Mushroom Preservation

"Breeding" Mushrooms

Nooooo. You don't BREED mushrooms. They are mushrooms. And as every girl who has ever gone out on a date with the sullen guy knows, MUSHROOMS don't get romantic.

So there is a point I'm going to make.

  • Mushrooms are NOT like plants.
  • They do not have gender. EVER.
  • They do not "cross breed". Not really.
  • They are not "pollinated", and you cannot blend mushroom genetics like plants.
  • They are not like people. They do not have pairs of genes.

They DO hybridize. But it is different, and it isn't quite like breeding, not even like plants.

Mushrooms grow from a mycellial mass, just fungal roots that spread through whatever they are growing on or in. That mass produces fruit, in the form of the mushroom. A mushroom may have different genetic elements to cause the various shapes, colors, and other features particular to that mushroom, but it is still all that same single mushroom.

The fruit is DIFFERENT than the mycellial roots that constitute the base of the organism, yet it retains the mycellial genetics also.

Mushrooms can be DIVIDED, and each part will be capable of propagation.

You can divide the mycellium of any part.

You can cut the "roots" and put this part there, and this part here, and both will grow. It doesn't cry when you do this, it just reforms and continues to grow.

If you pick a mushroom (the fruit of the mycellial mass), that mushroom can be divided into pieces, and each piece is capable of creating an entirely new organism. You can bury part, and it can grow into a new mycellial mass if conditions are right. Even those decorated cap parts will revert genetically if buried in the ground, and turn into more "roots".

This is because mushrooms do not form a complex organism like a person.

Mushrooms CLONE, from any cell.

If you take part of one, it will create an identical organism, genetically.

Of course, that isn't always stable, because environmental factors can MUTATE the genetics, and create a new organism form. But cloning is absolutely a reality with mushrooms, and it is how things are done with them, both in nature, and in industrial cultivation.

But as I said, they CAN HYBRIDIZE, as long as they are compatible.

Many Genera are EASY hybridizers. You put two together, and they will BLEND the genetics. They won't just intermingle, they will cross the genetics and create a new form.

Hybridizing is a varied process.

Some mushrooms are more genetically dominant than others. So you put a LITTLE BIT of this one with a LOT of that one, and eventually the smaller mass just OVERCOMES the larger, and usually the genetics are blended some in the process, IF they are compatible.

If they are NOT compatible, they just intermingle and wrangle it out, side by side.

For other mushrooms, a similar mass is needed from each species, to induce hybridization, if they are similarly dominant.

With still others, they are highly compatible, and any mixing of the mycellium will result in a mingling of genetics, and it can happen very rapidly, because they are so similar genetically to begin with.

This is one way that mushroom species are influenced by intentional, or even unintentional cultivation. There are many variables that can make the process somewhat unpredictable, even when you understand what many of the variables are.

Some species do NOT hybridize easily. They just don't intermingle their genetics, even when they are in the same genus.

Some are easily MUTATED, and various environmental influences may cause them to create many forms, and this can create a new species, or even an entirely new Genus. This is in response to genetic DAMAGE, and survival dictates that the organism become something new in the face of harm.

Other types of mushrooms are ADAPTERS. It is a form of Mutation, but it is a gradual one, done for survival, and not due to damage. If they are placed in a new environment which is not optimal, they may adapt, by slow genetic change, to produce better and better in that environment. In time, they may be very different from the original mushroom that was transplanted.

Every single cell in a mushroom is capable of cloning, and the process of changing the nature of a species or of creating a new genera is one of finding a means of stimulating the change.

We SEE this in nature if we forage much. We also see this on the farm if we grow mushrooms.

This part is fascinating for the MycoGeek, and it gives us much to think about in interpreting what we see, and in planning what we want to try to produce.

Banish Green Mold (Low Moisture Cultivation)

Mycellium contamination, especially with sterile growing methods, is a nasty thing. It happens because there's really no such thing as "sterile" growing (after all, a growing thing is LIVING, and cannot be STERILE or it would be DEAD). When you sterilize a substrate, you leave it WIDE OPEN to opportunistic contaminations, many of which are ALREADY IN your culture! But they'd be in the AIR if they weren't, and you just can't keep it completely free from SOMETHING getting at it.

