How Mushrooms are Grown: A Beginner’s Guide



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How Mushrooms are Grown - Mushroom Cultivation Farm

Mushrooms are a unique type of fungus that has been used in cooking and medicine for thousands of years. They are known for their distinct flavor, texture, and nutritional benefits. But have you ever wondered how mushrooms are grown?

As someone who has always been fascinated by the science behind food production, I decided to research and find out.

I discovered that the process of growing mushrooms is highly technical and scientific. Unlike traditional crops grown in soil, mushrooms are grown in a unique substrate mix designed to promote their growth.

This mix typically consists of materials like straw, sawdust, and gypsum and must be carefully prepared and sterilized before use.

You can buy pre-made substrates like the Coco Coir Based Mushroom Substrate Mix I have used in the past. It is a little pricey, but you pay for quality.

Once the substrate is ready, it is inoculated with mushroom spores and placed in a controlled environment where temperature, humidity, and other factors can be carefully regulated to promote optimal growth.

The growing cycle for mushrooms typically takes around six weeks. During this time, the mycelium (the vegetative part of the fungus) colonizes the casing layer and eventually produces mature mushrooms.

Depending on the type of mushroom being grown, there may be multiple flushes of growth before the substrate is exhausted, and the process must be started again. Growing mushrooms is fascinating and complex, requiring some knowledge and skill.

The Basics of Mushroom Growing

Growing mushrooms can be a fun and rewarding experience for anyone interested in fungi. In this section, I will cover the basics of mushroom growing, including choosing the suitable variety, selecting the growing medium, preparing the substrate, inoculation and spawn run, and the fruiting stage.

Choosing the Right Variety

Many types of mushrooms can be grown, each with its ideal environment and growing process. Some common varieties include shiitake, oyster, white button, enoki, and chestnut mushrooms.

Check out the Back to the Roots Organic Pearl and Golden Oyster Mushroom Grow Kit for an easy-to-grow solution at home. Back to the Roots does various easy-to-grow mushroom grow kits.

When choosing a variety, consider factors such as taste, texture, and availability of spores or spawn.

*For our top recommended grow kits for 2023, please see Best Mushroom Grow Kit for Beginners: Top 5 Kits in 2023

Selecting the Growing Medium

The growing medium or substrate is the substance in which the mushrooms will be grown. Common growing mediums include hardwood logs, coffee grounds, and peat moss.

Each medium has advantages and disadvantages, so choose the one that best fits your needs and space.

Preparing the Substrate

Once you have chosen your growing medium, you must prepare the substrate. This involves pasteurizing the substrate to kill off any unwanted bacteria or fungi and then adding mushroom spawn to begin the growth process.

You can buy pre-made substrates like the Coco Coir Based Mushroom Substrate Mix, a blend of high-quality components.

How Mushrooms are Grown - Artificial Substrate for Growing Mushrooms

The ideal environment for the substrate will depend on the type of mushroom being grown.

Inoculation and Spawn Run

Inoculation involves adding mushroom spores or spawning to the prepared substrate. The spawn will then begin to grow and spread throughout the substrate in a process known as the spawn run.

This process can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on the type of mushroom and growing conditions.

The Fruiting Stage

The fruiting stage can begin once the spawn has fully colonized the substrate. This involves creating the ideal environment for the mushrooms to produce fruiting bodies, such as maintaining the right temperature, humidity, and light conditions.

The fruiting stage can take several weeks and typically produces several “flushes” of mushrooms.

Anyone can successfully grow mushrooms at home by choosing a suitable variety, selecting the appropriate growing medium, preparing the substrate, inoculating the spawn, and managing the fruiting stage.

Growing mushrooms can be a fun and rewarding experience. Following proper food safety procedures and ensuring a successful harvest is essential.

The Importance of Quality and Food Safety

As a mushroom grower, I understand the importance of quality and food safety in production. Ensuring that our mushrooms are safe to eat and meet high-quality standards is critical for our and our farmer market customer’s health and well-being and our farm’s success.

How Mushrooms are Grown -Various Cultivated Mushroom

One of the most important aspects of quality and food safety is ensuring that our mushrooms are grown in a clean and controlled environment.

We take great care to maintain proper hygiene and sanitation practices throughout the growing process.

This includes regularly cleaning and disinfecting our growing rooms, equipment, and tools to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria and other contaminants.

