Honey mushrooms are not the sweetest ‘schrooms on the block, despite their dulcet-sounding moniker. The name is derived from its’ golden color, but look beneath the surface and you’ll find a predator fungus that never met living or dead plant matter it wasn’t ready to gobble up. Known also by the Latin name Armillaria, the fruiting part of the honey mushroom is popular, probably because the flesh has a nutty flavor and the ‘schrooms don’t fall apart when cooked. It takes time and effort to grow them, so be aware of that before you begin your growing adventure.
1. Order honey mushroom starter materials from a reputable supplier (nurseries, plant suppliers, websites, organic veggie sources) known for selling healthy, ready-to-inoculate, pure mushroom spawn and cultures. Choose individual components (blocks of substrate or sawdust-growing medium made with grains) if you’re already an accomplished mushroomer or ready-to-grow mushroom patches and kits if you’re new at it and need the step-by-step use instructions placed in or on the packages.
2. Prepare the mushroom grow materials. If you’re working with a pre-mixed patch or kit, soak the material in a bowl of water overnight before transferring it to plates or trays to start the cultivation process. Alternately, try making your own starter mix by pasteurizing straw in water (cook it an hour in sterile water and then cool on a sterilized tray), drain and then seal the wet straw in plastic storage bags until you’re ready to use it.
3. Select the right outdoor location for your honey mushroom farm. Honey mushrooms grow best at the base of trees so they can extend their rhizomorphs toward trunks, branches and roots that help feed the fungus while it matures. Inject the spores or cultures into the soil once you’ve picked a location and then cover with sterile straw. Water frequently. Choose this environment only if you’re sure outdoor temperatures will remain mild.
4. Grow your honey mushrooms indoors if you have no available real estate to do the job. Pick an area of your home that offers good air circulation and a constant temperature of around 65 degrees F. Save your back by constructing a growing platform: nail 2 x 4 pieces of lumber or prefabricated table legs to sheets of plywood so you’re able to tend the farm without bending over. Cover the surface with plastic. Use trays with 1-inch lips to grow the mushrooms while containing the straw growing medium.
5. Baby your plantation. Regardless of the place or preparation methods used to start your honey mushrooms, gently water your outdoor mushrooms daily to keep things moist or mist your indoor farm four to five times a day to maintain the level of moisture needed to grow them indoors. Once you see the ‘schrooms start to fruit, you’re a week away from harvesting.
6. Wash and store your honey mushrooms when they’re ready to be harvested, but if you want the tastiest fruits of your labor, add them to dishes as soon as you pick and wash them. Store leftover mushrooms in sealed containers in the refrigerator. Environmentalists recommend tossing the straw medium in which you grew your honey mushrooms into a compost heap if you don’t plan to use it again as the straw mix absorbs lots of nutrients as the mushrooms grow and make a great addition to any compost heap.