Cultivating mycelium is the starting point for growing mushrooms but how do you make and grow mycelium?

There are two ways to grow mycelium from a mushroom:

  1. Creating mycelium from mushroom fruiting body
  2. Creating mycelium from mushroom spores

Creating mycelium from mushroom fruiting body

First begin by cleaning any debris off the mushroom.

Partially dry in an airing cupboard or warm and dry area for about 48 to 72 hours so that the mushroom is still soft. 

A clean environment is essential when doing mycelial culture work.

Use an alcohol-based rub or 70% isoproyl to make sure you wearing clean gloves. In an ideal world you should also be working in front of a HEPA fan (often referred to as a Flow Hood or Flow Unit). A distant second best but much cheaper option to a Flow Unit would be to work with a Glove-box or what’s called a Still Air box.

Using which ever clean environment method your mushroom should be cut or gently pulled apart to expose the inside.

Preferably using a sterilised scalpel (or cleaned with isoproyl) cut a small (4 – 6mm squared) piece of your mushroom from the exposed inner part and place onto an agar plate or inside a prepared sterilsed liquid culture solution.

Seal around the rim of your agar plate (securing lid shut) with parafilm or microporous tape.

After a few weeks at room temperature you should see significant mycelial growth.

Without the proper equipment or clean environment contamination is extremely likely. If your agar plate shows contamination (commonly green mould called Trichoderma) leave both mould and mycelium to grow until, hopefully, you can see an uncontaminated area of mycelium.

Practicing a clean environment and equipment as before remove an uncontaminated piece of mycelium and transfer it onto a new agar plate. This can be repeated until only healthy-looking mycelium is growing.

If contamination forms within your liquid culture your efforts are likely doomed and you will need to start again.

You can attempt to extract some liquid culture and transfer a millilitre/ one or two ccs’  onto an agar plate and start the process of cleaning your plates as describe above.

Creating mycelium from mushroom spores

Essentially spores are the mushroom seeds from which mycelium grows.

Spores are easy to collect, however, because there is no way to sterilise spores without destroying them contamination can be expected when attempting grow mycelium from them.

You can collect spores by placing a piece of foil (for example) under a mushroom growing in the wild and tap the cap to forcing the mushroom to drop spores onto your foil. Alternatively, you can take a mushroom cap and place it gills down onto foil and then place a vessel such as a glass over the cap to help prevent spores being blown. Leave over night and, after carefully removing both glass and mushroom cap in the morning, you will find a spore print formed by multiples of millions of spores dropping onto the foil.

Ideally working in front of a HEPA fan (commonly referred to as ‘Flow Unit’) and always practicing a highly clean working environment, your mushroom spores can be gently scraped onto an agar plate (preferable) or, less preferably, directly into a prepared sterilised sugar solution to create liquid mycelium culture.

Using an agar plate is always preferable because, as stated earlier, sterilising spores is not possible so the likelihood of you growing mycelium alongside a host of other unwanted fungi or bacteria is high. On an agar plate at least there is a good chance you can isolate a growing piece of uncontaminated mycelium to transfer onto a another clean agar plate which is not possible with liquid culture.

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