Gear for mushroom growing in a small apartment
November 19, 2023 4:53 PM   Subscribe

I have a small apartment and I want to grow mushrooms, largely using the advice from Stamets' "Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms". I want to find gear that is suited to my skill level, living circumstances, and planned purpose. I am planning to start with Oyster mushrooms to learn the process, then try Enoki and others.

My 40th birthday is coming up, and my girlfriend and brothers want to get me gear to get started. Specifically, I think I need mason jars to sterilize the substrate in and then use for the mycelial growth phase; a pressure cooker for the sterilization; and a terrarium for fruiting.

I have a mini-bachelor with very limited space, so I want a setup that will be pretty compact all told. Specifically, I want a pressure cooker that fits a useful number of jars (probably 3-4) and then a terrarium that holds some multiple of that number.

Has anyone grown mushrooms this way? Does anyone know a jar / pressure cooker / terrarium combo which is convenient and compatible with a small living space?
posted by sindark to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
google mushroom log, looks ideal for apartment.
posted by H21 at 8:06 PM on November 19

Response by poster: I want to be able to make mushroom logs, and generally do everything here as I gain experience.
posted by sindark at 8:13 PM on November 19

I had a go at indoor mushroom growing a few years ago after doing a course (a fungal wizardry workshop from urbankulture I think it was) and spores got everywhere! Not doing it anymore as I don't think I should be responsible for any living organism - no matter how delicious!
posted by insomniax at 8:45 PM on November 19 [2 favorites]

I don’t know if this is helpful, but my partner grows mushrooms sometimes and has only ever used a Rubbermaid storage tub for the fruiting stage. So I don’t think you need to seek out a terrarium specifically. Also, you can grow oyster mushrooms on toilet paper without pressure cooking, so you could potentially try that to see if you like it before investing in a full setup.
posted by music for skeletons at 10:16 PM on November 19 [2 favorites]

The diagram you have listed is probably not what I would rely on, especially with smaller spaces in mind, perhaps hard to follow. The agar to grain step is exceeding hard and frustrating and prone to high rate failure if you do not have a laminar flow hood or similar to employ; they are bulky, they are expensive. They can be worked around. Liquid culture preparation straight to grain is much, much more reliable if you don't have access to a hood, and also happens to take up minimal space. Lids like this will let you make liquid culture and grain jars with the same gear, so you can shuffle things around as needed. After doing both setups, I find the liquid culture process (biopsies from clones or spores injected into liquid culture, the mature culture extracted from those jars, then injected into sterilized grain jars, to then placing that grain spawn into substrate to grow and fruit) much, much more reliable than using agar.

Almost any pressure cooker will work, even an instapot or similar if you already have one or would use it in other capacities. I use this kind of pressure cooker for mostly regular culinary tasks, and it works just fine for doing 4 or so pint jars and other sterilized sundries you may need to do up; it will not fit quart jars. This is a better place to start if you want to use it for other food too. You may need to do more batches to get things done, but they take up less space and are more multi-functional.

Having something this size is needed if you're doing bags, or quart jars. If you get into it, this is mostly just a quality of life batch time saving thing. We use ours for canning a lot, but I don't find it necessary. They are big, and take up a shit ton of space. Purchasing a standalone induction burner to use with them (and purchasing an induction burner compatible one, if you're going for this size makes things much faster compared to gas or regular electric stove.

As far as fruiting chambers, a shot-gun fruiting chamber is fully acceptable, and the design can be adapted for just about any size and space requirements. These can be as small as a shoebox, or as large any plastic tub you can buy. This is reliable, and again, happens to take up very little space, or be tailored exactly to your space. If you are concerned with spores getting everywhere, covering up the holes with micropore tape will act as a filter, and still allow for fresh air. If you can dedicate the space to them, these types of fruiting chambers are very good, and very reliable and extremely satisfying to use. They do take up some space though.

I personally found a copy of Radical Mycology to be a much, much better practical guide for home production.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:22 PM on November 19 [10 favorites]

I have been growing mushrooms as a hobby for a year or so now. Mostly Oyster and Lions mane.

