Life Cycle of a Mushroom
Like a plant, the life cycle of a mushroom is circular. To describe this process, we’ll start with spores. When a mushroom is mature, it releases spores which prompts inoculation. Inoculation is when spores land on a substrate (wood or any substance with cellulose) and begin to grow. Two spores join to begin a new hyphae, starting the creation of mycelium.
Mycelium is a tiny, white threadlike fungus that acts as roots for mushrooms. Mycelium expands at a very fast rate, and acts as the “immune system” of a mushroom, fighting off anything that would stunt growth, but also bringing in nutrients. Mycelium is ultimately the “plant” and the mushrooms are its “fruit”.
Next, hyphal knots are formed as mycelium condenses. These knots form pinheads, or primordia. Primordia are baby mushrooms, which is the first stage you will be able to see on a grow block. These baby mushrooms will grow quickly, often doubling in size every 24 hours.
As the mushroom, aka fruiting body, matures, it produces spores. This is the reproduction phase of the life cycle. Spores are released into its environment, looking to land on favorable substrates, such as a fallen tree, to continue the life cycle!
This life cycle describes how a mushroom would grow in the wild. Now let’s discuss the nuances of growing mushrooms at home with a grow kit.
Growing mushrooms at home or commercially differs from growing in the wild because we want a large, fast mushroom harvest, not expansive mycelial growth and we want consistent, predictable growth. To accomplish this, we grow the mushrooms on pasteurized hardwood sawdust mixed with a quick nitrogen source. Pasteurization eliminates competing mold, fungus, and bacteria. Using sawdust instead of logs or wood chips increases the surface area that mycelium can colonize and decompose to turn the wood into a source of food. The addition of wheat midlings gives them a fast start.
The recipe for our grow blocks prioritizes fast growth and big yields. As a consequence, our blocks have a relatively short shelf life because they are so eager to grow, pin, and fruit! You will find other grow kits on the market that are shelf stable for months, but the yield is quite small relative to the size (and price) of the grow block.
Our grow blocks come fully inoculated and incubated. As soon as you open the bags, the fresh air will prompt the formation of pins, or baby mushrooms, and you will be rewarded with rapid growth.
© Photo by Derek SooHoo