I cleaned out the attic recently, throwing away several of my husband's old chemistry and jewelry making catalogs. Which reminded me of this video sent to by Bill Beatty, in which he talks about how you could use catalogs like that as a medium for growing oyster mushrooms (aka, one of the yummy mushrooms).
Bill includes a set of instructions for this on his website, but he admits, this is somewhat theoretical as he hasn't pulled it off himself, yet. What about you? Have any of you grown mushrooms on catalogs or other unique medium? What do you think of Bill's proposed system?
Old phone book or catalog (thick one)
small trash bags ("tall kitchen can bags")
Large 6qt boiling pot
Distilled water ($1 gallon jug from a drug store)
1 Tbs Baking soda
one pound of very fresh large oyster mushrooms
First need to somehow sterilize (pasteurize) your old catalog. I'll try baking mine for two or three hours at 300F on a foil-covered cookie sheet. Then I'll boil a couple of quarts of distilled water in my biggest pasta pot, add a teaspoon of baking soda, then dunk the catalog and let it soak and swell up. (Use less soda? How much water to swell up a catalog without saturating it?)
Add mushrooms to cooled catalog: I'll try slicing the mushrooms very thin, then adding slices to many places in the catalog. If that doesn't work, maybe I'll blender the mushrooms in cold distilled water and use it instead. Conventional instructions have you first make some mushroom+grain material in jars, then days later you mix this "spawn" into the damp chopped straw.
Grow: I'll store the swollen catalog in a white plastic garbage bag. Push the catalog sides so the damp paper opens up a lot. Probably we want lots of air gaps, and not a solid wet log? Tie it off, then poke ten or twenty holes in the bag with a pencil or nail.
Grow: Store it out of the way in a closet for one and a half to two weeks. See if the white mushroom stuff completely takes over the paper. Perhaps it will take longer, since paper catalog is denser than chopped straw. Fuzzy white = good. Colorful or dark is mold=bad.
Trigger mushroom growth: put the bag overnight in your refrigerator. Then store it in an undisturbed spot in basement or washroom. Freakin huge edible mushrooms push out of those nail holes.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.