Frequently Asked Questions
We get a lot of questions about our products & the fascinating organism that is mushrooms, so we've answered many here for you. If you have any other questions or comments, feel free to reach out to us!
A mushroom mini-farm is a block of hardwood pellet & soy hull substrate that has been inoculated with the spores of a specific mushroom species, has been colonized with mycelium ‘roots’ over a number of weeks, and is ready to grow in your home when exposed to humidity, oxygen & light. We love sharing our unique mushrooms with people, and a mini-farm is a great way to experience the magic of fungi life cycle on a small scale.
The varieties of mushrooms we grow and sell like high humidity with fresh oxygen and regular daylight cycles - in the wild, a damp forest floor and a breeze is suitable; in a commercial grow room, we pump in lots of humidity, ventilate the air regularly, and have lights cycle on a timer. It's not hard, but they are demanding for these 3 basic resources. Growing a mushroom mini-farm at home is as easy as opening your box to expose the block to light, cutting a slit in the inner bag to expose it to oxygen, and misting the cut area generously 2-5 times a day with regular tap water in any spray bottle to provide it a semi-humid environment. You can also use a home humidifer unit to be more hands-off, especially if you are not home for a majority of the day. At minimum, we recommend misting your mini-farm when you get up in the morning, and when you go to bed at night. It's not hard, but providing humidity regularly is the most important part.
We time the sale of our mini-farms to go home with you when they're ready to be grown, so it is recommended to start them within a week of purchase. If you cannot start within a week, or are saving it to start later/gift to someone else, you can put the whole box in a fridge to hibernate the mycelium for up to a month. We recommend refrigerating the whole box not just the block to keep it shielded from light which can be a growth trigger. However, the box is only cardboard, so try to keep the box dry in the fridge, and don't put it in a freezer - too cold will make the cell structure break down.
Our mushroom blocks are covered in mycelium, the thin root-like precursor to mushrooms. Mold, like the fuzzy stuff growing on rotten food, is just another kind of fungi, and is basically formed of the same wispy mycelium. The way we know our block has good mycelium is because it is a nice healthy white colour when we package it, or in the case of pink oysters mushrooms, it can be pink-tinged. If you see any patches on your block of a different colour, such as green, blue, orange, yellow, or dark grey to black, that is the bad kind of mold, and we ask that you send us a picture of it and discard your kit immediately, which we will replace for you free of charge!
We want everyone who purchases one of our mini-farms to have a good experience with it, so we promise that if you mist your block minimum twice a day, for twice as long as the stated harvest time on the front of the box (eg. 8-10 days harvest should be 16-20 days at maximum for first harvest), and you don't receive at least 1/2 a pound (226g) of fresh mushrooms from at least 1 harvest, we will refund you or give you a replacement, whichever you choose (replacements subject to your location and current available stock). We do not guarantee more than 1 harvest, but we do try to ensure the block has enough nutrition for at least 2.
We do our best to provide a product that should produce mushrooms in a home setting, and give thorough instructions for you to feel prepared to carry on the work from where we left off. In return, we expect you to try your best to give your mushrooms the best chance at life - growing mushrooms is not a set-it & forget-it project, it requires active participation from the grower. It's important to remember that it is a live organism, which requires basic building blocks of life.
Don't hesitate to reach out if you are having a suboptimal experience with your mini-farm and we will do our best to rectify the situation. Happy Growing!
Your box should be placed in an area that gets ambient, indirect light during the day - not in direct sun and not in darkness. Our mushroom varieties like the natural day/night cycle of light. Do not put your box near heat or air current sources like air vents, stoves, or fireplaces. We recommend a kitchen counter, if possible near the sink for the added benefit of extra moisture in the air from washing up. This area is good because it's usually noticable in your daily routine, as you don't want to put the box somewhere you'll forget about it.
