A Lazy Forager

I enjoy getting out into field and forest to hike, and see if I can harvest some of nature’s bounty while I’m there, but I’m inherently lazy about it. I often find that I’m out of touch with the minutiae of nature’s seasons (more on that in a later post) and I miss the proverbial boat. Morels are culinary diamonds, and as an adult I can count on one hand the number I’ve foraged myself, though we brought them home by the bucketful with my great grandmother when I was a child. Fortunately, I know a guy, so I still get a meal or two’s worth every spring despite my laziness and lack of hunting grounds that no one else knows about. But I digress. And so it goes with everything else I’d like to hunt in the wild. The one thing I get the most sad over missing is, of course, mushrooms. I’m a sufficient gardener – I can grow, with adequate success, most types of vegetables and fruits, though for some reason blueberries and I are not great friends. I’ve killed every bush I’ve ever planted. So other than blueberries, if I can grow other edibles well enough, why not mushrooms?

Mushroom Cultivation: An Illustrated Guide to Growing Your Own Mushrooms at Home convinced me that growing mushrooms in my home garden is not a crazy proposition, nor is it a difficult one. There are several easy methods by which mushrooms can be grown at home – on logs, in straw bales, on sawdust/wood chips, or on compost, and Tavis Lynch illustrates each of them deftly, with instructions for setting up and maintaining the mushroom beds in easily understandable language. The text is accompanied by beautiful full-color photographs, which make getting started in mushroom growing nearly foolproof. Six mushrooms that are suited to producing agriculturally is covered – shiitake, oyster, wine caps, hericium, blewits and agaricus are covered in the book. Agaricus are the most familiar – they include white button, cremini (also known as baby “bellas”) and portabello (which are just mature cremini).

Agaricus are the favorite in our house, so I was excited to learn that they are particularly well suited to growing in compost, though Lynch does acknowledge that of all the mushroom varieties profiled in the book, these are the most finicky to grow. As such, they do best when pampered a bit – setting up a compost bed in a small greenhouse or cold frame gives them the extra boost they need to produce well, especially in colder climates. Additionally, situating the bed in a sunny location is a good idea, as they need a warm environment in which to fruit. But with a little care and a full summer of warmth after a spring inoculation, agaricus can do quite well in the home garden.

There are also full chapters on troubleshooting issues, preserving mushrooms when you have a larger harvest than can be eaten fresh, and even recipes. The Risotto with Wild Mushrooms sounds especially delicious. So all in all, I’m quite excited to put the wheels in motion to grow mushrooms in my own garden. I may be a lazy forager, but the garden is my salvation.

* The fine print – I did receive all this book gratis from the publisher, but I only review content that I find thought provoking and worth sharing. The link above is also an affiliate link – if you’re interested in purchasing your own copy, I appreciate you using my link so that I earn a small commission without any additional cost to you.