Shrooms

Why You Should Grow Your Own Mushrooms

DIY mushroom cultivation will save you money, offer peace of mind, and strengthen your connection to nature.

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DoubleBlind Mag

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Updated January 15, 2022

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It’s not a coincidence that all of a sudden a mushroom growing movement is spreading like wildfire across the country—and the world. Recently, even mainstream media has caught onto the trend. Earlier this year, amid the pandemic, The New York Times published a piece on the utter joy of growing mushrooms in the midst of this uncertain moment. And then, coincidentally, less than a week later, WIRED published something similar. 

The truth is: Growing mushrooms is a simple—and yet radical—response to our times. Once you’ve learned the skill, you can grow your own food (in a world where we’re all incredibly disconnected from where our food comes from), you can grow your own medicine (in a world where folks are desperately seeking alternative mental health treatments and don’t trust big pharma), and you can, simply, reconnect with the magic of nature (in a world where Zoom calls have become the predominant way to socialize). 

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Although the prospect of home cultivation may sound daunting, with a little knowledge the process is fairly simple. Here, we’ll make some cases as to why growing your own can save both money and hassle; we’ll also explore the less tangible benefits of personal empowerment and the potential to build community.

Cost

If you’re buying mushrooms In the US, the cost is about $35 per eighth of an ounce (or $10 per gram). By contrast, for $15-$20 you can purchase mushroom spores (the mycological equivalent to seeds) and with the right know-how and a few easily sourced (or, indeed, home-built) pieces of equipment, you could potentially produce well over 100 times the amount of mushrooms you could buy for the same price. Of course, there are additional set-up costs, but a basic set-up will only cost you around $100 and you can get everything you need (except the spores which are readily available online and will be shipped to your house, with tracking and everything) at a regular gardening store. In fact, you probably have a lot of the stuff you need already—like isopropyl alcohol for sterilization, a spritzer bottle, and some kind of plastic storage bin. And, once you have the set-up, you can use it forever. After your first grow, the average savings are around $600, depending on yield!

Safety and peace of mind

We live in a world where people are incredibly disconnected from where their food and medicine comes from. And if you want to put high quality, trusted products into your body, you often need to pay a premium for them. Know that what you’re putting into your body—for nourishment and healing—was grown with love and integrity, without pesticides, without cutting corners.

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What about foraging?

In the Northern US and Canada, there are dozens of mushrooms growing, naturally. If we extend the region to the Americas as a whole, the number increases exponentially. The broad distribution of these species would seem to suggest that foraging may be a suitable alternative to home cultivation. However, when it comes to fungi, the increased interest in such substances brings additional concerns over whether the natural habitats and human communities in which they grow will be respected by a new generation of foragers. 

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Although we’ve engaged in a fair few fungal foraging trips ourselves, we’ve taken the time to gain an understanding of both the ecology and ethics of such actions over many years—and it’s still not something we do very often. The same respect for nature applies when foraging for any wild species: Never take more than you require, and if you require more than there is, don’t take at all.

Foraging for fungi takes a lot of understanding, practice, and confidence in your own abilities (including the ability to decipher deadly lookalikes). Though it is possible to learn with the help of more experienced foragers, home cultivation is definitely a safer route for those starting out. 

You don’t need a lot of space

A small area in your bathroom or closet will suffice! Tons of people living in small apartments have had success with this.

You don’t need a lot of time

The whole process takes around nine weeks and, for most of that, you’re just waiting around for your babies to fruit.

You don’t need a green thumb

With the right support and community, you can do this. Anyone can! Really. And once you’re hooked by the magic of the process, we guarantee you’ll only want to go deeper. It’s addictive!

Self-sufficiency and our connection to nature

Before Michael Pollan published the widely-read How to Change your Mind, he was a prolific food writer. Our attitudes towards fungi run parallel to his attitudes towards food, which include themes around the power of self sufficiency; reconnecting with process and tradition; building community; and empowering others. 

With the growing potential in these compounds and fungi, the choice to hand over production to large-scale professional grow operations threatens local sourcing—rendering ourselves as passive consumers in the process. In addition, given the sacredness of mushrooms, which have historically been used as part of Indigenous communities for millennia, we have to ask whether we should be bound to new ideas of legislative approval or FDA breakthrough therapy designation. 

In a more secular sense, it can be argued that these historical cultural traditions apply in the US as well. During her PhD studies, Dr. Joanna Steinhardt found that many amateur American mycologists were introduced to the field through the cultivation of mushrooms, echoing world-renowned mycologist Paul Stamets’ personal testimonial. This has led to the formation of alliances of like-minded individuals outside institutionalized academic and corporate settings—focused not only on mycology and cultivation, but also across themes like ecological preservation, sustainability, and non-hierarchical collective organization.

Such stories are becoming increasingly common as people seek to find alternative ways of living under capitalism. Mushroom growing finds itself in a cluster of related DIY activities, which seek to empower people out of the reliance on producer-consumer economics—including pursuits such as permaculture, foraging, beekeeping, fermentation, and homebrewing. 

Although the financial benefits are obvious, by actively engaging with the process of growing mushrooms we may find it’s possible to unlock something greater within ourselves, allowing us to gain not only a deeper appreciation for the biological, chemical, and cultural contexts from which these fungi and their associated alkaloids are derived, but also the potential to form a deeper connection with community, nature, and our place in the world.

Collage by Georgia Love featuring a photo by Daanibaer via Flickr

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Why You Should Grow Your Own Mushrooms

DIY mushroom cultivation will save you money, offer peace of mind, and strengthen your connection to nature.
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