I love growing and eating mushrooms. I've tried various ways of growing them over the years including kits and dowels. I also grew oyster mushrooms for several months to sell at the farmers markets. My favourite mushroom for growing at home are burgundy mushrooms. I bought spawn and got it going in my mulched garden beds. It took two years before I got a few mushrooms and after five years they started producing awesomely. I can't recommend them enough. Here's what they are and how you grow them.
About Burgundy Mushrooms (Stropharia Rugoso Annulata)
Also called giant, burgundy and wine cap mushrooms. These guys will grow outdoors in garden mulch. Similar to a field mushroom they will regrow year after year once established.
Five Steps to Growing Burgundy Mushrooms
Online through mushroom gourmet - they suggest ordering Sept - March. Or get some mycelium mulch from a friend.
2 Select and prepare your location for growing
While waiting for your spawn to arrive pick a site where the soil isn't going to be disturbed and there isn't competition from other plants. They love to grow in my garden in the mulch which is a fresh garden chip from an aborist. It's a mix of whatever they've been cutting down. They do spread into the grass and weeds surrounding this but they grow much better in the mulched areas where there isn't competing plant growth.
3.Lay down the spawn
Do this around March.
Purchased mushroom spawn will come with instructions. In brief -
Soak wood chip/mulch for several days to make sure it has a high moisture content. Layer the ground with this soaked mulch then spawn, mulch then spawn until 40cm deep.
Cover. I put old hessian sacks and some bits of cardboard over the area and bricks and wood rounds on top to hold them in place and also mark the area. (Yes you can forget where you put down spawn).
The culture takes 3-12 months to spread - when this happens the sacks/cardboard should be removed. I did this around 12 month. It didn't look like the culture had spread through the mulch so I decided to proceed anyway.
Add casing soil - this is similar to growing field mushrooms indoors - add a mix of peat and lime and water then put back the sack/cardboard layer.
When I re-read my growing instructions on these mushrooms I'm amazed I got anything growing at all because I wasn't that exact with what I did so don't get too bogged down in the detail eg of how much peat vs lime you need. Be patient. Nature is patient and mushrooms want to grow. Also don't overthink what kind of mulch/woodchip is best. Ours grow in the various lots we've had over the years - I don't think any has been better than others.
4 Watch for mycelium
Mycelium is like mushroom roots. It grows through the surface of the soil/mulch/bark and is visible as white strands. Don't disturb this infrastructure. Mushrooms will grow soon.
5 Be prepared for harvest
Once conditions are right the mycelium will surface and grow as mushrooms. This will happen in March/April/May in New Zealand depending on how warm and wet the weather has been. I find they come through a little earlier than field mushrooms. The mushrooms grow to a good size in just a couple of days.
The biggest problems are
slugs and snails. They can destroy them overnight by eating the surface and opening it up to decay. When I see a mushroom forming I put a plastic milk or juice container over it to stop slugs and snails damaging it.
worms. These form on the burgundy mushrooms and also field mushrooms. I think this happens when the mushrooms are overripe. I haven't found anything to stop these - the best way is to harvest frequently and not let the mushrooms get too old.
Lifecycle of the burgundy mushroom - it only takes two days between the mushroom poking out of the mulch before it getsreally big. Use plastic containers to protect from slugs and snails and don't forget to check them daily
Harvest and store
Harvest the mushrooms smaller than larger if you have a problem with slugs, snails and worms. As I said above - they can destroy the mushrooms overnight.
Store in the fridge once harvested.
They also freeze very well. When you have a glut which you think you won't cook in time before they start to decay (be positive - this will happen!!) - cut into small chunks and freeze free flow. Then you can pull a handful out and add to a stew off season. Although I love these for growing and cooking, the way they freeze and can be used from frozen in cooking without losing texture or taste has been the reason I really recommend them. Folk who are more savvie with pickling and canning than I am will probably find a way to use them off season rather than freezing. I think they would make a tasty pickly thing.
Roughly cut up a mushroom and put it in a paper bag in the freezer. Pull out to use in stews
Use burgundy mushrooms just as you would field or portobellos. They are robust in texture and taste and hold together well in cooking.
My burgundy mushrooms are growing the best outside of where I put the spawn down initially - the spot where I diligently put the mulch, covering, casing peat etc. I must have transplanted something and last year my best mushrooms were in a completely different garden. The mycelium know the best spots to grow and will find it rather than you needing to create it - up and down the paths, on the bank and in unexpected places. I think a spray free, under tilled garden is more likely to have this happen. This year (2019) I haven't had the best harvest - I think our dry summer has impacted them. Had I realised I would probably watered my potential growing spots more.
Dead head, lift, store, divide, save seed, re-sow? No - you don't need to do any of that with mushrooms. Once the mycelium was established they grew and grew. I decided I didn't want agaves in my garden and moved these to my neighbour. She now has mushrooms growing which shows how robust these guys are. Did I say how much I love them?