating coffee grounds, deposited into a clean, clear plastic bag, using grain or cardboard spawn. Spawn can be obtained from suppliers such as Field & Forest Products in Peshtigo, WI, or a good buddy that has some extra. Once you purchase spawn you can expand your stock on cardboard or other substrates (just keep adding spawn to more growing media). You can keep expanding such stocks until the dastardly green mold catches up with you. To innoculate a substrate, simply add spawn to fresh media at a ratio of ~1:5 or 1:10. A higher rate of innoculation will give you faster growth & reduce the risk of your culture becoming overgrown by competitor fungi.

3) Spawn run. Once you’ve mixed spawn & media, poke holes in the bag ~every 4 inches to provide some air to your innoculum & to release excess moisture from the bag (1/4 inch holes knicked into the bag using scissors are perfect; make sure to poke holes in the bottom of bag as well and place the bag in a tray for drainage). Place the bag in a dark place ~50–70F for one to two weeks and watch for white growth through the bag.

4) Fruiting. Once the mycelium has grown through your substrate (the bag should look almost entirely white), it’s time to force your mushrooms to fruit! Disturbance triggers the outdoor mushroom to fruit, in the case of the oyster a cool night and some rain. To emulate that your home, toss your mushroom bag in a cooler of ice overnight (or outdoors on a cool yet not freezing night, in your garage, etc.) and start spritzing the bag with water daily from this point on. Expect to see mushroom primordia after a few days to a week. Keep the bag in a lighted area at this point.

Expanding your stock on cardboard
To expand your mushroom spawn on cardboard, simply cut cardboard (preferably without dyes or glossy exteriors) into ~4inch pieces and place in a bucket. Dump boiling water onto the cardboard & let rest until water cools (~1hour). Drain cardboard, squeeze out excess moisture, and mix with spawn in a plastic bag. Poke holes every four inches & let rest at 50–70F for one to two weeks. As an alternative to purchased spawn, try mushroom stem butts! Obtain some oyster mushrooms, trim off the stems & mix them with your cardboard. Although it will be more difficult to obtain a pure culture using this method due to ever-present mold spores which will have landed on your mushroom while on the shelf, it may prove cheaper than purchasing spawn. If molds are a problem, try experimenting with dipping the stem in alcohol before culturing.

Special considerations for indoor growing
Precautionary notes:
1) Mushrooms attract a particular friend into your home which may be disagreeable to some. The sciarid fly looks much like a fruit fly on a diet. It will not bother you or your developing mushrooms, regardless, you may want to stock up on fly paper (or trap them using cooking oil on plastic).
2) Oyster mushrooms also have a particularly heavy spore load. Living in the same space as a large numbers of mushrooms in small, unventilated spaces may cause an allergic reaction known as spore lung. You may want to separate your growing area in a basement or by a curtain to reduce the number of spores in your living space.
3) Oyster mushrooms will grow on nearly anything. Mine grew into my carpet :) Although any disinfectant will knock them back, they will digest your carbonaceous goods if left to grow. Spores from the mushrooms may also innoculate exposed wood in their growing space.

Resources for the home-grower
-Paul Stamets!! Any book, lecture, etc. you can find by Paul Stamets will blow your MIND! Check out his store, Fungi Perfecti, online at
-Joe & Mary Ellen at Field & Forest Products in Peshtigo, WI

Mushroom Houses: Not just for Smurfs anymore!

Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, a couple of smart young engineers & recent grads from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that were WOWed by the ability of mushroom “roots” (mycelium) to stick wood chips together came up with the idea of using mycelium grown through ag waste as a packing/building material AND solution to the styrofoam pollution problem! By growing different types of mushrooms through ag wastes in structural molds the two found that they could form COMPOSTABLE home insulation and packing materials using 1/10 the energy used to create environmentally damaging synthetics. In addition, by using different types of mushrooms they found they could create building materials as hard as concrete! The two have received awards and grants from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and formed a company called Ecovative Design. Check out Eben’s presentation all about mushroom “styrofoam” here at, and see their website for more info, including a video on how it’s made! ( To help drive the initiative to replace styrofoam with mushrooms, upload your photos of the styrofoam floating polluting your environment to!

Paul Stamets on Mushrooms and Oil Spill Clean-up

this is a very informative statement by Paul Stamets, the world’s leading fungal expert in oil spill clean-up, that you may want to link to the Mke Renaissance page or cite text from:

Gretchen Mead Summary of Milwaukee Mushroom Rhapsody

Alright, Im going to sum up these emails that have exchanged about mushrooms and foraging.

Jackie McGraw has offered to spearhead the Victory Garden Initiative’s foraging program. This is going to be a club or a group of people who are interested in doing more foraging. It will be largely self-taught by its members. People will get to together on a somewhat regular basis to forage together, sharing tips and techniques, as well as meals etc. Virginia Cassel just started a facebook page for foragers following these posts.
Gretchen and Jackie are going to look into the more formal aspects of this program (setting helpful guidelines, etc. so that people get out of it what they want).

