Growing Pink Oyster Mushrooms

Since this winter I’ve been experimenting with growing edible mushrooms both indoors and outdoors. Recently, I joined forces with a few other interested folks to attempt a technique called PF Tek that we learned about in a class taught by Peter McCoy. We grew oyster mushrooms, the Angelyne of fungi.

Growing oyster mushrooms is a four step process:

  1. Harvest spores or clone tissue and grow out in a petri dish. This must be done in a sterile environment, usually with a laminar flow hood. I have not tried this yet and it’s the most difficult part of growing mushrooms. Thankfully you can skip this step by purchasing liquid culture online.
  2. Take your liquid culture and inoculate grain, in mason jars, sterilized in a pressure canner. Someone in our little growing group purchased the liquid culture for around $10 for a syringe that was more than enough to inoculate 14 pint jars .
  3. When the grain in the jars is fully colonized, you use it to inoculate bags of straw that have been pasteurized in hot water. I think we ended up with something like 16 small bags of straw divided between our group.
  4. Keep the bags inoculated in step 3 in a humid environment with some indirect light and wait for them to fruit.

This all sounds a lot harder than it actually was. Oyster mushrooms have a reputation for easily out-competing molds that can tank other mushrooms. The culture we used in step 2 aggressively colonized the grain (we used sorghum bird seed called milo) as well as the straw. If anything the problem I had is that it went faster than I expected. Once the jars are colonized you have to move the grain to straw. Nature has a tendency not to care about human schedules.

Hot Pink Results
Some observations from this last experiment. We chose pink oyster mushrooms because they tolerate heat and will grow well at this time of year here in sunny and hot Southern California. I can report that, despite what some have told me, pink oyster mushrooms are delicious and do, in fact, have a vague ham or bacon flavor. While they lose their vibrant pink color when you heat them, they are still a colorful yellow hue after cooking.

So far I’ve grown pearl, blue and pink oyster mushrooms. My favorite for flavor and texture was the pearl oyster but the other two are a very close second. I’m going to grow pink oyster mushrooms again soon and like that you can grow them here in the summer.

I need to improve step 4. The difficulty with getting mushrooms to fruit is that they benefit from humidity and oxygen–you can’t just put them in a bag with no ventilation. While I’ve grown mushrooms outside without any kind of humidity control, I think I’d get bigger mushrooms with some kind of fruiting chamber. A lot of people make what’s called a Martha, named after a Martha Stewart mini greenhouse. I’m of two minds about this kind of thing. I’d like slightly better results but also like to avoid gadgets and plastic. But with three successful growing experiments, I’m leaning towards the Martha.

I might try growing pink oyster mushrooms on the oak sawdust I generate in my woodshop. I grew blue oyster on sawdust and I found it easier to work with than the straw. Straw has to be shredded and I found it hard to pre-moisten and pasteurize. With the sawdust I just poured boiling water over it in a tote and let it cool overnight. But I’ve also heard some say that oyster mushrooms grow better on straw. I guess I need to do a side by side experiment and find out.

While it was handy to have an outdoor area to shred the straw, one of the things I like about growing mushrooms is that you can do it in an apartment. I’ll also add that it was fun to do it with a group of friends. We got together to do the pressure canner step together and I was able to use my backyard to shred straw for the folks who didn’t have outdoor space.

Weekend Linkages for Your Memorial Day

Crypto posters on telephone poles–signs of a bubble?

How to Watch the (Potential) Tau Herculids Meteor Shower Tonight

Gardeners use plant dyes to combat toxic chemicals used by fashion industry

End of an era as New York removes last public payphone

Eelgrass is an ancestral food in Sonora’s Comcaac community. Now it’s gaining global attention

Much warmer and drier second half of May, and some thoughts about summer to come

The Great Water Conservation Grift

Governor Gavin Newsom shoveling something with Stewart and Lynda Resnick. Source: CalTech.

For many years we’ve been in a drought here in California as a result of climate change. In response our elected officials, through the mainstream media, push out a message of water rationing in cities. Here in Los Angeles we’ve all been asked to restrict watering to two days a week.

There’s no doubt that we’d all benefit from ditching lawns in favor of native and low-water landscapes. However, I believe these calls for household water conservation are a kind of misdirection from what’s really going on. In short, we as individuals are being blamed for a water shortage that would be better attributed to a class of Central Valley agricultural oligarchs whose profligate water use dwarfs what we use for our urban landscapes.

Journalist Yasha Levine did a superb story on the unholy relationship between governor Gavin Newsom and billionaire pistachio/pomegrante/Fiji Water oligarchs Stewart and Lynda Resnick that deserves more attention. Levine details a hustle typical for our billionaire class. The Resnicks launder their destructive, extractive capitalism through “philanthropic” schemes, in their case things like art museums and a “sustainability center” at the California Institute of Technology. Of course, they are also generous donors to politicians such as Newsom. Here’s now Levine describes Newsom’s trip to the opening of that sustainability center,

“Philanthropists” is an interesting way for the Governor of California to describe one of the most powerful forces in farming in the state — a billionaire family that owns something like 300 square miles of Oligarch Valley land, has its own toxic corporate farm worker town, and, from their ridiculous mansion in Beverly Hills, has been on a destructive quest to eviscerate the state’s river system and plunder its aquifers, helping fuel a mass extinction in the San Francisco Bay Delta…all so they can grow and export pistachios, a fringe snack food that people around here barely eat.

But then calling these rapacious oligarchs “philanthropists” is exactly the point. Governor Gavin was going out to Pasadena to do some public relations work: to lend his name and image and the respectably of his public office to Stewart and Lynda Resnick’s ongoing effort to rebrand themselves as do-gooders and environmentalists, rather than the industrial-scale destroyers of the environment that they are.

Levine also notes the irony of a family that exports water from Fiji and even had a journalist deported for digging around into their sleazy business practices in that country.

In addition to the misdirection issue, hastily conceived water conservation policies have gone poorly when it comes to our urban landscapes. Take, for instance, LA’s horrible lawn replacement rebate program that ended up in the hands of fly by night operators who exploited their workers and left us with acres of gravel and plastic lawns. Or, since most homeowners don’t have any understanding of climate or horticulture, we just get dead lawns or, at best, decomposed granite and a few sad cacti. Coastal California is not a desert yet, and our landscapes can be both lush and not use a lot of water. Plus we might want to use water for things like parks, schools and athletic fields especially when that use is small compared to what the Resnicks extract to make their billions.

My big fear is that, while technically the water restrictions don’t apply to trees, in practice people withhold water from trees and we end up with a further destruction of our already stressed urban tree canopy. Our cities get hotter and the Resnicks get richer.