We instruct to only cut the marked X on the top of your block to try and force the mushrooms to concentrate all of their energy into growing at the one area with the most resources, i.e. moisture and oxygen. When we remove a larger area of plastic, the block is less protected and so it dries out easier - the plastic does a lot to retain moisture in the block between you misting it. As well, if a wide area is exposed to oxygen, the block may decide to start many 'pin' bundles to start growing mushrooms from, which will spread out the resources, producing smaller bundles of mushrooms.
It does happen that sometimes the block wants to start growing elsewhere than where we tell you to cut, sometimes you can see a new bunch of pins trapped under the plastic towards the sides, so we instruct that you can cut the X larger only to let the area where you see growth starting to not be trapped by taught plastic, but don't cut open too large an area of plastic.
Knowing when is the right time to harvest mushrooms comes from experience - everything from its shape, colour, texture and smell can indicate the optimal time. We give a day range on the front of your box to give you a rough estimate of when your mushrooms will hit their peak from the experince we have with growing a lot of mushrooms.
The exact time is based on it's reproductive cycle - mushrooms open their caps wider to expose more of their underside so they can drop spores, which contain their genetic information and carry on the wind to new innoculation sites. The best time to harvest mushrooms is just before they drop their spores, which is when they are at their peak physical texture of plump, juicy, firmness - they might not be at their biggest at this moment, but bigger is not always better with mushrooms, textural qualities decline as they get overgrown. We try to give guidance based mainly on shape as the 'closedness' or 'openness' of caps is a direct attribute of this cycle. Trying to catch the mushrooms at the mid point between too early and late is the art of observation that comes with experience.
Blue & Golden Oysters and Chestnut mushrooms have traditional curled, concave caps that will flatten out and flip upwards into convex caps as they grow past their peak, harvest after you can see more of the gills shown under the caps. Pink oysters grow more like a rose, with tightly bundled 'petal' caps that have a curled lip that uncurls with age, and the tight packed shaped of the head loosens out into more of an open blooming flower, but the colour is sometimes a better indcator with Pink Oysters - a deep salmon colour is ideal, the paler is gets, the older it is. Harvest just as the head 'blooms' into a more open shape and turns from deep salmon to a rose pink. Lion's mane is a different shape altogether, with a puffy head of 'teeth' instead of gills and caps, and the sign of a prime lion's mane is when the teeth are about 1-2mm long and the white head doesn't yet show signs of yellowing. Harvest when the teeth reach that length.
Mushrooms don't show much signs of life for the first 40% of thier growth cycle, so don't expect explosive action right away. Once you start to see solid 'pins' or clusters of baby mushrooms, there's a good chance it will grow to maturity if given the ideal conditions.
If you've reached your harvest range posted on the font of your box and it's still not looking ready, it may be a sign that the conditions given were not ideal for the mushrooms, including not enough humidity or too much humidity, too cold or hot, or too much moving air drying it out. Dry conditions produce leather-y, discoloured caps, and smaller yields; overly wet conditions give slimy caps & mushy textures. With experience, you can intuit the mushroom’s needs.
If you're not seeing any pins at all by 60% of the time until your harvest range (eg. Day 5 of 8), the conditions are either very unideal (typically not humid enough) or there is growth happening where you can't see. It can help to take the block out of the box and look through the plastic to try and find other areas where pins might have started forming. We try to direct the mushroom by cutting the bag to give it oxygen at the place we want it to grow, but sometimes they have a mind of their own, and stunt themselves in a corner where they cannot grow. You can cut the plastic here in another X shape, turn that side to face upwards in the box, and return to the misting routine to try and resume progress.
If nothing much happens at all, refer to our Grows Good Moneyback Guarantee FAQ to see how we will make it right for you!
Our mushroom species are all non-toxic to household pets, so if your furry friend gets interested in them, nothing will happen to them. In our experience, neither cats nor dogs have ever shown interest in our mushrooms, they don't really perceive it as a food, so they don't really care to nibble them.
We are open to selling larger 5 or 10lb production blocks as well as grain spawn blocks for larger home cultivation projects, just email us with what you're looking for and we'll see what we can do!
