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Sunday, December 31, 2023

"These Are a Few of My Favorite Things": Christmas Gift Edition

Happy New Year, Friends!🥳

Sometimes the gifts we receive are wonderful and just what we needed, but don't have a lot of appeal as a conversation topic. Other times, the gifts have a bit of novelty to many of us. We find ourselves with a natural curiosity about these gifts that others receive. 

So this week (and next if I'm slow), I'll post a little about some of the gifts I received that may have interest to some of you.

A shiitake mushroom growing kit

For a couple of decades, I have wanted to try growing mushrooms indoors. I could never justify the cost of the kit as part of my grocery budget. Earlier this fall, I thought perhaps I might mention this sort of kit to my family members as a gift possibility. My family seemed to think this would be a perfect gift for me, as I'm constantly trying to grow more varied foods for my family.

My son and daughter-in-law bought this at a local farmer's market the weekend before Christmas and kept it in their fridge (to keep it from starting) until Christmas Day. It came packaged in a large plastic bag with a ventilation patch (like sometimes found on fresh produce bags). 

I started the kit on Tuesday. I  removed the block with spores from the plastic bag and rinsed it as recommended, then sprayed it all over using spring water (no chlorine). I set the block on a make-shift rack of canning jar lids (one of the recommendations from the kit company) set on a large plastic bin lid as a tray. The rack ensures good ventilation all around.

I placed a large plastic bag loosely over the top and have been spraying once per day since. (The kit company suggested either a large plastic bag or a cardboard box.) The company suggested to place the covered kit in bright, but indirect light. I put it about 8-10 feet away from a large window in one of the sunniest rooms in the house. Just note, a sunny room in the maritime NW in a house surrounded by tall evergreens is really not all that sunny for very long each day.

Above is what the kit looked like the first day, with one mushroom protruding from a side and lots of small white bumps all over.

And here's what it looked like Thursday afternoon. Until today, I didn't realize those white bumps were beginning mushrooms. But now I can see that's what these are. I should have a lunch sack full of shiitake mushrooms in a week or two.

Whoa! I guess I underestimated the growth speed of these little jewels. Here's Saturday's photo! I'll be harvesting a bunch in just a couple of days. The company recommends storing the harvested mushrooms in a paper bag in the fridge. The paper allows a good balance of moisture retention while minimizing mold growth. Stored this way, the mushrooms will keep for up to 2 weeks.

The kit company has a website which offered info on starting it, when to harvest the mushrooms, how to store harvested ones, and how to get the kit to produce additional flushes. The website was very informative and helped give me the confidence to get the kit started. I was a little nervous that I would botch the kit. Evidently, those mushrooms were ready and waiting, just needing a bit of moisture and room temperatures.

While my son and daughter-in-law bought this kit from a local company, mushroom growing kits are also available online to be shipped. I've seen indoor home consumer kits priced for as little as $13 on Amazon. I don't know if growing mushrooms indoors is a bargain or not compared to buying mushrooms from the store. However, the outdoor kits, also sold online, will recolonize and last for many, many years and may be a better "deal" for growing mushrooms than indoor kits. I specifically wanted an indoor kit, though, so I could grow mushrooms for our meals this winter. But I'll be thinking on the possibility of starting an outdoor colony someplace near my vegetable garden.

This is one very tasty Christmas gift!


  1. What a fun gift and how perfect for you! I've considered one of these before and will follow your journey with interest. I've played around a bit with trying to get some outdoor ones going but I think maybe our summers are too hot and dry? Anyway, excited to see how well these work for you indoors.


    1. Hi Cat,
      Hmmm, you may be right about the summer climate for your area and outdoor mushroom growing. Although if you have a shadier and damper part of the yard, under a tree, or maybe there are mushrooms types more suitable for you area, maybe it's possible there? I'm curious about outdoor mushroom growing for my area, too.

  2. What a great gift for you. Fits your interests perfectly. We had friends who gave us a mushroom log one year as a gift. It was an oak log that they drilled holes in and "seeded" with spores. We kept it outside and didn't do much to maintain it. It produced mushrooms for several years. We didn't get as many as it looks like you're going to get, but we got some, and it was fun to watch them grow.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      That must have been fun to watch from day to day, week to week. I think on of the differences between indoor and outdoor mushroom growing is that with the indoor kits you get a lot of mushrooms all at once,, then the kit is spent. With the outdoor kits, you get fewer at a time, but the colony lives for many years. This fall, I "collected" photos of the different mushrooms growing in my neighborhood. The variety was impressive, but most mushroom patches only had a dozen or so mushrooms total, and some only had 2 or 3 in a patch.

      When making these indoor kits, the companies make sure to really inoculate the substrate. Otherwise, customers might be pretty disappointed if they were only able to harvest one or two dozen mushrooms for the work and price.

    2. One other question, Live and Learn. Did you eat any of the mushrooms you grew?

  3. How fun! I have a friend who has an indoor mushroom kit, and she has enjoyed it a lot. If I remember right, she says it grows better upstairs where the temperature is cooler in the winter. Keep us posted on the progress!

    1. Okay, that's good to know, Kris. I was wondering if our family room was too warm. I've moved it across the hall to the dining room, which is on the north side of the house. It's now sitting on the window seat, getting light, but indirect.

      I harvested a bowlful this morning to sauté for breakfast. I'm now reading that perhaps I harvested them too small. There are lots more on the brick, so I'll have more chances to get them to a larger stage. And I learned that scissors are better than a knife for harvesting. Even with a serrated knife, it kind of tore at the stem. scissors cuts them right off without tearing the stem from the brick.


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