Growing your own mushrooms can all start with a roll of toilet paper.
For the first year, the N.C. State Fair’s Horticulture Department featured a mushroom competition and April Blazich, the department’s superintendent, said she hopes the new competition and mushroom display in the Exposition Center will encourage fairgoers to try something different – producing mushrooms in their own homes and gardens.
“We’re trying to convince people to try something new,” Blazich said. “Garden even if you think you can’t.”
Although there were only two entrants in this year’s competition, Blazich said she is confident the mushroom display will raise awareness of mushroom cultivation, and to how easy and fun the process can be.
“People are growing mushrooms and there are a number of companies out there with kits that are making the process easier,” Blazich said. “It’s educational for families to see the process from start to finish because mushrooms are sort of mysterious to everyone.”
The entrants produced shitake mushrooms using a plug spawn kit to grow the fungi on logs. Through the process cultivators inoculate the wood with plugs of mushroom mycelium. Within 12 months, the wood is fully colonized with the mycelium and within two years, the shitake mushrooms will be ready to harvest.
The display in the Horticulture exhibit also showcases mushrooms Blazich grew using a mushroom teepee kit from Field’s Forest products Inc. These kits allow users to produce varieties of Oyster mushrooms within four to six weeks using toilet paper, mushroom grain spawn and filter bags.
The teepee kit cultivation process begins with users sterilizing the toilet paper rolls, placing them into the filter bags (teepees) and, filling the center tubes of the rolls with the mushroom spawn. The bagged rolls must then be placed into a darkened area at room temperature to mimic the natural environment of mushrooms under the soil and bark of trees.
“I keep my bags in my bathtub,” Blazich said. “If you walked into my bathroom you’d see 21 rolls of toilet paper rolls lining the bath.”
After three weeks in dark conditions, the toilet paper rolls will be covered in white mushroom mycelium with a marshmallow-like consistency. The bags are then placed in the refrigerator for 2-3 days to trigger the mushrooms into sprouting by tricking them into thinking they’ve been through winter.
“We’re really just taking down the naturally-occurring processes,” Blazich said. “It’s pretty amazing to see how everything changes.”
Blazich said that people should be weary of wild mushrooms because of the large number of poisonous species. As mushroom identification is a highly-specialized skill, consumers are better off growing their own.
“Using these kits, growing your own mushrooms, allows you to control every step of the process,” she said. “There’ll be no mistaking a poisonous mushroom for an edible one, and the mushrooms you grow are of excellent quality.”
To learn more about mushroom cultivation and to see the winning mushrooms, stop by the Exposition Center!