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Grow some Thai mushrooms!

May 14, 2010

Now with the first rains, mushrooms will emerge. In Sweden, the mushroom season is called “the second spring”, and in Russia it is called “the second hunting”. Many Thais are devoted mushroomers too, and quite knowledgeable. Like in many other countries, the actual search and the moment of surprise is part of the joy, like fishing or hunting. This joy makes even wealthy Thais interested in mushrooming. 

Mushroom cultivation omits the element of hunting, but you learn a lot about mushroom biology, and growing organisms are always interesting to study. I also think that mushrooms are a forgotten garden element. They have very interesting morphology and colours, and edible species enrich your food and save you money. The old mushroom compost is a perfect soil enhancer due to its texture and richness in nitrogen. Mycorrhizal mushrooms provide your trees with mineral nutrients.

Although we are all curious about the cultivation of ” mushroom gold”, i.e. the Thai bolete “hed pung” or Phlebopus portentosus (=Phaeogyroporus portentosus), a gardener should start with something simple. A local and easy mushroom to grow is Lentinus squarrosulus “hed kon kao”. It is a decomposing mushroom which we frequently find on longan stumps (Dimocarpus longan is a fruit tree) here at Dokmai Garden. You can also grow it on pasteurized saw dust from the rain tree (Samanea saman). Such pre-made plastic bags with saw dust and mushroom mycelium can be bought from e.g. Maejo Agricultural University. Here at Dokmai Garden we grow mushrooms in a simple mushroom house inspired from what I have seen in Asia and Africa.  Simply make a shelf system for the bags. Any material can be used. Cheap material like bamboo will last a year or two, expensive material like aluminium will last a life-time. Surround the shelf system with posts and wrap with shade cloth as walls. Make a roof. Preferably you should place this mushroom house in the shade. Humidity is very important, why you have to add water on the floor (which can be plain sand) at least once a day.  Another option is simply to drill broad holes into fresh logs of rain tree or longan, and then insert mushroom mycelium into the holes, and finally plug the holes with wood or cork to avoid moisture losses. You can not use old logs, as they are already colonised by other fungi, and your preferred mushrooms will have a hard time fighting them. Place the logs in a shady area which you can keep moist. Here, the garden designer can use his fantasy, such as taking down a large tree with an interesting shape, and then plug the whole tree with edible mushrooms. It will provide a fairy-tale like sculpture in a moist section! Why not try to find and grow luminescent mushrooms like Omphalotus

If you wish to learn more, simply come to Dokmai Garden!

Eric Danell

Lentinus squarrosulus is an edible mushroom commonly sold at Thai markets. It is common in the wild too, and easy to cultivate. You can use it in the same way as oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus spp).

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