I think the first question to consider with talking about gear is how do you intended to complete the life cycle of your mushroom grows? Are you intending to buy liquid culture, inject it into grain, break that grain up and keep cloning from your grain? If so, you really need at the least a still air box, or a laminar flow hood. Both of those can be made pretty cheep, but they take up a bit of room About 3x2x3 for each. The still air box can be used for storage when not in use, so you can save some space there.

If you are intending to continue your mushrooms strains with liquid culture by buying liquid culture and propagating it into jars, you really should have the ability to make/buy agar plates as well. This will take up some room in your fridge, both for the agar and the jars of liquid culture.

Either way you go, you really should get a pressure cooker that gets up to 15 PSI, as you need to sterilize not pasteurize. You will be using this for grain, and for substrate.

You will need some way to fruit the mushrooms after they have colonized the substrate. Shotgun fruiting chambers are popular, so are mono-tubs. What you need to be able to provide for them to fruit is a constant tempt around 60-70 F, about 70% humidity and some light to guide the growth. Anything you do to get that will work.

The answer to your question depends a lot on what your environment is, and how you intend to handle their life cycle. Feel free to reach out if you have questions. I have not been active here for a while, but I will make an effort to check back in a few times.
posted by Oceanic Trench at 12:00 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]

Mod note: [btw, this post has been added to the sidebar and Best Of blog]
posted by taz (staff) at 2:12 AM on November 20

Response by poster: Thanks a lot for the informative responses.

The diagram you have listed is probably not what I would rely on, especially with smaller spaces in mind, perhaps hard to follow.

I should have been clearer that I think it would be neat to build up to that full set of capabilities eventually.

For right now, the plan is more like producing 6-12 1L sterilized straight-sided jars of substate, inoculate them with commercial liquid culture or a spore syringe, let the mycelium colonize the substrate in sealed jars, and then fruit them (probably in a small closet) inside a terrarium or suitable fruiting chamber.

The first run of oysters will be chiefly to check out the process and be able to see what things look like when they are going right.
posted by sindark at 9:26 AM on November 20

Response by poster: I would also love to make mycelium-infused dowels to put in fallen logs.

What would be a good edible species for the Toronto climate? Is making such mushroom logs something that should only be done on private property, or are all the fallen trees in the Toronto ravines fair game too? They're going to decompose anyway, so why not get some tasty fungi out of it?
posted by sindark at 9:30 AM on November 20

If you really just want to get into the spore growing thing quickly, I've purchased substrate from North Spore that worked great. Came pre-sterilized in a bag with an injection port, worked pretty well. The bag itself is smaller than a breadbox. They have substrate for both manure-loving and wood-moving types, as well as spores, even pre-innoculated bags, I think.
posted by hippybear at 10:01 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]

What would be a good edible species for the Toronto climate? Is making such mushroom logs something that should only be done on private property, or are all the fallen trees in the Toronto ravines fair game too? They're going to decompose anyway, so why not get some tasty fungi out of it?

This question would have me point you to Radical Mycology yet again. Essential resources if you're asking questions like this. I would not do this, but also don't have a ton of fallen hardwood logs in ravines to access. Sections of logs can be kept indoors, but take up a shit ton of space. If you're going rogue and Guerrilla mushroom cultivation out in the world, you'd best be certain of your identification skills. Angel Wings mushrooms (Pleurocybella porrigens) look extremely similar to oysters, and I have seen them growing within feet of each other. If you're cultivating an area that can grow oysters, angel wings can also grow even if that is not your intent.

Oyster mushrooms, in the spring, or shiitake mushrooms kind of sort of year round are the most reliable, and easiest to work with on logs; oysters are a very beginner friendly species because they're agressive insomuch as they outcompete most unfavorable competitors. You can take liquid culture of certain oyster strains and inoculate hardwood shavings you get as rodent bedding directly, entirely skipping the grain-spawn step, and the wood chips only need to be pasteurized, not sterilized. They're that aggressive sometimes. The bucket method is stackable, and can live on a porch if you have the space.

