Mushroom Liquid Cultures

Written by leigh kramer
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Mushroom Liquid Cultures
White button mushrooms tend to be overlooked by growers because commercial growers produce them in much larger quantities. (Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Mushrooms are not commonly grown at home, even though they can be. They have different nutritional requirements than most plants: whereas plants create some of their own nutrients, mushrooms must be supplied with all of theirs. Typically, the grower places mushroom spore or spawn in a log or in sawdust, keeping the growing medium damp during the growing process. This can be done indoors or out, depending on weather conditions. Using liquid cultures to create mycelium really speeds up the growing process.

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Grow Cycle

When mushrooms grow, they start as tiny spores. They then grow into a thin tube in a growing medium (mulch or a fallen log) and from there branch out into mycelia. When a mushroom fruits, it breaks the surface. This creates little "pinheads," which then grow into the full mushroom. The mushroom is not the body of the plant, the under-the-surface mycelium is. The same mycelium can produce many mushrooms over its life cycle. When the mycelium grows larger, it does so in a ring shape, which is why mushrooms sometimes grow in circles known as "fairy rings."

Growing Mycelium

When starting a liquid culture, you must first pick your type of mushroom. Shiitake is a popular variety, being expensive to buy fresh. You can buy cultures for your type of mushroom online -- most reliable retailers guarantee a viable product, so look for this. A small amount of the culture is introduced to a liquid growing medium that contains 4 per cent light corn syrup or honey. The rest of the culture may be kept in the fridge. Keep at room temperature or around 26.7 degrees C and shake occasionally until cloudy bunches of mycelium start to form (they will appear to be floating clumps of mould) -- this can take five to seven days.

Inoculating the Substrate

Use a syringe to remove the clumps of mycelium from the liquid culture. Using the substrate of choice (this can vary depending on the type of mushroom you're growing, but hardwood sawdust is very common) push the syringe into the substrate and inject between 2 and 4cc of liquid culture per half gallon of substrate. The rest of the liquid culture can be stored in the fridge for 2 to 3 months.

Cloning

Because it takes such a small amount of mycelium to create a more mushrooms, it's possible to keep reusing the same batch over and over again. When placing the mycelium in a substrate, reserve a small amount in your medium of choice. It can be incubated, fruited and grown again later.

Why Use Liquid Cultures?

Contamination occurs when spores from other fungi (whether they be wild mushrooms, mould or yeasts) set up and grow in the substrate. This prevents your mushrooms from growing properly, as the new spores suck up all the nutrients. Using liquid cultures creates a mycelium that has already been growing and can speed up the process of mushroom growing, sometimes by weeks. Because using liquid culture cuts the time needed, there is less time for contamination to occur.

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