Cooking & Eating Mushrooms
While it is generally safe to eat commercially cultivated mushrooms raw (not so for wild foraged mushrooms), it is not recommended for 3 main reasons: nutrition, taste & texture. Mushroom cell walls are made of chitin, which is a very tough substance (crab shells are made of this!) and is difficult for our digestion to break down, so we receive very little of the nutrition locked away inside the mushrooms when eaten raw. Chitin is considered an insoluble dietary fibre though, so it can benefit your fibre intake. Also mushrooms' texture when raw can be spongy & rubbery, and their taste isn't very appealing, with certain negative tastes like metallic notes present in raw oyster mushrooms for instance. When mushrooms are exposed to heat through cooking, that helps break down the cell walls, so you can access the many nutritional benefits. Cooked mushrooms also have a better texture, with oysters & shiitake having a more satisfying meaty chew, or chestnut & enoki turning more supple & tender, and the real flavour of mushrooms comes out only when cooked, with whole new dimensions of umami & depth to them. We always recommend cooking our mushrooms thoroughly so you get the best experience for what you paid for!
As per Public Health Ontario's Evidence Brief on Foraged Mushroom Consumption in Ontario: "There is no simple test to reliably distinguish between edible and poisonous mushroom species, and mistaking poisonous for edible mushrooms may result in adverse health effects. Foraged mushrooms in Ontario that are easy to recognize, hard to misidentify, and harvested by a knowledgeable and competent forager are not likely to be poisonous."
Foraging is a skill, and with experience and the right tools, you can gain knowledge & confidence to know which mushrooms & other foraged foods are safe to eat and which are not. We do not take responsibility for our customer's health by identifying foraged mushrooms for them, but we are happy to recommend tools we use. Phone apps that identify mushrooms with your camera can be useful, and a good guidebook such as Wild Edible Mushrooms of Ontario or Mushrooms of Ontario & Eastern Canada is useful to have on hikes.
Learning the key characteristics of common mushrooms you'd like to find as well as their false look-alike species is a great place to start. Also if you're looking for mushrooms to eat, the designation of "choice" in many guides indicates that it's known to actually taste desirable, non-choice mushrooms are more for looking than eating. Taking a sample home to test for the colour of its spore print can be another step to help identify a mushroom.
If you do decide to eat a foraged mushroom, always cook it thoroughly, and always start with a small amount to see how you react. Only 3% of known mushrooms are actually poisonous, with very few being potentially fatal, but it's still possible you will get an upset stomach when experimenting with wild foods, so starting small is key.
Mushrooms have a lot of water content, so lightly cooking or steaming them still leaves them with a lot of water and they can be a bit soggy & rubbery. With the exception of using mushrooms for soup, we feel that they really shine when that water content is reduced through sauteeing or pan frying in medium-high heat so you can enjoy their meaty texture and richer concentrated flavour.
A high heat cook of mushrooms allows them to release their water and then adding oil or butter allows them to get browned & crispy. If you pan-fry them first to a delicious state, they can easily be included into other foods, like on pizza, pasta, or even salad; in an omelette, stir fries and bowls. You can use them in recipes in their raw state as well, like in a risotto, they will just have a more moist & supple texture that way. However, we don't recommend putting them raw into a recipe where you don't want extra moisture - for instance with a pizza where they will steam off their moisture in an oven onto the pizza face leaving it soggy - they're often better added to recipes once some of their moisture is already gone.
Their unique taste & texture make them feel more like a meat addition to your meals, instead of a vegetable, so we often recommend seasoning them the way you would meat to enhance their meaty qualities. They pair well with garlic & onion, any herb like parsley, oregano, thyme, or rosemary, as well as with rich umami spices & condiments like smoked paprika, cumin, soy sauce, miso paste, and liquid smoke.
