Thoughts and feelings on the newest (and hopefully last) quarantine trend
I divide my life into two distinct portions: life before growing mushrooms, and after.
See, like many on Instagram, I too have fallen victim to the appeal of mushroom grow kits. Like frothy coffee and indoor plants, growing mushrooms has begun to pick up steam as a quarantine trend. Is it one I expected myself to buy into? As someone who has struggled to keep even succulents alive, no. But like too many double-digit sales have taught us, a few seconds and a tap of your phone screen is all it really takes to change your mind.
Today, I have six oyster mushroom kits that I lovingly check, water and painstakingly move on and off our balcony depending on how warm or rainy it is. This may very well be the closest I’ll ever get to motherhood. And like motherhood (or so I presume, at least), this mushroom trend has taught me plenty about patience and care and love.
And then I eat my proverbial fungi children, but we’ll get into that later.
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Step 1: Rest
Even before they start to pin, mushrooms are a lot like baby animals or jars of Baguio peanut brittle. They’re easily irritated by movement and change, so the process of getting them delivered to your house is bound to get them worked up.
That said, they need to get their rest. Put them in a corner and leave them be for about five days, or however long it takes for the mycelium (a white, thread-like filament!) to work its way to the bottom of the bag.
There’s probably also a valuable lesson about resting post-stress somewhere here.
Step 2: Grow
The trickiest part of mushroom growing is the trickiest part of any process, really. Not to get philosophical, but being consistent enough to see change is the hardest part of absolutely anything. Working out, dieting, saving money. Consistency is key, they say, and man, did my mushrooms reaffirm that quote.
Once you cut your mushroom bags open, you water them twice a day (thrice if it’s particularly hot.) Getting them to start pinning at all can take some time, though.
This step is also where a lot of the guesswork happens. Sometimes, my mushrooms will thrive outside. Sometimes, they stop growing and shrivel up out of the blue. They’re temperamental little things, but as stressful as it can be to figure out where the hell I went wrong, there’s plenty of fun in it, too.
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My mushroom bags are from Mouldy Blooms, a mycology account I came across on Instagram. They sell grow kits at P70 to P80 a pop, among other mushroom-related products. They’ve been extremely helpful, doling out advice to a newbie like me. If I’ve convinced you to bite the mushroom growing bullet by now, get your bags from them!
Step 3: Harvest
After the tiny little mushroom heads finally show through, they should take about three days to grow to their full size. You’ll know that oyster mushrooms are ready for harvest when the tops flatten out. The edges curling in means you should pluck them ASAP.
Speaking of which, for all the dramatics they pull during the growth process, mushrooms are extremely fuss-free when the reaping stage comes along. No strings attached, no hard feelings. Just hold them at the base, give them a shake, and go.
I’ve had my mushroom bags for months, and have only experienced the bliss of a successful harvest a handful of times. Most people have it easier, though, getting more frequent and bountiful results. Whether it’s the conditions at my apartment or their greener thumbs, I’ll never know.
When I do get my mushrooms to grow, though, it’s a reward like no other. It feels like the highest level of validation. Me, a plant (okay, fungi) mom! Who would’ve thought! I don’t wanna be overly dramatic here, but separating my mushrooms from their pod is a kind of happiness I want to feel every day. I feel so inspired that I even cook them myself—and I never cook.
Here’s a photo of my most bountiful harvest yet, which I promptly turned into a bowl of fried mushroom chips that same evening:
If you see the base, my substrate was not in a healthy state. Yet my mushrooms persisted. I only raise champions!
On a more serious, less “proud mom” note: once you harvest your mushrooms, store them in a paper bag. Don’t wash them, simply cut off the ends and put them away. Cook them within a day or two so they don’t shrivel up too much!
Each bag can give you multiple harvests across a few months. As long as the white bacteria is there, your chances are pretty good. This thought has singularly carried me through many failed yields and stunted growths.
There’s more fine print when it comes to the mushroom growing trend—how they sometimes thrive when you ignore them, their sensitivity to temperature, the different kinds of mushrooms you can grow—but why spoil the fun?
Play it by ear. Connect with your mushrooms! Nurture your children before you throw them into the air fryer! You’ve taken all the other quarantine trends for a spin anyway, what’s another?
Art Alexandra Lara