Another critical factor in ensuring quality and food safety is monitoring the water we use in the growing process.

We test our water regularly to ensure that it meets strict quality standards and is free from harmful bacteria or other contaminants that could affect the safety of our mushrooms.

In addition to these measures, we also follow strict food safety protocols throughout the growing and harvesting process.

This includes monitoring our growing rooms’ temperature and humidity levels, regularly testing our mushrooms for harmful bacteria, and ensuring that we and our farm workers follow proper hygiene and sanitation practices.

Ensuring quality and food safety is essential to the success of our mushroom-growing operation. By maintaining strict standards and protocols, we can provide safe, high-quality mushrooms that everyone can enjoy confidently.

For more food safety information on growing mushrooms, please refer to the Pennsylvania State University Agricultural Extension: “Mushrooms – Food Safety” article archive.

Indoor and Outdoor Growing – How to Grow Mushrooms Properly

Growing mushrooms can be done both indoors and outdoors. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. In this section, I will discuss indoor and outdoor growing methods.

How Mushrooms are Grown - Growing and Collecting Champignons Mushrooms

Indoor Growing

Growing mushrooms indoors allows for greater control over the growing environment. This makes it easier to maintain optimal growing conditions and produce a higher yield.

Here are the steps to grow mushrooms indoors:

  1. Choose a growing medium: Mushrooms can be grown in various mediums or substrates, including straw, sawdust, coffee grounds, and more. Choose a medium that is readily available and easy to work with, or choose pre-made substrates like the Coco Coir Based Mushroom Substrate Mix.
  2. Inoculate the medium: Inoculate the medium with mushroom spores or mycelium. This can be done by mixing the spores or mycelium into the medium.
  3. Incubate the medium: Place the inoculated medium in a warm, dark place to allow the mycelium to grow. This can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
  4. Fruit the mushrooms: Once the mycelium has fully colonized the medium, it’s time to fruit the mushrooms. This can be done by exposing the medium to light and misting it regularly.

A popular, easy-to-use method for growing mushrooms at home is a grow tent like The EBSTL Mushroom Monotub Home Mushroom Grow Kit Mushroom Tent.

Outdoor Growing

Growing mushrooms outdoors can be more challenging than indoor growing, but it can yield a larger harvest. Here are the steps to grow mushrooms outdoors:

  1. Choose a growing location: Mushrooms prefer relaxed, damp environments. Choose a location that is shaded and protected from the wind.
  2. Prepare the bed: Clear the area of any debris and dig a shallow trench. Fill the trench with a mixture of compost and straw.
  3. Inoculate the bed: Inoculate the bed with mushroom spores or mycelium. This can be done by mixing the spores or mycelium into the compost and straw mixture.
  4. Cover the bed: Cover the bed with a layer of straw to help retain moisture.
  5. Water the bed: Regularly to keep it moist.
  6. Harvest the mushrooms: Mushrooms should start to appear within a few weeks. Harvest them when they are fully grown but before they start to decay.

Whether you grow mushrooms indoors or outdoors, you can produce a bountiful harvest with the right tools and techniques.

Harvesting and Storage

When to Harvest

As a mushroom grower, I know timing is crucial when harvesting mushrooms. The ideal time to harvest mushrooms depends on the mushroom’s variety and growth cycle.

For instance, button mushrooms are typically harvested when they are about the size of a golf ball. In contrast, shiitake mushrooms are harvested when the caps are fully expanded.

It is best to harvest mushrooms when the veil underneath the cap begins to break. This is when the gills are still closed, and the mushroom is freshest and most flavorful.

Waiting too long to harvest can result in over-matured mushrooms with reduced shelf life and flavor.

How Mushrooms are Grown - Harvested Mushrooms

How to Harvest

When harvesting mushrooms, it is essential to handle them with care to avoid damaging the soft caps. I use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the stem cleanly, just above the substrate.

It is essential to avoid pulling the mushroom from the substrate as this can damage the mycelium and reduce future yields.

I also remove any debris or dirt from the mushrooms before harvesting. This ensures that the mushrooms are clean and ready for storage or consumption.

Storage Tips

Proper storage is essential to ensure the quality and freshness of harvested mushrooms. I store my mushrooms in a paper bag or a container lined with paper towels.

This allows the mushrooms to breathe and prevents moisture buildup, which can lead to spoilage.

