Garden Project: Mushrooms

It’s funny how the smallest thing can make your day sometimes. Recently, I was having a rather blah morning and decided to go outside to water the plants. When I got to the shady corner in the back, I was greeted by a most welcome sight!

Two small brown mushrooms rising from the earth

But these beauties didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. In fact, their story began early last spring.

Seduced by Seed Catalogs

I usually try not to open the seed catalogs I get in the mail every winter. A sort of madness takes over and I just want ALL THE PLANTS! All of them! Lured in by the flowery descriptions and promises of abundant yields, I often end up spending way too much money on seeds (that usually, due to my haphazard watering style, don’t yield a ton of reward). But this year I cracked open Territorial Seed’s catalog, and was immediately drawn in by this description of wine cap mushrooms:

Meaty Wine Caps emerge with a rounded, cabernet-colored cap and develop to an enormous size—up to a foot in diameter—earning them the nickname Garden Giant! We enjoy them when they’re young and tender, but the larger size fruit are excellent on the grill. Culture of these marvels is relatively simple, as they thrive in a variety of media including hardwood chips, leaf litter, grass clippings and straw. Locate them in the garden among leafy veggies or rows of corn, this variety breaks down the mulch and makes vital nutrients available to the neighboring crops. Wine Caps produce each spring and summer for up to 3 years, and you can also transplant established mycelium into fresh mulch in new garden areas.

Territorial Seed Company

Needless to say, I was sold. I “planted” them the same day they arrived (and of course neglected to take any photos – I was too excited!). I had set aside a patch of wood chips from the cherry trees we’d recently trimmed, and decided to experiment with planting some tomatoes and marigolds there as well. Usually, I don’t spread wood chips around annual plants, but they have been thriving in the mushroom patch.

The Long Wait

After a few weeks, I was thrilled to see thready white mycelium spreading through the lower layers of bark! So I kept watering…

And watering…

And watering…

But nothing changed, mushroom-wise. The mycelium was still there, but nothing was going on above ground. Every time I watered, I wondered if anything would ever come of it. Maybe, I thought, I wasn’t watering deeply or frequently enough. Or maybe I just wasn’t cut out for this whole mushroom-growing thing.

A brand-new creamy white mushroom emerges from cherry-wood chips

But as of this morning, there are four mushrooms growing in my little patch, plus I harvested two the other day and cooked them up for dinner. (Yes, they were delicious!)

This whole experience struck me as a powerful lesson in trust. Despite all my self-doubt, I actually did do enough. All that faithful watering did in fact lead me somewhere, even if it took a long time for the rewards to become apparent.

I’m already eyeing other areas of the yard where I can transplant mycelium this fall once the rains return. Who knows, maybe one day there will be wine caps springing up all over the yard!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Brett

    Yeah ! ! ! They really were delicious. So happy to see to these lovely shrooms!

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