HOW DO I...?

Questions? Curiosities? Concerns? This how-to section is going to continually evolve so check in with us at The Fungal Jungle regularly. We're always learning as we grow our operation and we want to share our passion for education with you.

  • How do I trigger my mushroom block to fruit?

We're SO glad you asked. We spent hours creating these instructions for you. Check back occasionally for updates and additions!

Blue Oyster (also instructions for Black Oyster)
Yellow Oyster (also instructions for Pink Oyster)

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  • How do I set up my Fungal Jungle humidity dome?

You're probably looking at this flat plastic bag and wondering how the heck you're supposed to make a self-supporting humidity dome with that! Prepare to be amazed...

    1. Open the bag and flatten the bottom into a big rectangle by pulling the gussets apart. The bag should be able to stand up on its own like this:
    2. Fold the open end back on itself about half way up the length of the bag so the bag is now about 12" tall (you can fold more of the length to make the dome shorter than 12" if you wish). A little reshaping will be required to make it pretty.
    3. Flip the bag over! The flattened bottom is now the roof of your dome and with a few minor adjustments the bag will stand freely. We've selected a particularly rigid poly precisely for this purpose.

IMPORTANT TIP: If you're fruiting a variety that likes a lot of fresh air exchange (e.g. oysters, lion's mane), cut or punch several holes in the dome about a 1/2-inch wide. Doesn't have to be pretty - the goal is to get some oxygen moving in and carbon dioxide moving out. Alternatively, you can elevate the humidity dome an inch or two off the surface by wedging it at the corners. This can have a dramatic impact on the quality of your fruits!

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  • How do I dispose of my spent fruiting block?

Remove the block from the bag if you haven't already. The block can be crumbled and incorporated into your garden soil or composted. If your block is still looking mold-free, you can very carefully and CLEANLY try removing pieces of the interior and transferring it to sterilized grain! This is a good way to expand your block. It doesn't always work due to contamination, but you're likely to have the most success with oysters since they colonize aggressively.

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  • How do I inject my sterilized grain with liquid culture?
    1. Put on some clean clothes and wash/sanitize your hands. If you have gloves, put them on and sanitize them. A mask is an added bonus as well.
    2. Work in a small space with as little air flow as possible. You can create a still air box for cheap, but if you're feeling fancy you can also use a laminar flow hood. For a long time I performed my injections in the open air of my basement without contamination.
    3. Wipe down your work area and all of its contents with isopropyl alcohol 70% and wait for it to dry. While you're at it, sanitize your hands/gloves again.
    4. Grab your liquid culture syringe and sterilized grain, wipe them down with alcohol if you haven't already, and give your syringe a good shake to break up the mycelium.
    5. In a methodical manner, open the package containing the needle, remove the syringe tip cap, and screw the needle onto the end of the syringe.
    6. Flame sterilize the needle by removing the needle cap and flaming the needle with a lighter or alcohol lamp until red hot. Allow to cool before proceeding. Double check you've wiped down your injection port with alcohol.
    7. Insert the needle through the port (or directly through the poly filter if that's your jam) and inject 1-2mL in a circular motion to increase your inoculation points. The more grain you have, the more culture you'll need to inject. I like using 2-3mL for a 250mL mason jar of grain spawn personally.
    8. I'm a rebel and don't always sterilize my needle if I'm injecting multiple jars of spawn, but it's good practice to do so. Once you're finished, replace the needle cap, unscrew the needle, and replace the syringe tip cap (assuming you still have some culture left). Put the remaining culture back in the fridge.
    9. Let the newly inoculated grain spawn rest and label your jar!