It is important to avoid storing mushrooms in plastic bags or containers as this can trap moisture and lead to spoilage.

I also recommend storing mushrooms in the refrigerator at a temperature of between 32°F and 38°F. This can help extend their shelf life by up to a week.

For longer-term storage, I freeze my mushrooms. To do this, I slice them and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Once frozen, I transfer them to an airtight container or freezer bag and store them in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Harvesting and storing mushrooms properly is key to maintaining their quality and flavor. Following these simple tips, you can enjoy fresh, delicious mushrooms for longer.

The Science and Technology of Mushroom Fungus Growing

Commercial and productive mushroom growing is both a science and a technology that requires specific laboratory techniques, pasteurization, and controlled environment agriculture.

How Mushrooms are Grown - Mushroom Farm

Laboratory Techniques

Mushroom growing starts with the production of spawn, which is the vegetative part of the fungus. Spawn is produced in a laboratory using a process called tissue culture.

This process involves taking a small piece of mushroom tissue and placing it on a nutrient-rich agar medium. The tissue then grows and develops into pure mushroom mycelium, used to inoculate the substrate.


The substrate is the material that the mushroom mycelium grows on. It is usually made of organic materials such as straw, sawdust, and corn cobs.

Before the mycelium can be added to the substrate, it must be pasteurized to kill unwanted bacteria or fungi.

Pasteurization involves heating the substrate to a temperature of around 160 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours.

This process ensures that the mycelium can grow without competition from other microorganisms.

Controlled Environment Agriculture

Mushroom growing requires a highly controlled environment to ensure optimal growth conditions. The growing house must be kept at a constant temperature and humidity level, and the air must be continuously exchanged to provide fresh oxygen.

The humidity level is critical because it affects the mushrooms’ water loss rate. The mushrooms will dry out and become unmarketable if the humidity is too low.

To maintain optimal growing conditions, growers use sophisticated computer systems that monitor and control the environment.

These systems can adjust the temperature, humidity, and air exchange rate automatically, ensuring that the mushrooms receive the best possible conditions for growth.

These practices are essential for commercially sustainable and productive mushroom growing and ensure that growers can produce high-quality mushrooms consistently.

The Nutritional Benefits of Mushrooms

Mushrooms are not only delicious but also incredibly nutritious. They are low in calories and essential nutrients, making them a great addition to any diet.

As someone who enjoys growing mushrooms, I find learning about their nutritional benefits fascinating.

How Mushrooms are Grown - Mushroom Risotto


Mushrooms are packed with nutrients, including antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. They are a great source of B vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, which help the body convert food into energy.

Mushrooms are also a good source of vitamin D, which is essential for strong bones and a healthy immune system.

Mushrooms are an excellent source of several minerals, including selenium, copper, and potassium. Selenium is essential for thyroid function and helps protect the body from oxidative stress.

Copper is essential for producing red blood cells, while potassium helps regulate blood pressure and supports heart health.

For more information on the nutritional benefits of mushrooms, please see’s “Are Mushrooms Good For You?”

Brain Health

Mushrooms contain a compound called ergothioneine, which has been shown to have antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals, which can contribute to the development of chronic diseases.

Ergothioneine is also believed to have neuroprotective properties, which may help protect the brain from age-related decline.

Foraging for Mushrooms

How Mushrooms are Grown - Mushrooms on a Forest Tree

Foraging for mushrooms is a fun and rewarding experience that can yield delicious results. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Know What You’re Looking For

Before you head out into the woods to start foraging, it’s essential to do your research and learn about the different types of mushrooms that grow in your area.

Many resources are available online and in books to help you identify edible mushrooms and distinguish them from poisonous varieties.

A great reference book by DK Publishing is Mushrooms: How to Identify and Gather Wild Mushrooms and Other Fungi.

2. Choose the Right Time and Place

Mushrooms are most abundant in the fall, but some varieties can be found throughout the year. Look for areas with a lot of moisture, such as near streams or after rain.

You’ll also want to forage in areas free from pollution and pesticides.

3. Bring the Right Supplies

When you’re foraging for mushrooms, it’s crucial to have the right supplies on hand. Here are a few things you might want to bring:

  • A basket or bag to collect your mushrooms
  • A knife to cut the stems of the mushrooms
  • A field guide or app to help you identify different varieties
  • Gloves to protect your hands from thorns and other hazards

4. Know How to Harvest Mushrooms

When you find a mushroom you want to harvest, it’s important to do so carefully. Use a knife to cut the mushroom stems close to the ground, careful not to damage the surrounding area.

