About Mushroom Spawn

Mushroom spawn it's a product obtained in lab conditions by specialized companies with years of experience in how to make quality spawn. It's practically the mushroom mycelium grown on a carrier such as: grain, sawdust or some other material. Probably you're familiar with the fact that a slice of moist bread left in a plastic bag at one point gets moldy. Sometimes you may see different mold colors growing on it which means that your bread slice is under attack by competitor fungi. If we sterilize this moist bread while is fresh and keep that in a closed container we'll drastically decrease the chances for mold to grow on it. If we'll play god and inoculate that with the fungus we want (e.g., an oyster mushroom) what we'll get is a slice of bread colonized with oyster mycelium. This is a simple introduction for you to understand how mushroom grain spawn it's done. Instead of bread we're using mostly grain as a carrier. Preventing other competitors to get a chunk of that nutritious food isn't an easy task and that is the main challenge of any mushroom spawn producer. So,
mushroom spawn has to be pure for best results!

The source where you purchase your spawn from is very important because if it doesn't have the proper quality it's going to affect your mushroom production. There are several things to look for and this is something that only growers with experience know best. A clean mycelium is the key of successful mushroom cultivation and every mushroom grower knows this, therefore they always choose trustful companies. So let's see how this could affect your efforts.
Let's say that you're getting bad spawn from somewhere and you start to use that. This is what might happen:

  • It will contaminate your entire grow bags
  • It will partially contaminate your grow bags which will (very few) or not give you mushrooms

This means that you put a lot of effort and time into it and get nothing.

So, you'll need to pay attention to the following whenever you purchase spawn:

  • Premium quality grain spawn should be fresh: not more than 4 weeks from the inoculation point usually the spawn comes with an inoculation date on it -check for that date and make sure it's in a 4 weeks range [this is valid for oyster mushrooms, enoki or lions' mane]. Mushroom types like shiitake, black poplar, maitake 8 weeks from the inoculation point is OK. But let's see why this is important: first of all because the fungus when active consumes it's food at a fast rate. Second if a grower will use old spawn in his attempts to grow mushrooms he will face two things: lower yields and second higher risk of contamination because old spawn bags improperly stored could get contaminated.
  • Always check for broken seals or holes in the bag that the product is placed in -a bag of spawn should have it's seal intact.
  • Good quality spawn shouldn't show any pink, green, black, or bluish-green spots -these are signs for mold presence
  • Good quality spawn should show any slimy presence on the inner walls of the bag -indicator for bacterial presence.
  • Another important indicator is smell -moldy smell or spoiled smell would indicate altered spawn and should be not used in the mushroom growing process.
  • Make sure that you don't see any fruitbodies inside your spawn bag when you purchase that
  • Each mushroom species has a characteristic smell, make sure the smell is what it should be like
  • Different mushroom species show random growth patterns on different substrata and have a color. You need to know these characteristics for the fungus you want to grow.
  • Spawn should be shipped at 40 F especially during summer.
This is not grain spawn. It's just an edible fungus colonizing my cream cheese

The strain that you are going to use in the cultivation process is another very important aspect. Each strain is unique with specific environmental or substrate conditions requirements. There is a bunch of excellent strains available on the market and it is important to choose the best ones. BEST in this case doesn't mean what works for everybody is going to work for you too. Best is the strain that will give excellent results in your location under your conditions.

When purchasing a strain you should know the following:
  • What strain is it? what are its temperature preferences? [because there are strains growing well on low  medium, or high temperature]
  • Does the strain need a cold temp shock? Many excellent strains on the market do not need anymore a cold shock; however, this has to be asked.
  • What are the strain substrate requirements? does the strain prefer to grow on oak or on beech wood?
  • What is the growth rate of the strain? This is important because strains with low growth will colonize the substrate in more time than strains with higher growth rate.
  • What's the possible final yield associated with the strain? A vigorous strain will normally give a higher mushroom yield.
Usually it is best to purchase a strain that you know about few things. Famous strains are usually recommended on the market but the one buying them should know that even a famous strain looses it's strength in time. Therefore it is needed to change strains from time to time with new ones more potent than older ones.

Each mushroom species has unique characteristics in terms of growth, conditions requirement, substrate requirement, etc. This is the reason why when preparing to grow mushrooms you should know about the tolerance grade of the mushroom that you want to grow. For example, there are oyster mushroom species that grow and develop without any special  requirements (e.g., the famous common oyster mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus), while some other species are more sensitive and require more attention (e.g., the yellow oyster mushroom: Pleurotus citrinopileatus). In addition some species grow faster than others (e.g., Pleurotus spp. compared to Maitake-Grifola frondosa), while they have different grades of productivity.

Here is a list of some companies selling spawn:
Amycel, Italspawn, Sylvan, Aloha Medicinals

Amycel is owned by Monterey Mushrooms and they sell spawn at a decent price, but you have to know that shipping will cost you more than the spawn itself. Italspawn it's a European company located in Italy, while Sylvan is probably the biggest spawn producer in the world supplying over 65 countries. Unfortunately they sell very few strains. Aloha offers many strains and you may choose what you want to grow but spawn it's pricy. You do the math and pick what's best for you.