We love mushrooms on a side of steak, atop a pizza and stirred into a soup, but what do mushrooms love?
They love moisture, as you’ll notice many popping up on your lawn after a rain, and they also love shade and cool, ventilated air.
Shitake, oyster and button mushrooms are three types of edible mushrooms that grow well in Florida.
“Shitakes can be grown anywhere in Florida, but more of them are grown where the proper growing medium and more ideal growing conditions are found,” said Daniel F. Culbert, extension agent, UF/IFAS Okeechobee Extension Service.
For shitakes, the proper growing medium is a freshly cut deciduous hardwood log, such as pecan, ash, laurel oak or maple.
To inoculate, the logs are cut fresh, drilled with holes which are then filled with sawdust spawn and lastly covered with sawdust or cheesewax.
“Once inoculated, the logs need to be kept moist and in moderate shade,” explained Culbert.
They grow well under shade cloth or in forested woodlots, however, both the hardwood logs and forested woodlots are less common here in Central Florida, although they are more common in Northern Florida.
The mushrooms take months, even up to a year, to appear and colonize the wood.
While shitake mushrooms are a delicacy enjoyed grilled or in soups, oyster mushrooms are also revered and taste great in a sauté or stir fry.
They can also be grown on a small, inoculated log or by using a holey plastic Zip-lock bag filled with sterilized, inoculated straw or sawdust.
One local family-owned grower who grows a variety of organic oyster mushrooms, such as Pearl, Golden, Pink Flamingo, Blue and Mediterranean, is Kissimmee River Mushrooms in Okeechobee.
Lastly, button mushrooms are often enjoyed raw atop a salad, dipped in a sauce or baked on a pizza.
They are also known as common or white mushrooms, and are mainly grown in South Florida. The mushrooms are typically grown in large wooden trays.
“Button mushrooms need a dark, air conditioned room and lots of access to fresh horse manure, which is used in the compost,” explained Culbert. Horse manure has the right density and nutrients, allowing for the mushrooms to thrive.
Mushrooms are fungi and they are one of a group of plants that produce no chlorophyll.
While green plants and vegetables perform photosynthesis to make their own food, mushrooms get it from outside sources.
They grow from a stem, have a cap, and the umbrella part -- that is the part between the cap and stem -- is called the veil. With maturity, the mushroom veil opens. With younger mushrooms, the veil is closed.
For those that are considering growing mushrooms, UF/IFAS offers a helpful book, available from the extension bookstore, “Common Florida Mushrooms” at: http://ifasbooks.ifas.ufl.edu/p-196-common-florida-mushrooms.aspx.
The Mushroom Co.’s Mushroom Grower’s newsletter is also a good source: http://www.mushroomcompany.com/index.shtml
Mushroom growing supplies can be purchased from a variety of sources. Southeast Mushroom in High Springs offers a variety of mushroom growing supplies for shitakes, oysters, maitake, reishi, turkey tail and other gourmet mushrooms. Growing kits can also be purchased from Sublicious Farms in Oakland Park.
Since many mushrooms look similar to one another, it’s best not to harvest mushrooms in the wild, unless you are an expert.
Although edible mushrooms are tasty, wild mushrooms can be poisonous and even deadly.
For more information:
Forest Farming Shitake Mushrooms http://smallfarms.ifas.ufl.edu/other_enterprises/pdf/FarmingShiitake.pdf
How to Grow Your Own Oyster Mushrooms on Straw