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Blue Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus var. columbinus): the First Harvest

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If you’re in the market for immediate gratification, consider an oyster mushroom kit.  I’m harvesting mushrooms twelve days after I started growing them.

Oyster mushrooms (there are several varieties and subspecies) are some of the most nutritious around. According to R.H. Kurtzman, PhD., they are rich sources of high-quality proteins and amino acids, B vitamins, and pro-vitamin D (the vitamin a lot of people are missing these days, as indoor jobs means little sun exposture).  Minerals such as iron and potassium are also present. And oyster mushrooms are high in chitin; he recommends them as a cleaner source for chitin than shellfish.

Medical studies show  benefits of oyster mushrooms. They’re  a good source of glucosamine, which often helps people and animals with joint problems. (Glucosamine works very well for some, but not others ) Several studies are now showing that oyster mushrooms lower cholesterol.

Besides these benefits, blue oyster mushrooms were my choice because they can grow at temperatures cooler than other oyster mushrooms: from 45F (a little over 7 degrees C)  to 65 degrees F (about 18 degrees C), and aren’t hurt by freezing. In my uncentrally-heated house, with a trip coming up, this sounded good to me. The mushrooms fruit at 65 degrees, which sounded about right for a cool place in my house this time of year. The final appealing aspect of this type of mushroom is that they looked like some of the easiest, quickest mushrooms to grow.

I reported earlier that I’d done some studying of Paul Stamets’s Fungi Perfecti catalogue, and ordered some mushroom plugs and a kit. A kit’s the easiest possible way to grow mushrooms, as the grower has done all the work in getting the mycelium in their right growing medium and ready to go. You just activate it by keeping it moist in dim light.

It was only a couple of days before I started to see the primordia poking through the microscopic holes in the growing bag (some professional mushroom growers use floor-to-ceiling-long versions of these bags, making little forests of them in their growing rooms).

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In a day or two, the forming clusters looked like this, close up:

 primordia-closeup.jpg

As they got bigger, my blue oyster mushrooms weren’t particularly blue; maybe this is because I let them dry out too much (apparently that can turn mushrooms brown), or get too much light (mushroom colors are darker in dim light, paler in sun).

Keeping the mushrooms moist enough has been hard; I’m starting to understand why there are special mushroom growing rooms. Mushroom kits need to be in a place prominent enough that I will notice and water them every day – but if that place is too light, I run into problems. If  it’s dark, it’s a lot easier for me to forget. While my wood stove leaves some nice cool spaces in my house where I can put plants that don’t like heat, it also dries out the air, as all heating systems do. If you had a house with a basement, that might be ideal: I could keep my mushrooms outside, where they’d get all the natural humidity, but I’m not sure whether they’d fruit, since the temperature needs to be at 65 F for that.

We had a good rain, so I did put the mushrooms out for a day or two to catch rain water, on the theory they’d like it as much as plants do. I’m not experienced enough to know if this slowed down the fruiting, or helped it, but it did mean they were as moist as they like to be for a couple of days.

Some mushrooms, like morels, are temperamental; you could wait two years to harvest those. But I got my first blue oyster mushrooms eight days after I started spraying it with water and cloaking it in its humidity tent. In fact, I might should have harvested them a little earlier; the information-packed pamphlet that comes with the kit shows a picture of ripe mushrooms as being still a little convex (I always have to remember: concave is caved in; convex is the one that bulges out, like those old bull’s eye mirrors, or a bulldog’s eyes).

Some of my mushrooms had definitely lifted their caps up and started to make cups, like this:

overripe.jpg

That’s when the mushrooms have apparently gone past their prime. Still, they didn’t look so bad, so I harvested them, too, with my little pointy flower shears; I got about a double handful in all, leaving many small and tiny ones still growing and popping up. Commercial harvesters gather oyster mushrooms by the bunch, but I have the time to be a little more conservative; I hope to grow all my mushrooms to their full extent.

I think some of the reason I let my mushrooms go was that I had an inner picture of the caps opening out from the closed cups to a flat spread; I see now that I was basically transferring the image of an opening bud to the mushroom world. Note to self: mushrooms don’t act like chlorophyll-bearing plants. You knew this.

The Fungi Perfecti pamphlet recommends cooking oyster mushrooms a lot longer than I have in the past. They cook down quite a bit, to half their fresh volume, or maybe less.  That’s okay: now they have nearly 20% protein and .1% niacin, among other vitamins.  While the pamphlet sugggests sauteeing in olive oil for 10 to 15 minutes, then adding butter, tamari, chopped scallions and wine, I’m taking a simpler course for now.  For reasons I’m too polite to mention in a blog, I can’t eat olive oil, so I sauteed the mushrooms in walnut oil (my standby oil for cooking and baking: it always tastes great, and has those healthy omega-3s). The rest of the recipe sounds great, but I didn’t feel like rushing out to get the missing ingredients.

So, using what I had, I sauteed the chopped mushrooms with chopped onions in walnut oil, until the mushrooms were golden brown. A great sauce on white fish, and it made rice and beans taste like a gourmet treat.

31 comments

1 Racquel { 03.17.09 at 3:53 pm }

That’s a pretty quick harvest time. I love mushrooms so thanks for the info today about Blue Oysters.

2 Victoria { 03.17.09 at 4:19 pm }

I was about to say, wasn’t that the name of a rock band? Then I realised the rock band probably named themselves after the mushroom. Duhrr! (See http://www.blueoystercult.com for further info.)

3 tina { 03.17.09 at 6:10 pm }

I have been dying to grow my own mushrooms. I will have to look for these. Very good information, but can’t help to think I’ll forget to water too-I hope not.