Please send out any information you’d like to include in the creation of this program … such as “I know an expert who might join us” “I want to do it on Friday mornings because…” “I want to focus only on urban spaces” “I want to help create recipes with the foraged foods” “I want regular potlucks” - You get the picture…. we want to hear from you about what you want from this foragers group.

This program will be one part of the continuum of the Victory Garden Initiative ‘s efforts to ‘get off the food grid’. We want to know how to engage the community in doing this and we need all the info we can get from you!

Tina Samuels is knowledgeable about mushroom growing and has offered to lead a small class at Concordia Gardens. I will schedule something soon and post it to the sight. Mushroom growing will also be included in the on-going effort to build a community of people who are “getting off the food grid”.

If you are interested in helping create this and other creative Victory Garden Initiative programming, please contact me. We are always looking for cutting edge ways to engage people in local, sustainable, nutritious food systems, and you probably have a really great idea waiting to be tweaked and fostered.

PS- I have a friend who is a professional dog trainer. She has successfully trained her dog to hunt morels.. super cool!

Do-It-Yourself Mushrooms

Published: April 14, 2010

HAVE you seen the Mushroom Man? No? Well, have you looked in the Secret Garden? It’s a real place, you know, a half-hidden community garden at the corner of Linden Street and Broadway, in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

The Mushroom Man is real, too. His name is Kendall Morrison — he’s 47 years old and semiretired from the publishing business — and on any given weekend, you’re likely to find him in a shady grove of silver maples, cultivating eight varieties of mushrooms.

You might not be able to tell right away what Mr. Morrison is doing. He may be wielding a hand drill, for instance, boring holes into a salvaged oak log. Or he may be pounding inchlong dowels into the wood with a mallet, each little peg impregnated with shiitake mushroom spawn.

“We started right around November,” Mr. Morrison said, referring to his 15 volunteers, “and we haven’t stopped. As long as we can work back there, we worked. Even when there was snow on the ground.”

There are perhaps 200 billets now, stacked like Lincoln Logs. While the wood sits impassively, as logs will do, long strands of mushroom — or mycelium — are infiltrating the grain and starting to decompose it. Later this spring and in the fall, the logs should flush with “fruit” where the spawn went in.

The reward? About a pound of edible mushrooms per log.

Mr. Morrison hopes to distribute this harvest to his many helpers. His nonprofit group, EcoStation: NY, will also be selling the mushrooms — at a very reasonable price, he said — to neighbors who drop by the Bushwick Farmers’ Market held at the garden from late May through Thanksgiving.

Yet more mushrooms are growing in burlap sacks stuffed with wood chips. There are 250 of these bags stacked in piles three feet tall that snake around the garden’s pathways.

“It looks like World War I,” Mr. Morrison said. “Like you’re in the trenches. In a way, this is the mushroom revolution here.”

If small-scale mushrooming is indeed a movement, Mr. Morrison seems to have a growing number of comrades nationwide. “Plug spawn sales are increasing dramatically,” said Paul Stamets, a prominent mycologist and founder of Fungi Perfecti, the Washington-state company from which Mr. Morrison orders many of his spawn and supplies.

“The mushroom kit sales are increasing at maybe 25 percent per year, for the last three years,” he said. “The plug spawn sales are easily double that over a three- or four-year period.”

Mr. Stamets, 54, attributes this new popularity to the “magical” flush of the mushroom. “They’re seemingly invisible, and yet they erupt into view within a day or two,” he said. “There are mushrooms that will break through concrete, and there are mushrooms that form fairy rings. People are curious about that.”

Cooking shows and food magazines now call for something more than the standard plastic-wrapped button mushroom, according to Mary Ellen Kozak, 50, who is an owner of the mushroom-supply company Field and Forest Products in Peshtigo, Wis. A recent Martha Stewart Living recipe recommended beech mushrooms, Ms. Kozak noted. “I don’t know that I would have seen that five years ago, even,” she said.

Feeding those foodie appetites — and the farmers’ markets that sell to them — has created new demand for mushroom spawn and gear, said Joe Krawczyk, 53, Ms. Kozak’s husband and business partner. “We’ve shown a real steady uphill growth of 5 percent a year for the last 10 years,” he said. “But we’ve seen a real jump of sales — 20 percent — in 2009. And we’re 20 percent over last year, already,” year to date.

Shiitake mushrooms have been grown successfully in Japan for at least a millennium, Mr. Stamets said. But if old photos are to be believed, the “soak and strike” method required a certain comfort level with chilly water, colossal hammers and crippling labor. The tamer and more reliable backyard business began in the United States around the same time as his company — that is, 1980 — with the concept of nurturing all kinds of spawn in grain and then shipping them by mail.
Click here for the rest of the story at the New York Times!
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Some Nearby Mushroom Wizzards

In the meantime, a great local place to get your spawn is from Joe and
Mary Ellen of Field and Forest Products in Peshtigo
(, a really helpful, nice couple that offer annual
workshops on shitake log-prepping. And if you’re looking for local
experts, the Wisconsin Mycological Society is a quirky, fun group of
amateur experts that host mushroom forays and lectures throughout the
year ( Our next event is an annual
picnic June 26th, a great place to meet mushroom foragers/growers/
enthusiasts, and forays will continue in fall (most are in spring/fall
when most of the mushroom action happens!)