But this ISN'T about the sterile versus non-sterile argument, it is about something else. Because BOTH KINDS of methods attract nasty contaminations.

What we want, is to get the culture from spores, or mycellial plugs, through to a completed spawn run and to fruiting.

The issue we have isolated that encourages MOLD growth at the expense of mycellial growth, is TOO MUCH WATER.

When you sow into a WET substrate, Mold LOVES IT. Mycellium TOLERATES it, but does not LOVE it.

We live with this myth that mushrooms love wet conditions and they do not. They FRUIT under wet conditions, and they require WATER to PIN and to FRUIT.

But a Spawn Run takes VERY LITTLE water.

Look into the woods and meadows. The places that mushrooms grow often have heavy water only a few times a year. In observing various climates, we notice that rain forests have mushroom SEASONS the same as dry climates, and the mushrooms grown in well drained areas.

Shiitake will run on stacked logs that are fairly dry, and requires water in preparation for fruiting.

This is the experiment to try, and this is a cultivation method that works well, but it DOES NOT WORK with Spore Syringes.

Take a piece of mushroom, and cut it up into small pieces. NO SLURRY HERE! Just small mushroom bits. Dices, or shreds, or something.

If you have DRIED mushroom, or dried gills, then the process is different, you need an extra step HERE.

Get a container (you have to be able to close it to protect the humidity and the mushroom from pests).

Put a SMALLER container (like a 1/2 cup jar, or a condiment cup, or something about that size) INTO the larger container.

Fill the SMALL container half full of water. NO WATER in the large container.

Put your DRIED mushroom into the LARGE container, and put it somewhere warm, but not hot, and NOT in the sunlight. Make sure you COVER the large container.

It takes a few days for the dried mushroom to rehydrate in the humidity. IF you leave it too long, it will grow new mycellium which will consume the old piece of mushroom, and eventually it will die from lack of food.

This is just a way to get a REHYDRATED spore surface with a normal amount of moisture for the mushroom piece.

Once you have your bits of mushroom, get a 1 qt Ziplock Bag.

Put 1 cup of flour or cracked grain into the bag - fine sawdust will also do for wood digesters.

Put in the mushroom bits and shake it all around. Do the Hokey Pokey while you shake it upsidedown. Ok, not really. But shake it... Shake it good.

Leave it somewhere warm, or somewhere cooler, depending on the temp that the mycellium likes.

Near a heater vent for tropicals, or in a sunny window with a towel over it.

On top of the refrigerator for tropicals or heat lovers.

At room temp for a LOT of really good mushrooms. Just anywhere that won't heat up a lot, or cool down a lot.

In a basement for cooler temperate mushrooms.

In the fridge for cold loving mushrooms.

Every few days, go and shake it and examine it.

The first signs of mycellial growth will usually be a semi-solid clumping of the flour.

Once it grows a bit more (1-2 weeks) you'll see mycellial structure forming. You'll see it better with a magnifying glass, but you should be able to see this without magnification.

Eventually it kind of solids up a bit, and you should NOT let it become a solid mass. When it gets more difficult to break it up, it is ready to go. You don't break it up to KEEP it in pieces, you just break it up to MEASURE how much of it is mycellium.

Mix this into your final substrate - DO NOT wet down your substrate! Do NOT put it into wet substrate!

Just mix it into dry sawdust, dry compost, dry soil, or sow it into your lawn, lift some turf and tuck it under, bury some of it beneath a tree in the soil or under the duff.

Don't add water for about a week, IF AT ALL, and then DO NOT soak it in. Just give it a light spraying with a spray bottle if you are growing indoors, or a normal light spring shower if it is outdoors.

We learn from people who have tried this that the MOMENT you add water to a NEWLY cultured medium, it goes all to mold.

Mycellium draws moisture from the air, and USES reserve moisture in wood and compost that is not regarded by YOU as being significant.

We have a method for Spore Syringes, but it is difficult to be precise, there are so many variations.

You need at least a quart of dry media in a GALLON Zip Bag. NOTICE! We generally use COARSER media for this, it does not go all to glue like flour will. So use cracked grain, semi-fine sawdust, or other semi-fine particulate.

Use the syringe to sprinkle 1 ml of the contents of the syringe over the substrate.

Shake the bag until the wet spots are not detectible.

