Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Well that does it. All three jars are contaminated and now there is green mold growing on my stock mycelium :( The hydrogen peroxide helped, but in the end there was simply too much competition.

The first two jars were doomed from the beginning since the fungus gnats were able to get past the screening. The third jar's demise is a bit puzzling. I wonder if perhaps the sterilization process was not long enough. No, the mold mycelium first appeared at the top of the jar on top of the cardboard barrier. So I guess the mold spores were introduced as I transferred the mycelium to the jar and started growing before coming in contact with the hydrogen peroxide. Next time I will take more care and perform the transfer in an environment with fewer contaminants floating about.

I stated there would be pictures, but I decided to wait until I have healthy mushroom mycelium.

O well, on to something new.

I was reading up on liquid culture and was intrigued. The process involves the growth of mycelium in a nutrient enhanced jar of water. Within a week, week and a half, the mycelium should be ready to transfer to the growing medium (substrate).

The bags of beech mushroom mycelium are still white and fuzzy, but not growing into the coffee grounds. To date there is no visible sign of contamination.

Friday, May 1, 2009

I am simply having no luck. A second jar is contaminated and the third is not looking so good.

The first two jars went down rather fast so I suspected fungus gnats. I placed squares of yellow sticky paper on top of my two jars, under the screening. Sure enough, fungus gnats.

Next time I will try using an old pair of nylons; my wife's nylons, really. They just spent an hour in the pressure cooker and appear fine.

As for the third jar, the mycelium is still white, but not web-like. The lid on this jar is wrapped tight with aluminum foil and an elastic so I doubt fungus gnats have made their way in.

The stock mycelium is continuing to colonize the cardboard with no sign of contamination and the beech mushroom mycelium is fuzzy as ever with no visible growth into the coffee grounds.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Disaster! :( One of my 1/2 pint jars is contaminated. I had originally thought the white mycelium at the edge of the cardboard barrier belonged to the King Oyster, but it was not to be; it belongs to a green mold. I will upload a photo shortly. It troubles me. I am unsure if a fungus gnat got through my screening.

The second of my three is also showing white mycelial grow, but it does not look as stringy as I would expect. Green mold also starts off with a white mycelium, but it soon turns green. The mycelium of mold looks like a group of white spots as opposed to a web of mycelial growth. I fear the worst.

The third is looking better. I had mistakenly positioned the cardboard approx 1/4" from the top of the brown rice substrate below and you can now see mycelium growing down through the middle of the cardboard. It is hard to tell if it has reached the surface of the substrate, but it should not be long. My fingers are crossed.

My stock mycelium is growing into the fresh cardboard, but without its original vigour. I suspect it has exhausted its original store of nutrients and is finding the cardboard somewhat barren. This is perhaps not such a bad thing. I did not want the mycelium to colonize the cardboard too quickly.

As for my Starbucks bags, the mycelium is very fuzzy and white, but does not appear to have started feeding on the coffee yet. More importantly, there are no visible signs of contamination. I know it's there, I just can't see it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Still waiting.

My stock mycelium is showing some growth into the new cardboard, but it is painfully slow. It could simply be that our basement is rather cool.

The beech mycelium is all nice and fuzzy, but does not appear to be growing into the coffee grounds as yet. There is very wet layer of coffee grounds in the bottom of each bag and that is going to be an issue. It is too wet for the mycelium to colonize and may already be heavily contaiminated. I have considered taking a syringe of 3% hydrogen peroxide and injecting the layer with it. This will mix with the water and hopefully kill of any contaminants. Later, I can poke holes in the bottom of the bags and drain the liquid. I am still thinking.

Thoughts on the issue are welcome.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Well nothing exciting is happening with either the king oyster or the beech.

Although, the king oyster mycelium I left on the cardboard appears to be recovering. If you remember, I had given it a light spraying of hydrogen peroxide, and then placed two strips of fresh cardboard on top of it. My plan being to have a back-up stock of mycelium if my 1/2 pint jars become infected.

As for the beech, I can see the start of some fuzzy mycelium beginning to grow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I was reading on the web today, sorry I did not think of recording the address, where someone had taken a bag of fresh coffee grounds and simply dropped in some fresh oyster mushrooms. They claim the mycelium grew through the coffee grounds and fruited.

Now I just have to try this! The only thing I did differently was to use beech mushrooms.

I drove to our local supermarket, purchased a pack for $4.00 CAD ($4.00 ! Yes, I want to grow these myself!), and then picked-up some FREE coffee grounds from Starbucks.

One of the clear plastic bags include coffee grounds and filters, the other and the Starbucks bag include only coffee grounds from the expresso machine.

I simply dumped large pieces of mushroom into the bags and gently mixed things around with my hands.

This should be interesting.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Well, the jars have cooled and the mycelium transferred to the jars of substrate.

I sprayed a 1.3% solution of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) inside the top portion of the jars and on the inside of the lids before placing the pieces of mycelium on the cardboard tops. The mycelium pieces were then given their own light spray of 1.34% H2O2. I am concerned that my H2O2 solution is too strong.

I filled the top 1" space of two jars with vermiculite that I had soaked in a 0.5 % solution of H2O2. The vermiculite will act as a barrier to airborne contaminants, but allow the transfer of gases. I am leaving the top layer of vermiculite out of the third jar to see what happens.

The lids were secured. The two with the vermiculite barrier were then topped with plastic screening; the same you may have in your screen door at home. With any luck the screening will keep the fungus gnats out of my jars. The one jar with without a vermiculite barrier was topped with its aluminum foil cover and the screening.