Flavours can range greatly in specialty mushrooms, but a common feature is that they do not sport the same 'earth'-like or 'dirt' flavour that common button mushrooms, cremini's and portobellos do - that's because most commercially cultivated specialty mushrooms are not grown on earth or peat like the common grocery store mushrooms, but are grown on wood, as they are mostly tree-loving species.
We've found that tasting notes for mushrooms can be very subjective, and the gentle flavours of specialty mushrooms can be hard to describe, (which is why they're worth trying for yourself!). Broadly, they embody the concept of umami taste - meaty, complex & savory - but here are some of the commonly noted taste & texture notes for the varieties we grow.
Chestnut mushrooms have a gentle nutty flavour like a toasted almond, and while their caps become quite supple & soft when cooked, they have a unique 'crunchier' kind of stem, like the snap of a fresh cooked green bean. Their high moisture content moisture makes them difficult to get crisp in the pan, making them ideal for silky saucy dishes & sautees.
Blue oyster mushrooms have a mild flavour with no strong comparison tastes, but their plump, thick caps & stems make for very meaty, full bites, and when crisped up in high heat cooking & seasoned similarly to meat dishes, they really can feel like small bites of moist chicken.
Yellow oysters are similar to blue oysters, but with a more pronounced chicken-y flavour, some people describe it as a buttery cashew flavour, but their texture is more delicate with thin & small caps, so they easily crisp in the pan for a nice crunchy texture.
Pink Oyster has a more pronounced flavour & smell than the other oysters, some people describe a bacon-like flavour when cooked well in high heat, but we find pink oyster to be more like salmon - a slightly seafood-y smell with a thick, meaty bite like a grilled salmon fillet.
Lion's mane has a cauliflower-like inner structure with dense & moist clusters. Some describe the taste as the mild sweetness of crab or lobster meat, and their pull-apart texture actually makes them a great crab-cake filler, but they also pair really well with meat seasoning and can be a pulled pork emulate, or like cauliflower steaks, fried in thick slices in the pan for a meaty patty.
Mushrooms are very healthy! They are an underrated superfood: low-calorie, low-sodium, fat-free & cholesterol-free, many varieties are often packed with fiber, B-vitamins, copper, potassium, and a moderate amount of protein including all nine of the essential amino acids.
Mushrooms contain beta-glucans - soluble dietary fibers that are not only a great boost of fibre, but also improve cholesterol & boost heart health by regulating blood sugar, and are being researched for their potential to stimulate the immune system & help fight off disease & infection‡
Mushrooms also contain antioxidants like selenium, ergothioneine & glutathione, protecting us from damaging free radicals - unstable atoms & molecules in our bodies - that cause damage & oxidative stress to our cells and can result in illness, cancers & aging.
All that in addition to being delicious, filling, and hearty - it's hard to get a better bang for your buck in the world of ingredients you could choose to add to your diet.
Mushrooms should always be refrigerated with some ventilation to keep them at their best for longest. If mushrooms are stored in an airtight container, they get soggy and mushy faster, and if exposed to too much air, they dry out and their caps get cracked faster. A container with small airholes or gaps or a simple paper bag that allows the mushrooms to breathe are ideal.
Most specialty mushrooms are highly perishable with a fairly short shelf life, so we endeavour to sell our mushrooms within 48-72 hours of being harvested in hopes that they'll last in your fridge for at least a week. Unfortunately, specialty mushrooms bought in grocery stores often have a longer journey through distribution channels, so by the time you get them to your fridge, they have a very short life of only a few days.
Mushrooms can vary in their shelf life even when stored correctly; pink oysters last closer to 4-5 days in a fridge, blue oysters can keep well for almost 2 weeks, and yellow oysters, lion's mane & chestnuts last for about 10 days. If a mushroom doesn't smell off and isn't too soggy and mushy, they are still good to use - even dry mushrooms, while not ideal, can still be cooked and enjoyed.
Mushrooms can also last longer once cooked, with a cooked mushrooms lasting about a week in a sealed container in the fridge, so we recommend cooking mushrooms you won't have time to eat while they're prime to extend their usability.