Leave behind any mushrooms that are too small or that you need to be sure about.

5. Enjoy Your Freshly Foraged Mushrooms

Once you’ve collected your mushrooms, it’s time to enjoy them! You can use them in various dishes, from soups and stews to omelets and fresh salads.

Just be sure to clean them thoroughly and cook them properly before eating.

Foraging for mushrooms can be a fun and rewarding hobby, but doing so safely and responsibly is very important.

Frequently Asked Questions

Growing mushrooms can be an enjoyable experience but it can also be daunting, especially if you are new to the process. To help you get started on your mushroom-growing journey, I have compiled a list of frequently asked questions.

If you have any more questions, please feel free to leave me a message at the end of the article and I will try my best to answer you.

Q: What is spawn?

A: Spawn is a term used to refer to mycelium grown on a substrate.

Q: What is mycology?

A: Mycology is the study of fungi, including their physiology, genetics, ecology, and distribution.

Q: How long does it take to grow mushrooms?

A: It can take around 21 days to grow mushrooms from when the spawn is mixed with the compost to when the mushrooms are harvested.

Q: What is casing?

A: Casing is a layer of soil, peat moss, or other material spread over the mushroom bed to help retain moisture and provide a suitable environment for growth. 

Q: What is a mushroom growing kit?

A: A mushroom growing kit is a pre-packaged kit that includes all the materials needed to grow mushrooms.

Back to the Roots does a variety of popular mushroom grow kits.

Q: What is the compost used to grow mushrooms?

A: The compost used to grow mushrooms is typically a mixture of organic matter such as straw, horse manure, and poultry litter.

Q: What kind of substrate should I use?

A: The substrate is the material that the mushrooms grow on. Different types of mushrooms require different types of substrate.

For example, button mushrooms grow best on composted manure, while oyster mushrooms grow best on straw or sawdust.

You can buy pre-made substrates like the Coco Coir Based Mushroom Substrate Mix or make your own.

Q: How do I sterilize my substrate?

A: Sterilizing your substrate is vital to prevent contamination from other fungi or bacteria. Several methods can sterilize your substrate, including boiling, pressure cooking, or microwaving.

Be sure to follow the instructions carefully to avoid damaging your substrate.

How Mushrooms are Grown - Wild Reishi Mushrooms

Final Thoughts

Growing mushrooms can be a fascinating and rewarding experience. As I have learned throughout my research, the mushroom life cycle is unique and unlike anything else on this planet.

One of the most important aspects of growing mushrooms is providing the proper environmental conditions. From temperature and humidity to light and ventilation, each factor plays a crucial role in the growth and development of mushrooms.

It is essential to carefully monitor these conditions and make adjustments as necessary to ensure the best possible harvest.

Another critical factor in successful mushroom cultivation is choosing a suitable substrate. Different types of mushrooms require different substrates, and it is important to research to find the best option for your specific variety.

Typical substrates include straw, sawdust, and composted manure, among others.

When it comes to harvesting, timing is everything. Most mushroom farmers harvest for 35 to 42 days, although some harvest a crop for 60 days, and harvest can go on for as long as 150 days.

It is important to carefully monitor the growth of your mushrooms and harvest them at the right time to ensure the best possible flavor and texture.

With the proper knowledge, equipment, and environmental conditions, anyone can successfully cultivate delicious and nutritious mushrooms.

I hope you enjoy growing your mushrooms, and if you have any questions or tips, please feel free to leave me a message below.

Further Recommendations:

Video: How Mushrooms Are Grown

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2 responses to “How Mushrooms are Grown: A Beginner’s Guide”

  1. Growing Mushroom Avatar

    Mushrooms are fascinating organisms that undergo a unique cultivation process. From carefully selecting the right growing medium to creating the optimal environmental conditions, the art of mushroom cultivation requires a delicate balance of science and patience. Understanding the intricacies of mushroom growth not only unveils a remarkable natural process but also empowers individuals to cultivate these edible wonders in their own homes or contribute to the thriving mushroom industry

    1. Tracy Langell Avatar

      Hi Marier, I agree. Thank you for your input.

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