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  • How do I transfer my grain spawn to my fruiting block?
    1. Put on some clean clothes and wash/sanitize your hands. If you have gloves, put them on and sanitize them. A mask is an added bonus as well.
    2. Work in a small space with as little air flow as possible. You can create a still air box for cheap, but if you're feeling fancy you can also use a laminar flow hood. Unlike my (formerly lazy) grain spawn injections, I do not recommend transferring grain to a fruiting block in the open air - it can be done, but the contamination rate can be fairly high. It really depends on your environment and how well you know it.
    3. Wipe down your work area and all of its contents with isopropyl alcohol 70% and wait for it to dry. While you're at it, sanitize your hands/gloves again.
    4. Grab your grain spawn jar and shake it. Like, REALLY shake it. I smack the mason jar into my free hand or on the edge of carpeted stairs if the mycelium is dense. The goal is to loosen it all up so you can pour freely and quickly when the time comes. If you're working with a grain spawn bag, you can easily break up the grain by hand-massaging through the bag.
    5. Take your recently sterilized fruiting block (that you've already wiped down with alcohol) and remove the filter if there is one. Also loosen the lid of your grain spawn jar or cut the corner of your spawn bag so that you're ready to pour.
    6. Carefully unfold your grow bag and open slightly - I like to do this so the opening is pointed away from my face so I don't breathe into the bag.
    7. Remove the lid from your spawn jar and quickly pour the contents into the bag, being careful not to touch the inside of the bag with your hands or the side of the jar. You'll get better with practice.
    8. If you have an impulse sealer, seal the bag ASAP. If not, bunch up the top of the bag and close tightly with a zip tie. You can check for air leaks by pressing down lightly on the bag and listening for hissing sounds. Reseal or tighten if you hear anything suspicious.
    9. You can hand-massage the bag now to distribute the grain and increase your inoculation points. Just remember to smack the bottom of the bag down on a hard surface a few times when you're done mixing to increase the density of your substrate again. If the substrate is too loose it can be difficult for the mycelium to traverse the spaces between the substrate. I definitely notice faster colonization when my blocks are denser, but not compressed.
    10. Label your bag!

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  • How do I make liquid culture broth?

It's funny, everyone seems to have a slightly different way of preparing their broth. I'm a simple person. I like recipes that I can memorize and I like methods that work consistently. So here's the recipe:

And here's what I do:

      1. Weigh out the dry ingredients in a small bowl and mix them together.
      2. Using a funnel, pour the dry ingredients into a mason jar (if I'm making the above recipe exactly, I use a 1L mason jar so it's about half full).
      3. Pour 500mL of warm water into the jar.
      4. Pop a magnetic stir bar into the broth and place the jar on a magnetic stirrer until satisfied that everything has dissolved. If you don't have a fancy magnetic stirrer, a simple whisk works or just swirl the jar by hand. EASY!
      5. Cover the jar with a reusable liquid culture lid and cover the lid with aluminum foil.
      6. Pressure cook for 20-30 minutes at 15psi.
      7. When time is up, turn the heat off, remove the pressure cooker from the burner (if you want to) and walk away. Don't initiate depressurization, just wait for the pressure to release on its own.
      8. When the jars are cool enough to handle, you can remove them from the pressure cooker but leave the aluminum foil covers on until ready for inoculation.

A few things to note with my method. Many people will dissolve their dry ingredients in hot (often boiling) water over the stove. I'm sure there's a good reason for that, but personally I find it takes too much time (and then I have to wash a pot - gross) and the result I achieve by simply pouring warm kettle/tap water over my dry ingredients is sufficient, so I choose the lazy way and let my magnetic stirrer do the heavy lifting. Even with copious amounts of stirring, there's often undissolved malt extract sediment sitting at the bottom of the jar after pressure cooking. You can absolutely leave it and the mycelium will simply eat it, but frankly I don't like it in my jars, so I run the liquid through a coffee filter-lined funnel into another jar, rinse the lid, and pressure cook again. PRESTO! Now it's clear! One more piece of advice: don't pressure cook for any longer than 30 minutes at a time because the sugars will caramelize, which discourages mycelial growth. I find the best-performing culture broth is golden and clear. Good luck and have fun!

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  • How do I make the Master's Mix?

Excellent question. Ready? It's so easy for a regular ~5lb fruiting block...