Mushrooms are very high in water content, so freezing raw mushrooms is not good, their cell walls break and they come out mushy. However, thoroughly cooked mushrooms that have had most of their water content steamed off through sauteeing or pan frying freeze extremely well, and we highly recommend cooking mushrooms to freeze for ease of use when cooking meals later.
Storing them in a freezer bag, you can use portions of your frozen batch to throw into a hot pan to defrost them, or throw them into hot sauces or soups. This cuts down the cooking time significantly since they are already cooked and just need to reheat. You can also freeze them in liquids like sauces or soups to fast track meals even more.
Buying our Products
'Specialty mushroom' is a broad term used to refer to mushrooms meant for culinary use that are not the Agaricus Bisporus species of mushrooms, which are the typical ones found at the grocery store - white button, cremini and portobello. Fun fact, all of those mushrooms are the exact same species of mushroom, just harvested at different stages of their life, white button being the most juvenile, portobello being the most mature.
If a mushroom is referred to as 'wild' it should mean they have been foraged in the wilderness, not grown indoors or outdoors in a commercial farming setup. Some mushrooms that are commercially farmed can also be found in the wild, like lion's mane, oysters, and shiitakes, so the species alone doesn't determine if they are wild or not, but their method of growth does.
However, some mushrooms are exclusively foraged in the wild due to their mycorrhizal symbiotic relationship with tree roots that make them almost impossible to grow indoors or in large scale, such as chantarelles, morels, matsutake, porcini, and truffles. This is what makes these mushrooms so expensive, and also means you more often will find them dried, not fresh, due to their seasonal scarcity.
Medicinal mushrooms are mushrooms that have medicinal benefits above and beyond the typical nutritious & healthy features of mushrooms. Some mushrooms researched for their medicinal benefits include lion's mane, reishi, turkey tail, chaga, cordyceps, and many others. Typically these medicinal benefits are in compounds locked inside the mushroom's cell walls made of chitin, which our digestion cannot break down effectively, so medicinal mushrooms are often extracted with pressure, hot water simmers or high-proof alcohol to make the beneficial compounds available to us. Extracted mushrooms can come in a tincture form, powdered, or capsuled. When buying medicinal mushrooms as a supplement, it's important that the package says if they are extracted/'pre-extracted' or not, as just putting powdered dried mushrooms into your hot tea or coffee won't fully extract the medicinal compounds, so they will pass right through you. Some mushrooms that are typically used in culinary applications have also been shown to have medicinal benefits that can't be accessed by eating them normally, such as shiitake and lion's mane. Many others like reishi, turkey tail, and chaga have a woody, inedible texture that naturally make them never considered for culinary uses.
While often classified as vegetables from a nutritional and culinary standpoint, mushrooms are botanically classified as fungi, which is a distinct kingdom from plants & animals. From a biological & evolutionary standpoint, mushrooms are actually closer to animals than plants. Unlike plants, mushrooms do not photosynthesis to produce their own food nor do they ever exhale oxygen; instead, much like animals, they need to feed off of other matter to survive and breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. When considering the taste & texture of mushrooms, they are often described as 'meaty' to highlight their uniqueness from other vegetables, and this aligns with their unique biological nature as distinctly non-plants.
Mushrooms in the wild do grow seasonally, with the wetter, temperate conditions of spring and fall being the ideal months for finding them in the wild, though they can be found throughout the summer, and through the winter in warmer climates. Commercial cultivation of mushrooms creates the ideal conditions for them so they can be grown on-demand, and if grown in a climate controlled indoor farm, they can be grown year round.
'Magic mushroom' is a common slang term for psychedelic mushrooms, which are certain species of mushrooms that have hallucinogenic & medicinal properties. These are not legal to grow or sell in Canada, so if you see mushrooms at a farmer's market, they almost certainly won't be selling these kinds of mushrooms.