If you are interested in how to grow your own mushrooms for food and medicine or how you could achieve partial or full food self-sufficiency, this post on survival gardening is for you!
There are two videos embeded in this post. Video one is a summary of why mushrooms are great for survival gardening and food self sufficiency. Video two (at the bottom of the page) is a step by step on how to grow edible and medicinal mushrooms on logs.
Learning how to grow your own mushrooms is a significant step (for many reasons) in this direction and may be easier and more practical then you realize. Let’s talk food security first or scroll down to learn why they are such a practical crop to grow and how to do it.
How would you and your family fair if the world entered another “Great Depression,” like the big one that lasted from 1929 – 1939?
Tens of millions of people lost their jobs across North America and almost half the major Banks went bankrupt. Back then many people still had vegetable gardens and new basic homestead and self-reliance skills to help them weather the hard times. Today is a different story.
I commonly hear people mentioning how they dream of being able to “live off the land” or grow their own food. The reality is, there is a lot to learn to be able to do this effectively. If you wait till the next great recession to plant your survival garden, you may have a rude awakening and a steep learning curve.
I first started learning about growing edible mushrooms back in 2006 when I did a permaculture apprenticeship on 7 Ravens Farm out on Salt Spring Island. I have been growing them on my homestead for the past seven years. During this time I have learned a lot of tricks that will hopefully save you time and get you better results quicker. Let’s dive in!
With climate change and a lack of stability in global food security, this is a great time to learn to grow your own mushrooms and start survival gardening!
In my blog post “Growing Your Own Food; Survival Gardening in a Changing Climate”, I list six considerations to maximize your time and efforts to achieve food security. Growing edible mushrooms meets all six of these considerations and a few more important ones… Heck ya, go mushrooms!
Inoculating mushroom logs is a fair bit of initial work, although not significantly more than creating a garden bed from scratch. BUT… Once they are inoculated, they produce food for many years with minimal upkeep and additional work beyond harvesting & processing.
Put them in a shady place, keep them moist, and let nature do the rest. Depending on where you live, you may need to spend a bit of time each harvest pulling slugs off your logs before they eat too much of your crop.
My shiitake logs produce half to a full pound of delicious mushrooms per season per log. Depending on the species of fungus and type of wood they are inoculated on, they can produce mushrooms for 3 – 8 years. This makes the initial work well worth it, especially if you take a year off from inoculating new logs and are still reaping the harvest from past years.
If you live in the country or have a big yard, I recommend doing 10 – 20 logs per year. After a few years you will be putting A LOT of mushrooms away for the winter, and as your old logs pass their peak fruiting performance, you will have newer logs ready to go to replace the yield. This will keep your crop sustainable long term.
We have over 300 logs but have built that stash up over six years. The patch now produces WAY more than we eat in a year which makes for great gifts for friends and family.
If you are growing Tomatoes and an extreme storm rips them out of the ground, or you get a heavy hail, you have to start over again. If your Mushrooms are fruiting when the storm happens, the worse that is likely to happen is you lose that months crop. If you lose the spring crop, they will still fruit again in the summer or fall and again the following year.
The primary concern with mushroom logs is letting them dry out. If you are in a drought, you need to water them once or twice a week during the first year and a few times a month in future years. If they dry out, the mycelium will die eventually and stop producing. I keep mine next to a pond so I can toss them in overnight to rehydrate from time to time. Or put a sprinter on them assuming you have power.
With the stark realities of climate change it is time we start to consider how we adapt they way we grow food. Here is a article on top points to consider in growing food in a changing climate.
Growing edible mushrooms can provide food year-round leading to REAL food security. My favorite technique is to slice them thin and dry them in the sun for a few hours then a food dehydrator. Putting them in the sun first has been shown to significantly increase the Vitamin D levels in them according to studies referenced in “Mushrooms Demystified” by David Arora.
We use our dried Shiitake mushrooms in soups all winter long or rehydrate them for stirfry. You can also fry them for a few minutes then freeze them to use at a later date. This way they do not need to be rehydrated. We cook ours with butter, tamari sauce and garlic.
You can also grow mushrooms indoors in bags and other containers. I have done this with Reshi Mushrooms (Ganoderma Lucidum), and I intend to experiment with different varieties soon.
The book, “Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation” by Trad Cotter, goes into lots of detail about many different techniques to grow edible mushrooms both indoors and outdoors.
I remember being blown away when I first learned about how nutritious mushrooms were. For some reason, I had always assumed they were nutrient poor and just a treat for extra flair in a meal. Wow, was I wrong! Mushrooms have been a staple food source of indigenous peoples, farmers, and wildlife for thousands of years for a good reason.
There is also a ton of scientific studies on the medicinal value of various mushroom species. Many are natural antibiotics, antivirals and many are showing promising research in helping prevent and helping assist in the treatment of some cancers. They are also used for people with immune disorders and diabetes.
This section is not intended to make any specific medical claims; it is to highlight that many clinical studies are demonstrating the nutritional and medicinal properties of Mushrooms. Many of the highlights I referenced come from the books:
Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets. See an excellent table on the nutritional properties for different species on pages 198 & 199.
One of the reasons I love mushrooms for survival gardening is that they can be grown in an urban backyard. They can also be grown in your kitchen or even while living off-grid.
In Trad Cotter’s book, “Organic Mushroom Farming & Mycoremediation”, Chapter 12 is on growing mushrooms off-grid or in low power situations.
In my video, I also reference what tools you can use to inoculate mushrooms without electricity or modern amenities,
If you are living in the city, the biggest challenge may be finding logs to inoculate. If you have had a recent ice storm, windstorm or even a tornado and there are lots of tree’s and branches down, then this is a great time to go and collect branches. Collect logs and branches between 3” and 6” in diameter of freshly cut or fallen trees.
If you have a neighbor getting a tree removed by an arborist, you could also ask them to have some of the thicker branches instead of them being hauled off.
In the city and on a balcony another primary concern will be keeping you logs moist. If you have a pond, a creek nearby you can drop the logs into them for a couple of hours a few times a month (if it is hot and dry out) to rehydrate them. If you have rain barrels set-up, you could also drop your logs into the rain barrels to soak from time to time.
The video shows you step by step how I inoculate logs with Shiitake Mushroom spawn and suggests other options for growing other mushrooms and in different set-ups.
There is also a great step by step article with pictures in one of my new favorite blogs “Practical Self-Reliance”
I highly recommend getting a good book so you fully understand the lifecycle of mushroom mycelium & all the steps.
My favorite book for growing is Trad Cotter’s book, “Organic Mushroom Farming & Mycoremediation”
My favorite book on the food, medicinal and all other amazing things mushrooms do is Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets.
** Please note all the book links in this post are through Amazon Affiliates. I greatly appreciate you using these links first if making ANY purchases on Amazon as it helps support this blog… at least a little!
If you live in another country just do a Google search and I’m sure you can find a local distributor.
Chris Gilmour is the creator of ChangingWorldProject.com He has a diverse background in the study of ecology, teaching traditional wilderness & urban survival, consulting in modern-day emergency and disaster preparedness and has a passion for self-reliance such as growing food and the martial arts.
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