Mushrooms are not part of the plant kingdom, but give rise to a real realm in its own right, that of the mushrooms, also called mycetes; we can roughly divide this kingdom into two different groups, the macromycetes, or the mushrooms that are consumed by man and animals as nourishment; and the micromycetes, or all those yeasts, rots and molds, very common everywhere, of dimensions not perceptible to the human eye. As far as our garden is concerned, we will only talk about macromycetes, or larger and structurally complex fungi. The fungi differ greatly from the plants for various reasons; first of all their physical and cellular structure is very particular: the fungi cells are made up mostly of chitin, and not of cellulose as happens in plants. Furthermore, the fungi are not able to synthesize nourishment directly from the environment, but feed on the organic matter of other organisms, absorb it and recycle it.
The parts that make up a mushroom
The fungi originate from tiny spores, of dimensions not perceptible to the human eye; from these spores originate the hyphae, similar to small roots that develop in the ground, also called mycelium. When the climate is humid and fresh from the hyphae the fruiting body develops, what we call mushroom.
In reality, not all hyphae are productive, some spores are of both female and male sex, and give rise to productive hyphae; other spores are only male or only female, the hyphae originating from these spores need to encounter hyphae of the opposite sex to become mycelium and give rise to fruiting bodies, or fungi.
Most edible mushrooms consist of a cylindrical or roundish base, erect, which supports a kind of hat, more or less wide; at the beginning of the development of the fungus the cap is closed on the base, during the development of the fungus, which can occur in a few hours, the cap widens and from the underlying part other spores are released, which will give rise to new specimens.
In nature there are tens of thousands of species of macromycetes; as everyone well knows, some mushrooms are edible, and are also cultivated for human consumption, while others contain more or less high doses of toxic substances: if you want to collect mushrooms in nature it is good to know perfectly the physical characteristics of edible mushrooms, to distinguish them from toxic ones, which can also have very harmful effects, and even lead to death if consumed in large quantities.
When we collect mushrooms then we avoid consuming them if we do not recognize them as an edible species: we also recommend going to a mycological center to recognize mushrooms even when we believe we recognize edible species.
Today the cultivation of mushrooms is widespread, and, as regards some edible species, it does not require excessive space or particular abilities.
Some fungi develop as parasites, this behavior is evident on the trunk of trees covered by large populations of mushrooms arranged in a fan pattern, typically found on poplars; to grow mushrooms in our garden it is not necessary to have a tree to "sacrifice".
The fertile spores of some of the most commonly spread species of edible mushrooms, such as the so-called prataioli or champignon, or the pleurotus are available on the market; the spores are marketed in small envelopes, as happens with the seeds of any vegetable.
In reality, however, the spores of fungus should not be sown in the land of the garden, because they would not find either the habitat or the most suitable ground for their development; mushrooms are grown in bales of hay, soil and manure. Often on the market you can also find bales for the cultivation of mushrooms already sown.
To allow the hyphae to develop along the whole hay bale and give rise to the fungi it is important, however, to bring the substrate back to the ideal conditions for the development of the fungi: humidity is of fundamental importance at this point. As well as in the woods, even in ours mushroom cultivation humidity must be constant and high; besides, as well as in the woods, the mushrooms prefer shaded and cool locations.
Then we place the inseminated bale with the mycelium in a sheltered place, not too cold, and keep it moist, not soaked with water, but with high humidity; when we begin to see the first small mushrooms we move the cultivation to a cooler place, such as in a sheltered corner of the cellar or garage.
If we are lazy we can buy a pre-sown bale in the nursery for the preparation of a mushroom; this bale will be placed in a suitable place, wet, and within a few days we will be able to consume the first mushrooms of our cultivation; if instead we have more spirit of initiative we can prepare a bale for the cultivation of mushrooms. To do this it is sufficient to have a jute sack or a wooden box; we prepare a mixture composed of garden soil, manure and hay; It is essential that the manure is well ripe, to avoid fermentation, with consequent excessive elevation of the temperature and death of the mycelium.
If desired, we can add to the mixture vegetable waste already partially decomposed, dried leaves or other material that will be decomposed by fungi. we place the mixture prepared by us inside a jute bag, or we cover the box with a plastic sheet and then fill it up to the brim with our substrate. Moisten the soil thoroughly, so that moisture penetrates even deep; we check with our fingers that all the substrate is wet, and not just the most superficial layer.
At this point we spread the mycelium on the ground and cover it with a thin layer of fine earth; we place our mushroom in a place sheltered from light, and we periodically vaporize water to keep the climate humid.
Growing porcini mushrooms
A technique that is still being studied is the cultivation of porcini in greenhouses. The cultivation of this type of mushroom is very difficult, because it is very complex to achieve an artificial symbiosis between plant and porcini.
Some companies offer Boletus spores on the market that can be spread on bales of hay and grow well in a humid environment like the greenhouse.
These mushrooms, after being placed in hay bales, undergo an incubation period ranging from 67-70 to 90 days.
During incubation the mushrooms and hay bales must be irrigated with a certain frequency, in a very regular manner. One of the most used solutions is that of using dispersion micro-sprinklers or better still of nebulizers, which with their gradual and moderate release of water allow to keep the environment humid, with an ideal climate for the growth and development of porcini mushrooms.
Following these advices and waiting for the growth times it seems that we are able to obtain a boletus mushroom very similar to the porcino, but as mentioned at the beginning, it is an experiment still being studied and perfected by results that are not certain and constant.
Growing mushrooms: Bales of mushrooms
We have spoken so far of the bales of mushrooms that seem an optimal product for the cultivation of mushrooms ... but what are the types of mushrooms on sale on the market, the brands and the bales of mushrooms most used?
One of the most widely used products on the market is certainly the tablet for growing champignons, very similar to bale of mushrooms in some ways but with some substantial differences. The champignon kit for sale offers 3 poplar wood panels treated with steam sterilization, a bag and some champignon mycelium. The procedure for preparing the cultivation consists in immersing the poplar tablets in water for about ten minutes, then removing them, letting them drain, and then going to distribute the mushroom spores contained in the plastic bag on the tablets.
After doing these operations we will wrap the tablet with a plastic bag which we will then close to then keep it at a constant temperature of 25 ° C for at least 5-7 weeks. After this period we should see white mold appear on the tablet and we will therefore have to remove the kit from the plastic bag to place it in a lighted environment but away from direct sunlight or wind, and taking care that the environment is always moist. After a while the champignon mushrooms will begin to emerge and grow on the tablet and we will be able to admire the first results of our cultivation.
The cultivation of bales of mushrooms instead is even more simple because it is sufficient to buy these bales, available in different sizes according to the needs, place them in a humid and not exposed to direct light and frequently wet the hay bale. Also in this case the cultivation temperature must be between 10 and 25 ° C.
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