Leave overnight in an appropriate place. (Once you get a LITTLE humidity into the substrate, it will handle additions more easily, so the first pause is longer.)

In the morning, add another ml to the bag, and shake it again.

Repeat, morning and night, until the entire syringe is incorporated, or until you feel you have added enough. It can be done with relatively little, but this is just creating mycellium that you then expand into MORE dry substrate.

Watch for mycellial growth, it will do the same as the chopped mushroom, and start to clump the substrate. Break it to judge how far it has run in the media.

Proceed from that point the same as the method for mushroom pieces.

Edible Mushrooms

There are literally thousands of mushroom varieties worldwide. Of those, perhaps 2% are known to be safely edible, and perhaps 2% are known to be outright deadly. Another 3% (approximate) are considered dangerously poisonous, and about another 3% are safe for most people if prepared correctly but harmful if eaten carelessly. Somewhere in between, lie the other 90%. Unidentified, untested, many unnamed and unstudied, most not particularly tasty, nor interesting or plentiful enough to try.

The 2% on each end of the extremes are the ones we seem to see most often. The poisonous ones have been identified precisely because they are fairly common, or because they look very much like an edible variety. The edible ones have likewise been identified precisely because they are common enough to have been tried many times, and cataloged and studied, and usually because they are large enough to bother with.

Most “poisonous” mushrooms aren't deadly. They'll just make you sick. Perhaps a little queasy, or maybe really yucky, possibly curled up in fetal position moaning in agony but not outright deadly.

Most edible mushrooms should be cooked before eating. Some are considered safe when raw, but the majority are used after cooking.

Many edible mushrooms can cause reactions in sensitive people. A few are known for causing allergic reactions. Reactions can vary, so if you experience a reaction after consuming mushrooms, wait at least a week to let it clear out of your system before you try it again. If the reaction was severe, or potentially severe if it worsens (such as hives that go into your face or mouth, which may be a precursor to anaphylactic shock), then it is wise to avoid that particular mushroom in the future.

There are perhaps 50 fairly common edible mushroom varieties that will pop up in search results over and over, and on which you can find a reasonable amount of individual information. About another 50 will show up scattered here and there in the listings, but with insufficient data to even make an accurate identification.

Most poisonous “look alikes” really aren't look-alikes. There are distinctive differences which clearly show which is which – but you have to match all features, and know the mushrooms individually.

There is no single set rule that will tell you that this group is edible and that group is not.

Even within a species, the individual varieties differ – one may be edible, others may not. So you have to learn the identification markers for each mushroom – about 5-6 elements for each one. That takes time to learn, so if you are a budding mushroom hunter, you'll want to stick to a single variety until you learn it very well, then learn to identify another.

Mushrooms have never been a neutral thing in my life. People around me seem to either love them, or hate them. And then there are the true fanatics, who love every mushroom, and who seek out new varieties to try, as though mushrooms are the holy grail of food. Ok, so they feel about mushrooms like I feel about chocolate. I get that!

I was a mushroom hater. I have learned to tolerate them, as I have begun to eat more and more types of mushrooms. Growing them will do that to you. Honestly I had no idea there were so many popular mushroom types – nor so many that could be harvested by mushroom hunters in the wild.

You might ask what converted me? Strictly the health benefits. I had Crohn's Disease. I adjusted my diet, took several herbs to heal my bowels, eliminated processed foods and chemical additives, and made great progress. But I was only able to heal partially, due to some other health issues which had crept in while I had Crohn's. Stopping the Crohn's turned out to be easier than healing all the damage.

Turns out, mushrooms provide a range of benefits that just happened to be ones that I needed. Some of the suggested benefits center around minimizing damage from chemicals in our diet, and healing auto-immune disease (Crohn's is an auto-immune disease, and is invariably accompanied by a range of other auto-immune illnesses). Mushrooms seemed like a wise idea.

In all my life, the only mushrooms I had ever tried were those sad white button mushrooms that pass for food. I have no great opinion of them even now. Other mushrooms proved to be more palatable, and less reminiscent of slimy little bits of slug.

The more I studied, the more I learned about the various mushrooms, their individual healing strengths, and their useful nutritional value. I also learned about mushroom markets, salable products, and the types that sold well. I discovered rare and valuable mushrooms, and common commodity mushrooms. Since we were seeking a means of profiting from our farm, mushrooms looked like a good option there too, if we could devise a way to bypass the complexities that everyone else thought were a necessary part of producing sustainable mushroom crops.

