Mushroom Harvesting: How To Harvest Mushrooms At Home

mushroom harvest
mushroom harvest
(Image credit: kkgas)

Growing your own mushrooms at home is easy if you purchase a complete kit or just spawn and then inoculate your own substrate. Things get a little more difficult if you are making your own mushroom cultures and spawn, which require a sterile environment involving a pressure cooker or autoclave. Any way you start them, the question of when to harvest the mushrooms will inevitably come to pass. Read on to learn how to harvest mushrooms at home.

When to Harvest Mushrooms

If you buy a complete mushroom kit, the instructions will give a time frame for picking your mushroom harvest. This is really an estimate since, depending upon conditions, the mushrooms may be ready to pick a couple days earlier or later than the instructed date. Also, size is not an indicator of when to pick. Bigger isn’t always better. The general rule of thumb is to begin picking your mushroom harvest when the caps turn from convex to concave – turning down to turning up. Oyster mushroom harvesting should occur three to five days after you see the first mushrooms begin to form. You are looking for the cap of the largest mushroom in the group to go from turning down at the edges to turning up or flattening out at the edges. Shitake mushrooms are grown on logs and that is how they're sold as kits. You can establish a shitake garden by cutting your own logs during the mushroom’s dormant season and then inoculating them yourself. The latter option requires patience since mushroom harvesting won’t take place for 6 to 12 months! If you purchase pre-inoculated logs or sawdust blocks for your home, they should fruit right away. A couple of days after you see the first signs of growth, they will begin to cap. Three days later or so, you will have the first good-sized shitakes ready to harvest. Picking your shitake mushroom harvest will take place over time and, with proper care, shitake logs can produce for four to six years, maybe even longer.

How to Harvest Mushrooms at Home

There is no great mystery to harvesting your mushrooms, although there is some debate amongst amateur mycologists who hunt for outdoor species. The debate revolves around whether to cut the fruit or twist and pull the mushroom from the mycelium. Realistically, it makes no difference. The only pertinent point for wild mushroom foragers is to pick mushrooms that are mature to a point that they have distributed most of their spores so the species will continue to prosper. Home growers can harvest in either manner, either plucking the fruit by hand or cutting it. In the case of the home mushroom kit, however, there is no need to allow the mushrooms to drop spores, so if you see a white “dust” dropping onto the surface below the colony, harvest them. The white “dust” is spores and that means the fruit is mature.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.