Rotting Your World: Designing a better garden mushroom bed

contributed by Tina Samuels

We’ve long identified the role of Rotters in our urban permaculture sanctuaries, incorporating compost piles and vermiculture, even humanure and ‘liquid gold’, to feed the soil and the next generation of crops. As we’ve evolved our GREEN thumbs, we’ve realized the importance of feeding DIRT, and therefore have rightly embarked upon the next step in evolution…the BROWN THUMB.

Although most of them work incognito, hundreds of fungi species are already helping you out in this process of nutrient recycling—so why not cultivate fungal decomposers that you can eat? In fact, why not cultivate several species? Successive growing works in the fungal world too! After working with indoor mushroom cultivation, which certainly has its place for yielding high-protein all-season edibles but loses some of the magic of growing outdoors, I’ve come to appreciate the cycles of seasonal fruiting that can be produced using outdoor beds. The following is an amalgam of lessons learned from the world of outdoor growing, mostly geared towards those of us with more access to leftover garden scraps than hardwood logs.

To get started with an outdoor bed, a must-read is Paul Stamet’s, Growing gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. In Chapter 4, he describes edible mushroom landscapes. A nice visual can be found here:
Note: I just like the bed design here, however I’ve never heard of washing your woodchips. As for substrate, mix of straw/cocoa bean shell, corn cobs, and all kinds of carbonaceous stuff could be used here, especially with oyster mushrooms.

For mushrooms made SIMPLE, the best bed design I’ve seen is innoculated straw worked right into your existing compost pile, such as this:
Skip the chopping and pasteurization steps mentioned here, and just soak straw in water for 3 days with a brick on top to keep it submerged. This ferments the straw, killing would-be competitors. If you don’t see nice mycelial growth, try using more spawn per substrate. From what I’ve read, using substrates that aren’t pasteurized or sterilized for your outdoor beds is preferred, as it breeds the strongest of fungi that is best adapted to its new home.

Both of these beds would be perfect homes for mushroom species such as Oyster (Pleurotus spp.). Inky caps (Coprinus spp.) and Agaricus species, including Portabella and almond agaricus, can be a great way to recycle spent materials from your oyster mushroom bed or for use on more mature compost. Beds of leaf litter can be used to grow Blewits ( And for working mushrooms right into your garden, Wine-capped Stropharia will work great on a bed of straw worked into the soil around your garden plants. Or try a POLYCULTURE BED—use several mushroom strains together for fruiting at different times of the season. When your mushrooms stop fruiting, just work more substrate into to the bed. Every couple years you may need to add fresh spawn to keep things going. Many species are native to our area and will over-winter, however, to prolong your growing season, just bring everything indoors in a cardboard box, using light/humidity/temperature changes to initiate fruiting.

As for obtaining stock, Field and Forest Products is choice for being local and knowledgeable, not to mention all around good folk. Most stock runs ~$18 per 2lb bag, which can innoculate a half bale of straw. I’ve learned that for outdoor growing, sawdust is better than grain spawn, as it doesn’t attract pesky rodents. Even better, grow your own from mushroom stem butts of particular mushrooms or spores of an adult mushroom (see Stamet’s book and the next link for details). For foraging an adult specimen from the wild, see this guide for ten edible mushrooms that even the non-expert should have no problem identifying (

Any way you get it, your spawn can be propagated on soaked cardboard (, thereby avoiding all the trouble it takes to set up sterile grain stocks. You’ll have so much mushroom spawn you can give it to your neighbors and will it to your children!

Looking forward to sharing more as our brown thumbs grow!

Making spawn from a mature mushroom fruiting body

A few of you were asking about how to grow mushrooms from spores of an adult fruiting body. Most of what I’d previously seen involved using agar plates with antibiotics. The following is an easy DIY-at-home method that you can take a stab at if you’d like to try cultivation from any edible wild or domesticated species…

In a 20 liter bucket of water place 1 gram of table salt, 50 milliliters of molasses and 1 mature mushroom of the desired species. Stir and leave covered with a cloth for 4 hours. After 4 hours most mushrooms will have released tens of thousands of spores into the liquid and may now be removed before stirring the liquid again. The salt acts to inhibit the growth of bacteria while the molasses stimulates the spores into a frenzied state of germination. Allow this broth to sit for 24 – 48 hours at a temperature above 10ºC but below 27ºC. During this stage the desired mushroom patch habitat should be constructed. After 48 hours the slurry can be diluted at a ratio of 1:10 and sprayed or watered onto your patch. (Excerpt from:

Last edited by Tina. Based on work by Tina Samuels, Godsil and Tyler Schuster.  Page last modified on November 02, 2010

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