I now encourage people with health problems to eat mushrooms. Not for any miracle cure, but simply because they are good food that helps individuals maintain or achieve better health. I am still rather ambivalent about most mushroom varieties when they are served on a plate in large enough pieces to identify the variety, but I've made a truce with them, and no longer detest them. I sort of envy those who love mushrooms.

Other Friendly Fungi

The world is full of fungus, and somehow it has become a dirty word. “Mold” we think, is a Bad Thing, to eradicate and exterminate at all costs.

That attitude is in fact both futile, and harmful. Not only is it impossible to eradicate, but the effort to do so is actually counterproductive! Mold and fungus spores disperse and persist in the air. So you can never quite obliterate them – they'll just rematerialize and grow on whatever surface you just sterilized, even in a "clean room".

Sterilization of many things is in fact counterproductive, because when you sterilize something, you leave it wide open for opportunistic contamination. This does not refer to surgical situations, but rather to daily life, cultivation, and even food preparation. Even in surgery, the doctor only sterilizes what is OUTSIDE the body, not what is INSIDE it.

There are healthy bacteria and fungus around us, and unhealthy ones. In general, the healthy ones do a pretty good job of keeping the unhealthy ones in check – and bacteria and fungus have limiting affects on each other. So if you kill one, the other gets out of control – hence, when we take an antibiotic, we often end up with a fungal infection as a result of having killed off the friendly bacteria in our bodies.

So if you sterilize something, whatever you sterilized is now open territory. Whatever colonizes first will grow unrestrained, often very fast, and very aggressive. A microbe which was not a threat at all, will suddenly become very damaging.

This is why pasteurized milk is more prone to harmful contamination than raw milk. This is why sterilized potting soil always seems to grow mold faster than dirt from the garden. This is also one reason why farm fresh eggs, produced in the typical dirt, hay, mud, grub and skelter of the typical small farm, are less likely to carry salmonella than eggs produced in a controlled factory farm setting (extended time between gathering and consumption gives it plenty of time to grow). It is also why we now have more aggressive forms of food poisoning than we used to. A natural balance of microbes enhances the health of everyone involved, and reduces the chances that a single opportunistic microbe will run wild and multiply to the point of making anyone (or anything) sick.

Unfortunately, we've been taught in the last 5 decades to view all fungus as harmful. To think the word itself is somehow repulsive, and something to avoid. Never mind that some of the most healthy foods in the world are healthy specifically because they contain a large body of both bacteria and fungus. Never mind that bread is made using fungus as a leavening agent (yeast), or that mushrooms, one of the world's most prized foods, are really just fungus.

Real kefir, kombucha, yogurt, raw milk, fresh eggs, fresh sour kraut, naturally brined pickles, etc, all contain a variety of yeasts, molds, and bacteria (YES, they do TOO contain molds). They are not harmful because they are kept in healthy balance by the variety and abundance of them. Those microbes colonize in our intestines, where they help with food digestion, they help to stimulate the immune system, they help to reduce the chances of foodborne illness (by providing a frontline defense to help control and reduce the growth of foodborne pathogens), and they help to heal and mend damaged tissues.

Fungus is mostly good stuff! There are actually very few harmful fungi, in comparison to the number of helpful molds, yeasts, and mushrooms. No need to feel that you need to run for the bleach every time you hear the word “fungus”. It is one of the benefits we receive from nature every day – and one we should appreciate and encourage in healthy ways.


This Organization and Website are dedicated to the Preservation, Cultivation, and Wise Use of Culinary and Medicinal Mushrooms. We do NOT assist with cultivation or preservation of recreational mushrooms.

Mushrooms may cause allergic reactions in sensitive people. Some mushrooms are more likely to do this than others. Please research possible reactions prior to use. We are not responsible for how you choose to use our information, and do not claim that mushrooms are completely safe to consume.


We do not make any claims as to the efficacy of any mushroom product to treat or prevent any disease or condition. We are not medical professionals and will not provide advice on alternative medicine use for any mushroom. Please consult a doctor or alternative practitioner prior to using any mushroom product for treatment of any disease or illness.


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