Growing mushrooms is tricky and very different from growing plants. Stephen Russell’s book, The Essential Guide to Cultivating Mushrooms, aims to provide the basic methods of mushroom cultivation so small scale growers can successfully grow a supply of mushrooms for home use or to sell at weekly farmers’ markets. Step by step directions are given for growing the most popular species, oyster, shitake, lion’s mane, and maitake, starting with the easiest method and proceeding to more advanced techniques. The book does not consider methods for growing button or portabella mushrooms because these are commercially produced far more easily and inexpensively than a home grower can.
The book is divided into three sections each one dealing with more advanced techniques of mushroom cultivation. The first section begins with an introductory chapter covering basic information on mushrooms and their cultivation and then explores the easiest methods of mushroom culture beginning with ready-to-grow kits. These kits are simple and easy to use but are very expensive and produce between one and two pounds of mushroom for a $20-$30 investment. Russell gives steps by step instructions for growing shiitake mushrooms with a kit accompanied by color photographs and then provides options such as buying pre-made spawn, with step by step instructions for growing oyster mushrooms on toilet paper rolls and using plug spawn to grow shiitakes on logs. A chapter on contaminants identifies unwanted molds and gives methods of keeping the environment sterile. The final chapter in section one describes the simplest way to cultivate mushrooms without a pre-made kit, the PF Tek method and includes directions are included for sterilizing jars, making an incubator, setting up small fruiting chamber, and making a desiccant chamber and spore syringe.
The second section on intermediate methods begins with a discussion of pressure cookers and flow hoods. Other chapters in the section consider the generation of grain spawn, casings, liquid cultures, sawdust spawn and sawdust production blocks, and mid-sized fruiting chambers. The section on advanced methods considers agar culture, large-scale grain spawn, and bulk substrates.
Every chapter contains detailed instructions with lots of photographs to illustrate the salient points. In addition, troubleshooting sections list common mistakes or problems that a grower is likely to incur. An excellent resource for anyone interested in growing mushrooms that are primary decomposers such as shiitakes and oysters.
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