For a long time I have tried different ways of growing mushrooms in containers that do not result in a lot of plastic or other kinds of waste when you finish with them. That means you have to be able to reuse, recycle, or compost the container. Non-sterile growing methods, where you do not sterilize your growing media or, more important, you do not have to sterilize your media right in the growing container would work with a much wider range of container materials because the containers don’t have to withstand the intense heat of pressure sterilization. If you know how, you can grow mushrooms in almost any kind of container that retains water. So why not work out an approach that will work well for home growers and might also work for a commercial product produced in volume?
You might think someone has solved this problem for commercial mushroom production already – for example, by using recyclable glass or polypropylene jars – but most growers choose not to use them. This happens for various, sometimes complicated, reasons, which for some of us makes this an interesting problem to explore. It is also important. Our rivers, lakes, and oceans are full of plastic particles that get into the food chain, kill aquatic animals, and contaminate those that feed on them – including us.
I invite you to work with me to develop a zero-waste mushroom ‘pot’ for efficiently and reliably growing mushrooms. Initially we will focus on growing oyster mushrooms in deli cups. Oyster mushrooms are easy to grow and deli cups are cheap and easy to work with. I have been experimenting with this approach for a couple of years now, with oysters and other species. The idea isn’t new, and lots of hobbyist-growers have done it. I have worked out enough of the process that starting in a few weeks I will start selling grain spawn, colonized bulk substrate, and a Grow-it-Yourself kit exclusively in these containers. Even so, a few problems and decisions remain that I could use help with. Rather than keep the research and development process secret until launching a new product, I want to open it up to public participation in hopes of getting solutions faster and to share a process everyone can learn from along the way. All the information developed will be freely available for anyone to use.
You won’t have to buy anything to participate. You can just follow the posts that appear here and, if you want to, join in the discussion via the comments. I will make materials that we want to test available for sale, and offer discounts to people who report their results.
In the next post I will go into more detail about the materials and methods involved in the zero-waste deli cup fungiculture adventure. I hope you will tag along!