Resources for Working with Fungi
One of the most important sources of information for understanding fungi and working with cultivated species is Paul Stamets of Washington state, author of many books including The Mushroom Cultivator and Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms. If you’re going to buy only one book for perspective on working with fungi in the homestead, it should be Paul’s Mycelium Running (Ten Speed Press, 2005). The subtitle of the book is How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World—how can you pass it up?
For help getting started with the cultivation of shiitake (one of the easiest species to grow), see Growing Shiitake Mushrooms in a Continental Climate by Kozak and Krawczyk (Field and Forest Products, Second Edition 1993) and Shiitake Growers Handbook by Przybylowicz and Donoghue (Kendall/Hunt 1988 and 1990). Having made a beginning with shiitake, you can use similar techniques on more challenging species such as maitake.
It can be helpful to join a local mycological society and learn from enthusiasts with more experience. In my area, the Mycological Association of Washington (D.C.) is such a gathering of “mycophiles.” It is an affiliate of the North American Mycological Association, which includes a list of affiliated clubs by state.
Sources of Spawn and Tools
There is a growing number of businesses selling started spawn you can use to cultivate a wide variety of species in your garden, meadow, or woodlot. All the following offer as well cultivation tools and information on growing mushrooms:
- In addition to his books, Paul Stamets sells spawn, accessories, and supplies—including equipment for sophisticated large-scale production systems—at his Fungi Perfecti in Washington state.
- Field & Forest Products of Wisconsin offers spawn, workshops, books, and cultivation tools.
- Mushroompeople, associated with The Farm in Tennessee, offers spawn for half a dozen edible and medicinal species, plus aids for growers who want to step up to working with sterile cultures.
- For growers in the mid-Atlantic, note that Mark Jones, my own mushroom mentor (see below), offers spawn for a number of edible and medicinal species, tools, workshops, and more at his Sharondale Mushroom Farm.
Find a Mentor
Try to find a local expert you can learn from. I was lucky a few years ago to meet Mark Jones—I think of him as “Virginia’s Paul Stamets”—who has been a tremendous source of information, inspiration, and started spawn. In addition, he offers workshops and mushroom cultivation kits (including the angle adapter chuck, high-speed drill bit, and palm inoculation tool mentioned in “Cultivating Mushrooms”) through his Sharondale Mushroom Farm.
I am grateful to Mark for his generous help writing “All About Mushrooms”, published in the August-September 2010 issue of Mother Earth News, and with other writing and presentation projects since then.
An advantage of finding a more local source for spawn is that you may get strains more adapted to your own climate and conditions. For example, spawn for wine cap stropharia that Mark started from a local strain has done better for me than any of several batches I purchased from Fungi Perfecti, 3000 miles away. A strain of shiitake that Mark developed has performed better for me than any I had used previously in numerous batches of logs.