How to Germinate Mushrooms

There are 3,000 edible mushroom species. They are low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals such as selenium, niacin, potassium and riboflavin. Some 700 of these species have medical benefits. Many people grow their own mushrooms at home. Germinating mushrooms from spores is difficult. For this reason, they are usually grown from mycelium spawn, which is made up of mushroom roots and nutrients. However, spore germination is still used to find the best strains of mushroom to grow from spawn.

Things You'll Need

  • Cleaning supplies
  • Disinfectant
  • Rubber gloves
  • Hair net
  • Protective face mask
  • Alcohol lamp
  • Inoculation loop
  • Spore paper
  • Agar growing medium in a petri dish with a cover
  • Self-sealing tape
  • Incubator


    • 1

      Clean your workspace thoroughly. Wash your hands and forearms. Put on the gloves, mask and hair net. Disinfect your work surface. Disinfect you hands and allow them to dry. These precautions give the spores their best chance at germination by ensuring there are no other spores or bacteria around competing with them.

    • 2

      Light the alcohol lamp. Heat the inoculation loop until it glows red hot, sterilizing it. Allow it to cool while holding on to it. Do not set it down until after use, or you will have to sterilize it again.

    • 3

      Open the petri dish’s cover. Rub the inoculation loop with the spore paper, until the loop is covered in spores. Drag the inoculation loop through the agar in the petri dish, making an “S” shape.

    • 4

      Close the cover of the petri dish, leaving it open for as little time as possible. The longer it remains open, the more likely it is to become contaminated. Seal the dish with self-sealing tape.

    • 5

      Place the petri dish in the incubator. Within a week, the spores germinate and start producing mycelium, which looks like thin strains of fuzz. At this stage, they are ready for transfer to the growing medium.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make your own spore filter paper by placing the mushroom gills over sterile filter paper.
  • Every mushroom species has its own temperature and ventilation requirements. Make sure your incubator is appropriate for the species you are germinating. You may need nothing more than a dark warm closet.
  • Inoculating several petri dishes at once improves the odds of some of the spores germinating.
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