I adore mushrooms, all types, shapes and sizes and love to go to my local farmers' market and pick my own. If you're of a like mind, have you ever thought about growing your own mushrooms? Growing your own mushrooms is very different from growing vegetables. Mushrooms are fungi and don't contain chlorophyll, which means they depend on other plant material called substrate to get their nutrients. Substrate, or mushroom food, might be hardwood logs, sterilized compost, straw or crushed wood chips. Along with a substrate, home growers need spawn. Spawn is sterilized fungi mycelia that is then introduced onto the substrate. If I'm confusing you, don't worry, there's a really simple method for growing your own mushrooms - a mushroom grow kit. Visiting the folks at Fungi Ally is a good starting point, as they have done all the work for you. Their grow kits are inexpensive, especially when you consider that a shiitake mushroom grow kit will produce 2 lbs. of fresh mushrooms over the course of two months. Have you looked at the price per pound for shiitake lately? That's a huge savings. Shiitakes aren't your favorite mushroom? No problem. There's a mushroom grow kit available for other types too, like oyster and lion's mane. The best thing about growing your own mushrooms using a kit is the fact that they can be grown anywhere and are especially great for those with little to no outdoor space for growing much of anything. Growing mushrooms this way takes little space. In fact, it can be done inside on a kitchen counter or shelf. You can also grow your mushrooms any time of the year. These nifty DIY kits are a great way to grow mushrooms indoors throughout the winter or even outside during the spring, summer and fall. Wondering how a kit like this works? A typical mushroom grow kit comes with complete step-by-step instructions that are so simple even the kids can follow them. And speaking of, this is a great project to do with your children. All you need to do is submerge the mushroom block in water for 5 hours to make sure it absorbs plenty of moisture. Then, place the wet block in an area that is well lit but not directly in the sun. Mist the block with water 1-2 times per day to keep it moist. Within four days, you will see tiny mushrooms beginning to form. Over the course of the next five days, the mushrooms will mature and be ready for picking. That's it! It can't get much easier than that. And if you thought that first batch of mushrooms was good, it gets even better, as you can reuse the Fungi Ally mushroom grow kit! Just allow the block to rest for 2-3 weeks and begin the process anew. You should get another few harvests out of the grow kit until it begins to crumble, at which time you can compost it or put it in your garden. It may even surprise you with a final harvest!

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.