If you’ve spent a lot of time poking around nature, you may already know that mushrooms have a unique way of growing. Rather than sprouting from seeds, mushrooms propogate through spores.
So, if you’re interested in growing your own edible mushrooms, you’ll need to find spores, and harvest them. However, finding mushroom spores isn’t always as straightforward as it seems, and harvesting them can be even more tricky. Keep reading for the complete guide on how to harvest mushroom spores, both in the wild and a lab setting.
Where to Find Mushroom Spores
To find a mushroom spore, you’ll first need a mature mushroom that’s already been growing. While it’s definitely possible to harvest spores from a wild mushroom you found in the wilderness, you should also be careful about doing this – especially if you’re a beginner.
Most people looking to harvest mushroom spores are trying to grow edible species, and depending on experience level, it can be tricky to identify a mushroom species just by looking at it. A good example of this is the cortinarius mushroom, which can be mistaken for an edible species, but isn’t something you want to bring home.
So, if you do plan to harvest your mushroom spores from the wild, be sure to bring a field guide and familiarize yourself with local types that grow in your area.
For a lot of beginners, they prefer to pick their mushrooms up from a store. Not only is this much easier, but there’s no safety risk: you’ll know exactly what type of mushroom you’ll be growing. Some of the most popular types to grow include Shiitakes, Lion’s Mane, Reishi, and Almond Portobello.
What You’ll Need for Harvesting Mushroom Spores
While materials can change depending on the species, generally, the materials you’ll need for harvesting include:
- White piece of paper
- Container, bowl, or cup with covering
Experienced spore harvesters may also add a mushroom spore syringe to this list, but if you’re a beginner, you shouldn’t need a syringe for basic harvesting.
How to Harvest Mushroom Spores
Once you’ve got your mushroom and the rest of your supplies, the next step is actually harvesting the spores. As mentioned previously, the steps for harvesting or the materials you’ll need can slightly differ from type to type – so be sure to research the specific type of mushroom you’re trying to harvest, as well as how difficult it is to establish new fungal growth.
Cut Off the Stem
The first step to harvesting mushrooms is cutting off the stem so that you’re only left with the cap. This is a delicate procedure since you’ll want to be sure that you don’t accidentally crush or shake the cap while you’re removing the stem.
Once you’re done, none of the stem should be extending from the cap, and you can just throw out the stem.
Put the Cap on Your Paper
Next, grab your white piece of paper (an index card also works well), and place your cap on it. You’ll want to do it so that the pores or gills of your mushroom cap are facing down. Keep in mind that if you’re using a really large mushroom head, you may want to cut it into sections.
But, if you do section your cap, make sure you separate them. Each section should have its own piece of paper.
Add a Little Bit of Water
Mushroom spores may need a little bit of encouraging, and a drop of water is great for more spore dispersal. An eye-dropper works well for this step as it ensures you don’t use too much water. You only need one or two drops for more spore dispersal.
Cover the Cap for 24 Hours
After adding a drop of water, you’ll want to carefully place the cap and paper into a covered container, cup, or bowl. If you can, try to use a glass cup or container over a plastic one.
Keep in mind that whatever object you use needs to have a cover to make sure that air movement or breeze doesn’t disturb the spores.
Leave the cap for twenty-hour hours, and don’t take off the cover during that time. This will give your spores plenty of time to develop without any disturbances.
Take Off the Cover
After a day has passed, you can remove the covering from your cap. Then, gently take the cap off the paper to reveal the spore print that’s developed underneath. As long as you didn’t disturb the spores during the waiting period, you should see an imprint of the gills and pores on the paper.
Collect Your Spores
You can now dispose of the mushroom cap, and place the spore print in area where it won’t be disturbed. Using a knife or a similar tool, gently scrape the spores off. Be careful about scraping the paper too hard as that can cause the spores to release, and even tear through your print.
When it comes to storing those spores, the most important thing is to keep them in a dry location. Too much moisture can actually encourage harmful bacteria growth or damage the spores. But, as long as they stay dry, your spores should grow correctly.
How Do They Harvest Mushrooms in a Lab?
The process above describes how to harvest spores yourself, but professionals can also harvest spores in a lab setting. When it’s done in a lab, harvesting is a little more complex. Not only do professionals have more precise tools for harvesting, like a mushroom spore syringe, but they also have the benefit of a sterile environment that’s conducive for spore growth.
If you’re planning on growing mushrooms, but don’t want to harvest spores at home, you can purchase mushroom spores for sale or mushroom spore syringes for sale. These spores are usually produced in a lab environment, and may be able to yield better results than DIY harvesting.