I left a couple of mycelium pieces in the original jar with two more strips of cardboard and a light spraying of 1.3% H2O2. The cardboard had been soaked for 5 min. in the 0.5% H2O2.

Now to wait and see.

Today I am preparing the jars of substrate on which the fruiting bodies will emerge.

The bowl to the right contains 2 cups of vermiculite, 3/4 cup of brown rice flower, and 3/4 cup of rain water. Tap water will do, but the rain water was handy.

This will give me enough substrate for 3 - 250 ml (1/2 pint) jars.

I filled each jar with substrate and then tamped it down to leave a 1" space from the top. Then, using a dry clean paper towel, I wiped off the excess that was clinging to the inside of the jar. If not cleaned off, any contaminants that happen to find their way into the jar during the colonization period will follow this trail of organic material down into the substrate area.

Above you can see the 3 circular pieces of grey cardboard that will act as barriers to the "rice cake" below. From left to right, the photo shows a jar filled with substrate, the cardboard and jar, and cardboard in place.

The jars were then capped with lids that contain four holes. Using small pieces of aluminum foil the lids were covered so as to prevent water dripping into the jar during sterilization.

I pressure cooked the jars for 1.5 hrs. The pressure cooker is currently cooling off.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Wow, the growth in my one jar is doing exceptionally well!

The mycelium is growing beyond the cardboard and can be seen over approx 75% off the bottom.

Now, what to do? I will need to give this some thought.

My biggest concern is why all the mushroom pieces in this jar are doing so well and all of the others simply died.

If you remember, I had sprayed the inside of each jar with alcohol. Perhaps I missed this jar? Or perhaps it received so little as to not affect the mycelium? I am siding with the first scenario.

This means the inside of the jar is covered with contaminating spores that could not colonize the cardboard as quickly as the mycelium I introduced in the form of mushroom pieces. This would likely be, in part, due to the hydrogen peroxide that the cardboard had been soaked in. In addition, the mycelium was already growing and perhaps does better on cardboard than the contaminants.

So when transferring the actively growing mycelium to a larger quantity of substrate (the stuff it grows on) I will need to somehow kill the contaminants in the process. Additionally, it would be a good idea to continue with the cardboard, at least as a barrier between the mycelium and the yummy stuff below.

Sooo, the tentative plan is this: I will prepare jars of brown rice flower with vermiculite and sterilize them in my pressure cooker, but instead of topping the “rice cake” with straight vermiculite, I will top it off with a circular piece of cardboard. Prior to the transfer I will spray the inside top portion of the newly sterilized jar with a relatively high solution of hydrogen peroxide.

With any luck the hydrogen peroxide will kill off any contaminants hitching a ride with the transfer and any new ones that will surely be introduced once the jar is opened.

Well regardless of what I choose to do it needs to be done soon. The mycelium will not continue it’s vigorous growth for much longer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

To the right you can see four fuzzy pieces of mushroom in one of the 3 jars.

The growth looks good. For some reason, of the three jars, this is the only one showing any growth. The others are just sitting there.

I thought I had prepared all of the jars in the same way, but I must not have.

ALL of the mushroom pieces in this jar are showing growth, but NONE of the pieces in the two other jars are showing any growth at all.


Now if I could just figure out what I did right :)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The mushroom line-up to the right was sourced from a local supermarket in Scarborough for the price of $2.38 CAD.

With the exception of the older mushroom, second from the left, each had its outer surface cut away. This left me with four solid pieces of mushroom in rectangular box shapes.

I then sliced off 3 or 4 thin sections from the top of each and let them soak in a relatively strong hydrogen peroxide (HP) solution for about 5 minutes. A 3% HP solution was mixed with water in an approximate ratio of 1:5.

You can see the mushroom pieces foaming to the right. The HP is reacting with the mushroom pieces, and any other organic material, and releasing oxygen. Other than being interesting to watch, the reaction is killing off competing mold and fungus spores and bacteria. To ensure the death of all competitors, the mushroom pieces were occasionally stirred around.

The cardboard was sourced for free from the liquor store; not the corrugated cardboard the boxes are made from, but the non-coated insert that is used to keep the bottles from clanging together.

Note of interest: Here in Ontario liquor can only be purchased from the provincially owned liquor stores.

The cardboard was cut into rectangles approx. 1" by 3" and also soaked in the HP solution for about 5 minutes.

The 1 litre jar to the right was cleaned and then it, and the plastic wrap, were sprayed with a 99% solution of Isopropyl alcohol. I'm sure a 99% solution is over-kill, but I have a large container of it.

The jar and its contents are now sitting quietly in a dark cupboard. I will check in on them in a couple of days.
2009Apr11 Well, it's time. Time to start growing mushrooms again!

Over the past few years I have grown oyster, king oyster, shiitake, and enoki as a hobby. My personal favorites are shitake and king oyster.

I had to close-up operations last year due to an infestation of fungus gnats. Nasty things. They would crawl into my jars and introduce all sorts of contaminants.

This year I will focus on the king oyster (Pleurotus eryngii). My approach this year will be to clone the mushroom on cardboard. Using a weak hydrogen peroxide solution I will attempt to sterilize both the cardboard and mushroom. To help prevent another fly infestation I will cover my air vents with a fine screen. The same screen used in your window frame at home.

Well enough talk for now. Let's go find us a fresh king oyster.