Growing mushrooms on old catalogs

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.

Video Link


  1. Is it that easy to spawn new mushrooms? I’ve always been put off from mushroom growing because the starter kits are pretty expensive (compared to vegetable seeds).

    Has anyone else here successfully grown mushrooms just by slicing / grinding up store bought shrooms?

    1. Is it that easy to spawn new mushrooms?

      Depends upon the mushroom. One easy and fun thing to do is to grow wood-loving species on logs, outdoors. You can my inoculated dowels, pound them into drilled holes, and wait.

      Some friends of mine have had great success with shitaki this way!

  2. I’m growing some oyster mushrooms on an oak log here
    in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  However,
    they are outside in the garden and the squirrels, birds and bugs seem to get to
    them before I do.

     Alexis Williams is an artist here in Ottawa who is having a
    good amount of success growing oyster mushrooms using phonebooks.  She has some pictures up on her blog:

  3. I’ve grown mushrooms on interesting substrates using Rush Wayne’s techniques. Basically, he adopted some techniques from the Orchid industry. By using small concentrations of Hydrogen Peroxide, one need not sterilize the medium.You can use any medium (e.g. catalogs) that the mushrooms like but that doesn’t break H2O2 down. (I’ve grown grain-loving species, and interestingly, instant brown rice works well for this. Something in the processing makes the rice not break down the H2O2, whereas non-instant brown rice will.)

    The trick is that H2O2 kills mold and fungus spores, but mycellium breaks down H2O2. So you can’t start spores on such a medium, but once you’ve grown them out to the mycellium (which requires sterile techniques), no sterilization is necessary.

    Worked great for me!

    1. I was wondering that too. I know many colored inks are very toxic under certain conditions

  4. I seem to recall Stamets growing mushrooms on a copy of one of his own books.

    The last time I tried to grow mushrooms, I found it to be quite a hassle, but I was young, impatient, and probably tried to economize more than I should have.

    A while after my rather disappointing attempts, I was walking under a highway overpass, and I saw the most perfect oyster mushrooms growing out of a sheet of plywood that had fallen on the ground.  I think mushrooms often do best if you give them a good start in life, and then leave them alone as much as possible.

  5. I had rinsed off the styrene plate some portobellos had been packaged on and poured the slurry onto the woodchips in the bushes in my apartment’s garden in Chicago years ago. After some time, there was a huge mushroom growing. Someone else got to it before I could, though.

  6. Growing oysters on books is a common little novelty.  The yield is not very good but it can be kind of fun. 

    Lots of misconceptions in this thread though.  First off the H2O2 method is complete crap.  You may get success but the H2O2 isn’t the cause.  The whole concept was more or less a scam to sell a few Xerox’d sheets of paper. 

    There is no such thing as ‘grain loving’ mushroom species.  Maybe you mean wood loving?  Most gourmet edibles are wood loving (which is why they can grow on paper) with some being compost lovers (secondary decomposers). 

    All paper/ink in newspapers/phone books in the US are made out of biodegradable and safe materials (soy based inks) so there’s no risk of heavy metal contamination.  Other countries will vary. 

    White fuzzy stuff = mycelium.  Not sure why he’s talking about using baking soda that’s not gonna help anything.  Lose the distilled water as that won’t make a difference.  Don’t try to pasteurize books in the oven.  Bad idea for so many reasons.  Just boil a big pot of water and pour it over your books in a rubbermade bin or something and let them sit for at least 1.5 hours.  Then remove them from water and let them cool.  Once cool add your spawn.  If you are using chopped up mushrooms from the store your success will be intermittent.  If you are going to try it use the freshest fruit you can.  But overall this process will be a novelty and won’t be a good way to consistently produce lots of mushrooms. 

    I’ve grown on many substrates including paper, books, coffee grounds, etc.  Straw/sawdust work the best for wood lovers.

    1. If you are using chopped up mushrooms from the store your success will be intermittent. 

      Is there a reliable way to do this, outside of purchasing a starter from a mushroom website?

      1. Sure you can grow your own spawn.  That quickly gets to be a bit complicated though.  That said I have a culture collection of 30 or 40 species so obviously I can grow myself spawn for lots of species that you can’t buy from online vendors.  It all depends on how involved you want to get.  Getting a bag of spawn for garden giant will let you set up an outdoor patch that will fruit year after year so that could be a good balance.

    2. Lots of misconceptions in this thread though.  First off the H2O2 method
      is complete crap.  You may get success but the H2O2 isn’t the cause. 
      The whole concept was more or less a scam to sell a few Xerox’d sheets
      of paper.  

      I disagree. I grew several times on unsterilized substrate with no contamination and good yields. My success using sterile techniques was much less.

      You can call it a scam if you want, but I give more credence to my empirical experience than your assertion. I mean, have you actually tried it, or do you just “know?”

      1. I guess we’re just going to have to mutually think the other is clueless.  Most of what you said is provably nonsense.  But then it dawned on me with your “grain loving” species and all the talk of brown rice flour that you managed to grow a few 1/2 pint jars of cubensis and now fancy yourself a mycologist.  I’ve used H2O2 many different ways and have seen some instances where it can be helpful with certain species but in general it’s not worth the trouble.  H2O2 damages mushroom mycelium to differing degrees depending on the species.  Cubensis and pleurotus species being particularly tolerant.  But in general proper pasteurization with hot water will work better every time for the fruiting substrate. 

  7. Pulp the paper in a blender and h202 solution and, depending on the species, perhaps add some vermiculite.   Use a species that is native to you’re environment (this step will likely require a foray)  , unless you’re controlling the temperature, then use a species adapted to that temperature -that way you dont have to do the work (finding the right species that will grow under your porch) that nature has already perfected
    H202 has been successful in my experiments.  
    maintaining the right moisture levels in the substrate will be the most difficult part.  
    I would probably just add the mycelium or in the blender, then take it out and strain it, then put it in a bag – the monks dont poke holes in them till thev’e allowed some time to colonize.

  8. I started with a kit, but I’ve been propogating my oyster mushrooms with a handful of spawn into a clean bag full of soaked bits of stick and paper and other stuff that seemed likely. No sterilising but I haven’t got anything except oyster mushrooms after a couple of rounds. Am I a bad person and a danger to the community?

  9. I was wondering that too. I know many colored inks are very toxic under certain conditions.

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