4 Daffodil Planter { 03.17.09 at 10:10 pm }

I had no idea there was so much food value in those mushrooms. I’ll let you work out the humidity issues, and then follow in your fungal footsteps.

5 Pomona Belvedere { 03.19.09 at 4:22 pm }

Fungal footsteps and rock bands – mushrooms certainly call up some interesting images!

6 Jeramey Bouillon { 11.12.09 at 11:52 am }

props to you for posting this. I have been cultivating blue oysters for a couple months now. i went to a local mycological society mushroom show and purchased a kit that was a few days from picking/ cutting.. i forgot to water for 2 weeks and luckily they survived. now i collect rain water and put in a spray bottle. mushrooms were in wood shed. now in light proof box with drain hole on front porch. (mid fall washington state) if it’s raining at night, i leave box open.

7 Lunashe { 01.14.10 at 6:17 pm }

I just traded for 7 bags of mushroom spawn.I made a beautiful bed for them in my old compost pit.I added composting fig wood chips,rice husk,& rich composted soil with loads of earthworms.Now I’m thinking of covering it with black plastic to bring the temperature up and adding some hay when I get some money.Any body else got any suggestions?I can’t wait till they begin popping up!

8 Pomona Belvedere { 01.14.10 at 9:24 pm }

Hi Lunashe, you might check Paul Stamets’s site, http://fungiperfecti.com/. He has some good cultural info, and links. Also, if you can find his books on cultivating mushrooms, they are probably the most comprehensive around, at least in the English language.

I’d be curious to know: what kind of mushrooms are you growing?

9 Lisa { 09.12.10 at 4:38 pm }

Wow this is an awesome post with some really amazing pictures. If you are interested in trying out any other mushroom kits, take a look at the 100% sustainable ready-to-grow Gourmet Garden mushroom kits from Back to the Roots! They are a social venture based in the bay area, CA. All their kits are grown entirely off 100% recycled coffee grounds and are super simple to grow. Check it out at http://www.bttrventures.com!

10 funguy { 05.03.11 at 5:30 pm }

This site sells some great mushroom growing kits

11 Mike { 06.29.11 at 1:54 pm }

I whould very much like to grow Blue Oyster mushrooms, can I buy spore syringe from you, please I really want it?

Best Regards Mike

12 Shane Mulholland { 06.30.11 at 11:31 am }

We sell them here

13 Mike { 07.01.11 at 2:44 pm }

Hi, do someone on this forum have some spare Blue Oyster mushrooms mycilium, and is kind enough to part with some, if so I would be very gratefull.

14 somayeh { 07.24.11 at 12:46 am }

Hi , Mike
i have a smal factory for producing botton mushrooms. but i would like to improve my busines. so i want to harvest oyster mushroom in defferent colors. but unfortunately i cant fiind its seeds. can you help me to buy suitable seeds on line.
i am looking forward to hear satisfactory reply.
thank you.

15 Mike { 08.09.11 at 12:34 pm }

Hi, Somayeh
http://www.earthstongue.com have several different oyster mushroom spore syringes,
just search on “oyster” at the bottom of their site.
I hope this is satisfactory for you Somayeh.

If you want to help me, can you send me a sporeprint of a botton mushroom or some mycelium of it, and if you want a few botton mushrooms?

16 james polnac { 10.06.11 at 5:25 pm }

Dont these mushrooms make you high and trip out i was just wandering somebody told me they did

17 Samantha { 12.03.11 at 3:40 pm }

When harvesting, does it matter where you trim? If you cut with shears, does it affect the rest of the cluster? I also read that you pick, not cut. I am about to harvest and did not want to “kill” off the rest.

18 Samantha { 12.03.11 at 3:42 pm }

By the way, I have oyster mushrooms (through a kit). The mushrooms are beautiful right now. Thank you for the pictures (and the article)!

19 Bruce Shoemaker { 07.18.12 at 5:13 pm }

I heard mention of a “moisture tent” to maintain needed moisture and I thought maybe you should make a terrarium to house them.
Just an idea…. Bruce

20 lezlee liljenberg { 08.03.12 at 4:15 pm }

just started with growing the mushrooms and having so much fun! I thought the Lions Mane would be the first and easiest but the Blue Oryster has taken the lead. I will share a recipe later. Thanks for all of the great information.

21 Rick { 09.15.12 at 5:19 am }

Just started a culture given to me by a friend, placed on strips of pasteurized cardboard, mycelium is showing 3mm growth after just 12 hours–wow!!

–Rick

22 BuddingMycologist { 12.01.12 at 8:39 pm }

Coffee grounds, pasteurized make for wonderful substrate. Growing from spores can be very difficult. I am growing from spores and mycelium. Almost ready to harvest! Using coffee grounds as substrate and keeping it nice and moist. Mushrooms look fantastic.

Botany Student

23 Zack { 12.15.12 at 6:12 pm }

I would like to comment and suggest not to use shears on the mushrooms when harvesting. It would be best to twist at the base until it comes off. And also using a timed fluorescent light, 25-65w would work best and have them in the dim light for a max of 10 hours. Not too bright or they’ll rot. I use a air purifier and mister in the pvc tent I built indoors all on timers and works great!

24 Mushroom Recipes: How To Cook Mushrooms, How To Clean Mushrooms { 09.10.13 at 2:20 am }

[...] most common variety is yellow, but there are also blue oyster mushrooms that you can cultivate from a starter kit yourself. Regardless, oysters are wonderful grilled or [...]

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