The Good and Bad of Mushroom Grow Kits

People who like to eat mushrooms often think about buying a mushroom grow kit at one point or another. There are both good points and bad points about this idea.

Perhaps the biggest drawback and good point of growing mushrooms have to do with the kind of mushroom. Some kinds of mushrooms are relatively easy to grow. Others are so difficult to grow that is isn’t worth the money or effort to grow them. Before giving examples of the extremes, let’s first take a brief look at how mushrooms grow.

Mushrooms start out life as a spore. These are the very rough equivalent of seeds. They aren’t seeds, but it is helpful to think of them that way, just to get an idea of the lifecycle. The spores are tiny. If they were spread on a sheet of paper, they look like dust. If the conditions are right these begin to grow. The conditions that have to be right include the amount of moisture, the temperature, the amount of sunlight, and the growing medium or what they grow in.

As the spore starts to grow, it produces mycelium, which is rather like the roots of plants, but again, they aren’t really roots. Looking at them, they usually look like very fine white hairs or threads. Some are so small that they can’t even be seen by the naked eye. These continue to grow, intertwining until they reach maturity. At this point, they produce the fruiting body we know as mushrooms.

Now, examples of the extremes:

Shaggy mane mushrooms

Shaggy manes are also known as ink cap or inky cap mushrooms. The mushroom shown here is a shaggy mane, ready for picking and eating When the mushroom is ripe, the cap has a cone-like shape and it looks a little scaly. Very quickly, usually within a few hours, the caps disintegrate into a disagreeable inky puddle that looks rather disgusting. This is where “ink cap” comes from because it looks rather like a puddle of black ink.

When they are ripe but before they start dissolving, shaggy manes are excellent tasting mushrooms. They normally grow in clusters, too, so even though they are somewhat delicate, it isn’t very hard to get enough of them to eat. They are also the easiest mushroom to grow. I normally don’t make absolute statements and I just made one, but I stand by it.

Shaggy manes will grow in leaf litter, sawdust, rotted manure, rich soil, or a combination and the spores have a wide range of temperature, moisture, and light requirements for the mycelia to begin growing. What’s more, from spore to edible mushroom often takes only about two weeks.

Morel mushrooms

Morels are among the most difficult mushrooms to grow. Kits are often sold for between $25 and $35, but this is usually a waste of money. Morels have an exacting range of temperature, moisture, and light requirements before the mycelia grow. There is also an intermediary step before a fruiting body is produced and if any of the growing conditions aren’t right, during the entire time the mycelium is growing, the morels won’t grow. In fact, this is why they aren’t grown commercially.

Because of the exacting growing conditions and complex lifecycle, morels also require three or more years before they produce morels. Even with a kit, the chances of success are small and the wait for edible morels is long. This is why I say that buying a kit is a waste of money. Incidentally, this is also why an area can have a huge number of wild morels one year and almost none the next, yet a lot again the following year.

  • Have you ever thought about buying a mushroom growing kit?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I’ve actually bought and tried growing mushrooms from a kit


What do you think?

16 points

Written by Rex Trulove

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