Making your own dowels for hardwood inoculation is not a beginner level task; think of that as your second or third level once you get familiar with the hobby.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:53 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]

I've grown mushrooms a few times (hobby-level, not semi-pro. If you've ever dabbled in brewing, that's analogous to kits and full grain but following directions on boil times and hops vars and aging times and grain amounts, not buying grain in bulk, sourcing hops, and kegging).

You'll need a bag of vermiculite (this is moisture), some sort of substrate - blendering brown rice is an easy first go but you have a ton of options here from unpopped popcorn to woodchips to straw depending on what your mushroom var prefers - oysters are very permissive so anything is good), half pint wide mouth jars and an extra box of lids, a pressure cooker of the entry-level sort that *does* get to 15lbs of pressure (not an IP!). That's important.

And some sort of cleanable plastic tub with lid, spray bottle, and a bag of perlite (moisture, but thus time for your fruit chamber). You'll need to put holes in your tub so drill or be creative.

You'll need an injectable source of spores or culture - seriously, buy this.

You can eventually buy big bags of whatever var of oysters you discover you like, like, inoculate, and when the block is colonized, use it to inoculate more jars, but don't f around with grain to start.

You'll need gloves and a good surface cleaner - anything you used in chemistry lab will work, alcohol, quats, or probably lysol. Nitrile gloves of the right size, old plastic tub (yougart, etc)lids equal in number to your jars, and a spray bottle with a fine spray.

Optional for later stuff - injection ports, more wide-mouth jar lids, micron-filtered air exchange thingie or just buy the lids with those pre-installed, micropore tape, nail or pick and screwdriver (for making holes in lids to fit injection port and air exchange), syringes, needles sufficiently long for your jar-fill plans (PFteq reccs headroom with pure vermiculite, ymmv). Once you've gone several rounds with all of that and gotten the cleanliness and pressure cooking procedures down would I start thinking about liquid or grain culture, agar, plates, and switching to bags from jars.

Don't touch your damn cakes in your fruiting chamber! That's the only way I've seen people screw up mushrooms - I don't know why, but it seems to be very hard to admire them visually.

If you want an abreviated start to see if you like growing - buy an inoculated bag!!! I can get those from local mushroom growers for $20 at my farmer's market, any var of oysters or lions mane, rishi, etc, and you may be able to do the same. (They also have inoculated shitiki dowels btw, and if you can get an inoculated log, I'd strongly recc that unless you know someone who cuts down trees.) Logs are *very* hard to find fresh enough that your inoculated mycelium can outcompete wild, which is why you can't use fallen logs or dead trees, even if you know they're hardwood. If you have a log source all you'll need besides dowels are a drill/driver and bit similar size to your dowels, and low temp wax (I got soy candle candlemaking wax pellets and they were easy to microwave then dump on the log to seal the dowel holes). Huge mess but done once. Oh, hammer and screwdriver for insertion, then somewhere moist to store it for a crazy long time while it "cooks". Then you hope it outcompetes whatever natural fungi were present....
posted by esoteric things at 12:19 PM on November 20

Oooh, I'll second hippybear! They've got pre-innoculated grow bags ('fruiting block'), uninnoculated grow bags of various sorts, dowels, and even a shitaki log ('fruiting block').

You may even be able to source locally - growing mushrooms and supplying strains seems to be a common small business. The gear to grow at volume is crazy expensive (filters, humidifiers, monster-sized pressure cookers/autoclaves, etc) but sourcing materials to hobbiests is a good sideline since they're making bags for their own growing anyway.
posted by esoteric things at 12:34 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: What would be the safest species to use for guerilla mycoculture with fallen logs in this climate?

There is a lot of fallen wood in the ravines and stumps from trees felled by storms and disease:

Dam in Downsview Dells Park

Mimico Creek

Large fresh stump in a Toronto park

Ravine hillside

Tree collapsed by erosion

Steep hillside

Tall stump

Fruiting bodies

I don't intend a secret private cultivation (if I ever get around to making or using dowels at all) but it would be neat to see if a big log or stump could be made to fruit with safe edible mushrooms.
posted by sindark at 2:03 PM on November 20

Response by poster: In terms of being able to positively ID the fruiting bodies, some of these liquid cultures look helpful - particularly the pink and yellow oysters.
posted by sindark at 1:29 PM on November 21

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