Mushrooms That Save The Day

From the humble button mushroom to the elusive truffle, humans have consumed various delectable fungi since the stone age. Fungi can be a great addition to any meal due to their rich fiber content and micronutrient complex (primarily B vitamins). Mushrooms are also a great source of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, selenium, and choline. 

Mushrooms are technically the fruiting body of the fungi, and encompass only a fraction of the bulk of what makes up the organism. The fruiting body is similar to a fruit or vegetable, with the mycelial network similar to the plant that bears them. Mushrooms start out from spores, which are the equivalent of seeds. You can grow mushrooms by inoculating a medium with these spores. The medium used to grow the fungi, with the intent to produce the fruiting bodies, varies depending on the type of fungi being grown, and the quality and yield desired. The yield and size of the fruiting body are directly proportional to each other, and largely depend on the substrate. Commonly used substrates include straw, seed hull, sawdust, waste paper, coconut coir et al. Wood based substrates are favored by growers that want a good yield, bran and hull may be added to increase nutrient availability. 

Most beginners might want to start out using a mushroom grow kit, which comes packaged with everything that you need, complete with instructions. The kits are fairly inexpensive, and will provide you with multiple flushes (harvests) that span well over a month. The method for growing the mushrooms remains the same, regardless of whether you start from scratch or use a kit.

The first step of the process is to acquire a starter, i.e. mushroom spores or spawn, spawn being the equivalent of a seedling, spores that have grown to establish a mycelial network. When looking for a substrate, prioritize options that are sterilized or food grade. This can save you a good amount of work and reduce chances of contamination. Proceed to moisten the substrate with water and mix in bran or hull (optional, but recommended). After this, mix in the starter. Don't worry about mixing it in thoroughly, the mycelial network will expand to take over the substrate regardless. Next, transfer the mixture to the bags or containers being used. Bags are easier to deal with, albeit for single use; polypropylene bags specially made for fungiculture are widely available. Create openings on the sides of the bags or container being used - this is where the fruiting bodies will appear. These also serve as points where you can mist the mixture (the mixture should be misted daily, two to five times depending on the variant). The mycelial network will take between four to ten days to expand throughout the substrate, after which it will take anywhere between one to four days for the fruiting bodies to start popping up. The mushrooms should be ready to harvest two weeks later. Following the first flush, you can continue to mist the mixture for up to four flushes. This depends on the exactness of the process followed, variety, substrate, and growth conditions. The mixture can yield for a month (one or two flushes) to a year. The size and time between the flushes depend on the size of the project, and the substrate used.

 There are various kinds of fungi that you can grow using this method. The most popular are oyster (pearl, blue, golden, elm, blue and phoenix), king trumpet, shiitake, and lions mane mushroom. We've curated three simple, vegetarian recipes that feature some of these mushrooms and are easy to make. These will impress the most discerning of foodies, maybe even get you a pat on the back from your mother.

Miso Grilled King Trumpet Mushrooms

Clean mushrooms with a damp cloth (never wash mushrooms), cut in half lengthwise, and score the insides.

Make the marinade in a small bowl by whisking together:  

  • 1 tsp miso
  • A dash of mirin
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce 
  • Chopped ginger and garlic to taste
  • 1 tsp sesame oil


    Rub the mixture on to the mushrooms and let set for 10 minutes

    Cook on a hot grill for five minutes each side

    Toss cooked mushrooms with toasted sesame seeds, a dash of raw honey, and chili flakes to taste 

    Serve on a bed of steamed spinach or salad greens

Lion’s Mane Nuggets

Break about 500 grams of lion's mane into bite sized chunks.

Make a batter using:

  • 1 cup of chickpea or quinoa flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp onion 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 tsp miso


    Coat the mushrooms with the batter and fry in rice bran oil till golden brown

    Toss with salt to taste, and serve with a dip of choice.

Stir Fried Shiitake

    Chop up shiitake into batons

    Mince onion, scallion and garlic

    Fry the additions in peanut oil till translucent

    Add in the shiitake

    Add salt and pepper to taste

    Continue to cook till the mushrooms are done

    Toss with oyster sauce and toasted sesame

    Serve with steamed long grain rice