    • 450-500g hardwood fuel pellets (I use oak, but most hardwood will work)
    • 450-500g soy hulls (pellets are great)
    • 1400mL water

In short, you want a 50:50 mix of sawdust and soy hulls, and about 60% moisture (water) in your formula. If you're using Lumber Jack Oak, dial down the water to 55% of the formula. Err on the dry side. Weigh out your dry ingredients directly into the grow bag first and give them a bit of a shake to mix, then pour in your water. I have a pre-marked water jug that I use so that I don't have to meticulously measure out 1400mL every single time - I just fill to the black line and that's good enough. A few mL over/under won't wreck your block. Let it sit for a few minutes so that the water is completely absorbed and then hand massage the bag to break apart any remaining pellets. I find the soy hulls I use quickly and easily dissolve - better than my oak pellets to be honest - so I don't wait too long. This next step is probably not necessary but for transparency's sake I'll tell you I then squeeze the air out of the bag and let it sit upside down for a few more minutes so gravity will redistribute the water to even out the moisture content. YMMV. After that it's time for sterilization!

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  • How do I sterilize my fruiting block?

Short story: in a traditional pressure cooker/canner, sterilize at 15psi for 2.5 hours.

Long story: after you've filled your grow bag with your substrate, fold down the bag a few times and insert some sort of filter (e.g. Tyvek sheet, poly vent filter), or simply fold the bag down tightly around the block, tucking the top of the bag underneath the bottom (the latter method is my preference because the bags form a tight seal if you let them cool completely inside the pressure cooker). Try to get a lot of the air out of the bag, too. I then like to wrap my blocks in a thin towel or cloth to prevent the sides of the bag from melting. This can happen when the bag comes into contact with the wall of the pressure cooker and it's a cleaning catastrophe when you try to remove it (not like I'd know or anything...). You can squeeze multiple blocks into the canner if you have one that's large enough. Just make sure you weigh down the top layer to mitigate the risk of steam valve blockage - a dinner plate does the trick. When 2.5 hours is up, turn the heat off, remove the pressure cooker from the burner (if you want to) and walk away. Don't initiate depressurization, just wait for the pressure to release on its own. I like to let the blocks cool to room temperature in the pressure cooker, although this isn't 100% necessary.

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  • How do I sterilize without a traditional pressure cooker? Can I use an Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker?

Many mycologists will argue with me on this one, but yep, you can. It's not ideal because these types of cookers typically don't reach 15psi. I think the high setting on my electric pressure cooker is just under 12psi. That being said, just pressure cook it for longer. I think the rule of thumb is 10-15% longer, but I err on the side of caution. For a regular 5lb fruiting block, instead of the usual 2.5 hours, I increase it to at least 3 hours on high. For my grain spawn jars, I'll put them in there for 2.5 hours on high. My only caution is that this method is less successful with highly nutritious/supplemented substrates (like the master's mix).

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  • How do I build a mushroom fruiting chamber?

Oh, so you're getting serious now, eh? I get it. I started with the Martha tent setup, which is an extremely common DIY chamber for those folks who are looking to scale up their home grow operation a little bit. It does the job. HOWEVER! I rather quickly found the setup to be very tedious to clean, and with mycology cleanliness is next to godliness. On top of that, I found the racking and PVC cover to be very flimsy and prone to deterioration and rust, and the fresh air exchange was poor. There are certainly improvements I could've made, but I didn't want to invest more time and money on what I felt was an inadequate setup. I decided to decommission my beginner tent and essentially made a fancy Martha tent from a decent quality mylar tent. Here's what my personal indoor chamber looks like now:
Indoor Hobby Mushroom Grow Tent
The tent is 6' tall, 3' long, and 3' deep. Yes, those are resting shiitake blocks on the right. Inside there's a grow light hanging from the roof bars (turned off for the photo), a resin shelving unit that I bought from Costco for $30 (a piece of which the shiitake blocks are resting on), and a small 6" fan to circulate air. Humidity is being piped in from the exterior as you can see here:Indoor Hobby Mushroom Grow Tent - Side Shot
I maintain my chamber's relative humidity (RH) between 90-92%, which works best for my environment and the species I grow. You may have to test a few different RH settings to find what works best for you. You'll want achieve high humidity without excessive condensation or pooling of water. To automate my humidity control, I use this reptile fogger and this humidistat in particular (not promoting these items or Amazon, I swear):
Indoor Mushroom Grow Tent Humidity Control
For my basement grow tent I don't control temperature because I simply don't need to - I have a steady temperature of 17-21°C year-round, which is friendly to the majority of popular gourmet mushroom species. That being said a heat mat connected to a thermostat is the easiest method of temperature control.

