Unlike plants that get their energy from the Sun for photosynthesis, fungi are heterotropic. This means they get their energy from, and are influenced by, a separate organism. In the case of fungi, this is typically decomposing dead or decaying organic material, like fallen leaves, organic-rich soil, and wet cellulose materials (e.g., wood).
Growing your own mushrooms at home is great fun, and you’ll find yourself becoming enthralled with the lifecycle of a mushroom. They are brilliant STEM learning tools, and an ideal way to grow your own food if you don’t have a garden.
Mushroom growing kits come in all shapes and sizes, and require very little in the way of additional tools, equipment, or skill. It’s surprisingly easy to grow your own mushrooms at home, and it’s fascinating to watch them grow – which they do relatively quickly.
There are a wide range of different types of mushrooms and substrates to choose from, so you can opt to grow your indoor mushrooms on a log, sprouting out of a (compostable) cardboard box or under a dome, but our favourites are the table-top foragers kit; grow, pick, eat. Yum.
What is a mushroom growing kit?
Mushroom growing kits are exactly what you might expect. Typically, they’re comprised of some kind of mushroom substrate and pre-planted mushroom mycelium (roots). Mushroom substrate allows the mycelium to grow and establish itself, providing the fungus with the energy, nutrients, and moisture needed to grow and fruit into the parts we want.
More like this
The kits themselves are often presented as a box, block, or bag, that you cut into (to create an opening where the mushrooms can grow) and water/soak. For a lot of the kits out there, this is all you’ll need to do, as the earlier parts of the process (sterilisation, inoculation, and incubation) will have been pre-prepared.
If you’re new to growing mushrooms, look for the ones that are ready to fruit (it should say on the box), and we’ve rounded up some of our favourites below.
5 of the best mushroom growing kits
Pink Oyster Mushroom Growing Kit
Pink oyster mushrooms are very similar to oyster mushrooms (below), but aside from the colour difference (although the pink colour will fade during cooking), they tend to lean towards a more chewy and ‘meaty’ taste. These mushrooms take a little longer to grow than the white oyster mushrooms, but you can expect to be munching on your own crop after about three to four weeks.
But what we really like about this product, is that the company, Urban Farm-It, will send you out a new kit if you don’t see any growth within six to eight weeks. Because let’s face it, we’ve all had a few duds in our veggie patches.
White Elm Mushroom Growing Kit
This is another kit from Urban Farm-It, this time growing While Elm mushrooms; gourmet white mushrooms with delicate caps that can easily be added to any dish. They have a strong woody flavour, and are great in soups or a stir fry.
The company operates in a slightly different way to others, in that you can’t grow them straight out of the box. Because mushroom spawn (essentially, seeds) need special care, Urban Farm-It give you a code instead. Then, when you’re really ready to start growing, you need to scan the code and they will send you your mushroom spawn (at no extra charge).
It’s a bit more of a faff than with other mushroom growing kits, but the payoff is a fresh spawn, collected directly from the mother culture as little as 24 hours previously. Once you have your spawn, it’s up to you to complete the incubation process for the mycelium to develop before it can fruit.
Merryhill ready-to-grow white mushrooms
If you’re after quick and easy, then you might like to look at the Merryhill white mushroom kit. All you need to do is remove the lids and roll the liner down. Make sure the topsoil bag is upright, then pour in some water and let it soak for a few minutes. Add this to the compost, spread evenly, and wait for the magic to happen.
The mycelium will appear as white mould on the surface – this will be one of the first things you notice – and your crop will be ready to munch in 16-24 days. Merryhill Mushrooms are a small family-run business, and each kit is hand planted to ensure quality is top notch. And, each kit has a shelf life of several weeks, so it’s okay if life gets in the way.
GroCycle Oyster Mushroom Growing Kit
One of the easiest types of mushroom to get started with are oyster mushrooms. They grow exceptionally fast (ready to eat in around two weeks), and you should even be able to see some small fruits appearing in the first day or two. The Devon-based company, GroCycle, have started the process off for us in this kit, using organic straw with oyster mushroom spawn which has been incubated under “ideal conditions”.
All that’s left for us to do is the fun part: cut a hole in the bag, spray with water (every day) and your delicious oyster mushrooms grow. This is one of the highest-rated mushroom growing kits on Amazon, and it’s sustainably produced, too.
Shiitake Mushroom Log
If you’re after more of a challenge, but still wanting good results, then you might like to try this shiitake mushroom log growing kit. Shiitake mushrooms are tan or dark brown in colour, with a velvety texture and earthy taste. They’re great for adding a savoury flavour to vegetable stock, and drying them out concentrates the flavour.
You’ll need to source your own log (ideally hardwood), and unlike the other kits featured in this list, this one is designed for outdoor growing.
When sourcing your log, you ideally want one that was felled from a healthy tree two to six weeks prior, so that any natural fungicides have had time to wear off. Ash, beech, birch, oak and poplar are good types to look for (not from a coniferous tree), and it will need to be around 25cm wide and 1m long. After that, you’ll need to drill into your log (drill bit is provided in the kit), insert the dowels, seal the holes with wax, then find a nice spot for your log. A warm, sheltered location away from direct sunlight and wind is ideal.
It takes much longer for this kit to sprout; you’ll need to allow around 6-12 months for the mycelium to colonise the log. Once colonised, however, the log will sprout mushrooms by itself, and you could be looking at around eight years’ worth of crops from this kit.
Where to buy mushroom growing kits
Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the best places to buy mushroom growing kits are places like Amazon and Etsy. But if you’re worried about the Christmas strikes hampering your delivery, it’s a good idea to try local garden centres, craft shops and even Christmas fairs. But if you’re keen to give a kit as a gift, and find yourself at the mercy of the strikes, why not make a DIY IOU with your own mushroom drawing?