Kids grow Mushrooms

Kids can enjoy the earthy goodness of mushrooms by growing commercially developed spores at home. Mushroom kits allow kids to harvest the mushrooms at peak freshness and have the best flavor and texture easily available. The simplest kit is a plastic bag with holes, filled with straw and sawdust, and sown with the spores of a particular mushroom. Mushrooms are a fungus supported by underground mycelium (a mushroom’s equivalent to a root system).  Within weeks, the mycelium will have grown outward and mushrooms will sprout from the holes. There are several species of mushroom kits: Portobello or crimini, which are tasty, versatile, productive, and easy to grow; oyster, which absorbs the flavors of any dish and grows in either straw or wood; shitake, which have the best flavor and texture and are the most productive. Kids can take the leftover medium after they have harvested the kit and stuff it into the cracks of a log or sprinkle it at the edge of a compost pile and often the mycelium will sprout again. Besides plastic bags with sawdust, commercial growers have developed mushroom logs by inoculating a small, sawdust-based plug with mycelium. The plugs are stuffed into holes drilled in freshly cut logs or tree stumps and stored for a year until the mycelium has grown into the length of the wood. Seasonal temperature changes trigger the spores to grow into fully fruited mushrooms and the mushroom log will continue sprouting for many years. Kids need to wash all mushrooms, despite rumors to the contrary, as they absorb little water. Mushrooms are rich in phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals, delicious roasted, grilled, stuffed, and add a hearty earthiness in soups, stews, pasta dishes, and pizza.

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