Since CO2 sinks, I have the fresh external air piped in together with the humidity from the top of the tent and an open vent at the bottom of the tent:
Mushroom Grow Tent Vent
Now, this is a matter of preference and scale. If you're fruiting a lot of bags at any given time, you're going to want to exhaust your tent outside. The beauty of these mylar tents is they have holes all over for connecting ventilation equipment that is readily available (the holes are just tied off when not in use). Again, my personal operation is not big enough to require that, and I do my darndest to harvest before spores start dropping. This vent provides just enough fresh air exchange without insane humidity loss.

JUNE 2021 UPDATE: My personal operation is now big enough that I care about spores, so I acquired and installed a simple 4" in-line filtered exhaust system (again I'm not a schill for Vivosun or Amazon). The fan is quiet and the speed is controllable. The attached carbon filter is covered with a (washable!) sock to preserve the life of the filter and fan. A+ so far!

So, the short story is I'm 100000x happier with this setup because the resin shelving and interior material of the grow tent are easy to clean, the humidity level and fresh air exchange balance is better maintained, and the number and placement of holes for wiring and piping is neat and discreet. It's just a clean, functional, self-sustaining, and most importantly for me, simple setup. Total cost was around $300 ($450 with the new filtered exhaust). WORTH IT. Shoot me a note if you have any questions!

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  • How do I store my mushroom fruiting block/spawn/culture if I'm not going to use it right away?

Put it in the fridge! I like to cover my grain spawn jars with aluminum foil when in storage because there are all sorts of mould and bacteria floating around in the fridge and I want to reduce the risk of it landing on the filter (yes, I know that's what the filter is there for, but I'm conservative). Keep liquid culture syringes in a Ziploc bag or something similar. Fruiting blocks can be stored as is. The answer I give when someone asks how long it will last in the fridge is a bit of a cop-out, but I always say indefinitely. I've never completed a proper shelf life study - it's too time-consuming and expensive and I'm not sure a precise answer is actually worthwhile. Anecdotally, liquid and agar cultures will last for months. The only caveat to everything mentioned above is that not all varieties like refrigeration. A good example is Pink Oyster (Pleurotus djamor), which prefers warm environments and often dies in refrigeration. Everything at The Fungal Jungle, with the exception of Pink Oyster, can be refrigerated. It will be explicitly stated otherwise in the product description if refrigeration is not tolerated.

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  • How do I dry my mushrooms without a dehydrator?

This is not really a science, more of an art. It varies between mushrooms so much, but the basics remain the same:

    1. Set your oven to 170°F. If you have optional convection, turn it on. If your oven doesn't allow such a low temperature, find the lowest temperature it will allow you to set and leave the door slightly cracked during drying to release the heat.
    2. Clean your mushrooms well.
    3. If you're drying Reishi, cut your specimen into strips. I like to do about 1/2" thick or less.
    4. Spread your mushrooms out over a cookie sheet.

    5. Bake for an hour. Flip them. Bake for another hour.

Okay full disclosure about the time - this is going to vary. I find an hour each side works for Reishi in general, but depending on how thick and fresh your specimen is (regardless of species), your drying time will change. The result you want is for the mushroom to be hard and crisp. If you can achieve that in half the time, congratulations! If you need more time, no problem whatsoever. When your mushrooms have dried to your satisfaction, store them in an airtight container and they should keep for a few months.

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  • How do I make Reishi (Ganoderma sp.) tea?

Call me a weirdo, but I like my Reishi tea strong. For every 3g of dried Reishi I measure 1 cup of water and bring it to a boil in a pot. Feel free to play with the quantities.

Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat so it's simmering. I simmer for 2 hours, though you can certainly simmer for longer. You will probably have to add water as it steams off, so don't forget to check it occasionally.

After the simmer, strain the tea and store it in the fridge. I like to use mine up in a few days.

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