Chefs around the world prize mushrooms, and to the serious mushroom farmer, they are a valuable crop. With favorable conditions, you can grow some varieties at home. They require a cool, dark, moist environment such as a cellar, or for a small crop, even a spot under the kitchen sink.
Beware of Look-alikes
Unlike the non-threatening brown crimini and other varieties available in most supermarkets, some mushrooms are toxic. Many edible mushrooms have a counterpart among the poisonous varieties. According to naturalist and photographer Roger Phillips in his book "Mushrooms of North America," the edible orange-colored Granulated bolete is delicious, but its look-alike in the wild, the Cortinarius multiformous, is non-edible. Although the bolete is commercially harvested, it does not grow easily in non-forest environments, though its meaty texture, nutty flavor and burger bun shape may be worth your efforts. Growers in France have been successful with boletes. The crimini is a better choice for dependability, and it has a robust, earthy flavor.
A Favorite of the Far East
The enoki mushroom is one of the easiest to grow at home. In its natural environment, it grows on the stumps of the enoki tree. Native to the northern mountain ranges of Japan, the enoki can be cultivated in a hardwood sawdust medium. If the climate is warm and moist, you'll produce a crop within three to four weeks. The mild, buttery flavor of this small mushroom blends well with other foods. It is one of the best for stir-fry dishes. A traditional ingredient in Japanese sukiyaki, the enoki is an important ingredient in many Chinese dishes, too.
The Morel of the Story
The morel mushroom is typically a commercial crop, but you can grow it on a small scale at home. It is considered a delicacy with its rich, creamy flavor. Start morels in any type of soil if you live in a mild climate. The mushrooms grow around decaying ash or elm trees or in old apple orchards, but will grow in beds in your backyard if you provide them with a log of any of these woods. The morel mushroom is one of the best for long productivity. A bed of morels can produce for several seasons. Use caution if harvesting these mushrooms in their natural habitat. They do have a toxic cousin called the false morel that closely resembles the true morel.
The Advantages of Oyster Mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms are relatively simple to grow. Their natural environment is a forested location where they cling to tree trunks and thrive in decomposing wood waste. At home, grown them in compost made of straw or other agricultural waste. They prefer a moist environment where temperatures range between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Oyster mushrooms are one of the best for home growers because of their nutritional value. According to Cornell University information, their high selenium content boosts the immune system. They blend well with other foods and are frequently used in stir fry recipes or with poultry.
Portabella, the Filet Mignon of Fungi
Despite its lofty position in the mushroom world, the portabella is simply an overgrown brown crimini. Hardwood sawdust with grain and added nutrients is the choice growing medium. In its mature state, the flavor of this mushroom is more intense than the smaller, easy-to-grow crimini. You grow the portabella the same way as the crimini, but its growth period is four to five days longer. The width of the cap can range up to 6 inches. You can dry these pungent, earthy mushrooms successfully. Their fleshy texture makes them a fine substitute for a tender beef steak.
- Photo Credit Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Although appearance does not necessarily identify a mushroom with 100 percent certainty, it's a good starting point. You can usually identify the...