How to harvest mushroom spores

Written by austin campion
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How to harvest mushroom spores
A successful spore print. (Copyright George Barron, copyright Michael Kuo

The simplest method to harvest mushroom spores is to create a spore print. These prints are composed of thousands of microscopic fungal spores. They can last for years if properly stored, and can be used to grow the next generation of fruiting mushrooms.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Laminated index card
  • Disposable gloves
  • 91% isopropyl alcohol
  • Cotton balls
  • Sharp knife, such as x-acto
  • Clean work space
  • Viable mushroom
  • Clean cup or glass
  • Plastic bag, sealable, larger than index card

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    Making a Spore Print from a Viable Mushroom

  1. 1

    Begin the process of spore harvest only when the mushroom is ready. For most mushrooms, this is shortly after the edges of the cap have separated from the body of the stalk--a process called "veiling." Be sure your work station is completely clean before beginning.

    How to harvest mushroom spores
  2. 2

    Place the laminated card in the centre of your work area. You can laminate an index card yourself by smoothly covering one or both sides with packing tape. The goal is to create a smooth, non-porous surface on which the mushroom cap will lie.

  3. 3

    Put on the disposable gloves.

  4. 4

    Wipe down the laminated card with the alcohol using the cotton balls. Wait five minutes before proceeding for the alcohol to evaporate.

  5. 5

    Remove the mushroom cap from the stalk. In most mushrooms you can gently twist the cap off. If necessary, you can use a sharp knife to cut the stalk close to where it meets the cap.

  6. 6

    Place the mushroom cap right-side up on the sterilised index card.

  7. 7

    Quickly cover the card and cap with a clean cup or glass placed upside-down. Make sure that the rim of the cup is flush with the work surface and that no air can enter.

  8. 8

    Leave the cup, mushroom cap and card for 12 hours. In this time, many thousands of spores will fall from the "gills" at the underside of the cap. Though each spore is too small to see, they will pile up to form visible mounds.

  9. 9

    Lift away the covering cup and the mushroom cap. Carefully slide the laminated card, now bearing the mushroom spores, into the plastic bag. Take care not to scrape the spore location against the sides of the bag as you store it.

  10. 10

    Seal the bag.

Tips and warnings

  • The colour of the spores will vary depending on the type of mushroom. Some mushrooms, such as morels and false morels, eject their spores using tiny jets. You should expect to find these spores around the cap as well as beneath it.
  • To propagate your own mushrooms after harvesting the spores, you will need a spore syringe.

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