Whether you use a mushroom growing kit or attempt growing lion’s mane mushrooms with your own substrate, you are sure to be rewarded. I love using fresh lion’s mane as a meat substitute or even on their own to enjoy their flavor as it is. Having a stock to pull from at home is incredible, especially because they have so many health benefits!
Growing lion’s mane is a little more difficult than growing other mushrooms like oyster mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms. But no matter the method we discuss here, you can do it. We’ll discuss all the ways you can grow your own lion’s mane mushrooms, from inoculation, through harvest and even into incorporating the leftover substrate in your garden.
So let’s dive in so you can grow lion’s mane mushrooms as soon as possible!
About Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Lion’s Mane is one of the most commonly cultivated mushrooms on the market today. Hericium erinaceus’ distinctive fuzzy texture resembles a pom-pom. This white, furry-looking mass is not only prized in cooking, it’s used as a medicinal mushroom all over the world. The lions mane mushroom has been commonly used to treat anxiety, depression, inflammation, and digestive issues.
To use them for medicine, you need expert knowledge about how to extract the compounds and an in-depth understanding of dosages. Before taking any lion’s mane supplements, consult your doctor. Chances are you’re here to learn about growing them for food anyway.
Lion’s mane mushrooms grow in deciduous wooded areas of Europe, North America, China, and Japan. They prefer to live in oak, beech, sycamore, maple, and walnut trees. You’ll see them in the wild during temperate seasons and climates. The spores attach themselves to fallen branches and use their nutrients from the substrate to grow up to 1 pound per fruiting body.
Growing Lion’s Mane Mushrooms Via Kit or No?
Do you have experience inoculating mushrooms? If so, creating your own substrate is probably better than working with a kit. You might already know how to ensure a large fresh lion’s mane harvest. When you create your own substrate for the lion’s mane mycelium, you must sterilize it to ensure no unwanted or toxic molds don’t infiltrate. In a kit, that process is already completed and all you have to do is get the colony started.
Another reason to get a kit: working with bulk substrate and a liquid culture can be difficult for new growers. Whether you choose wood chips and grain spawn, or sawdust spawn in a particular growing container in a kit, all of this is set up for you. You don’t have to pick or develop a lion’s mane spawn. Normal indoor temperatures with humidity maintained by a spray bottle is enough.
Ultimately, whatever you decide to do should be best suited to your situation. If you’d like a little more of a challenge, you can grow lion’s mane mushroom in a substrate you created. While growing lion’s mane is more difficult than growing other mushrooms, chances are you’ll be pleased with the results whichever way you go.
Indoor Versus Outdoor Growing
With a kit, or if you want to grow mushrooms in mushroom-growing bags, your mushroom-growing journey can take place either indoors or outside. However, hardwood logs often rely on the fresh air exchange outdoors could help your mushrooms mature more naturally.
Weather conditions are an important consideration if you aren’t growing lion’s mane indoors. In the wild, you’ll find logs growing lion’s mane in temperate climates. You won’t see any fruit in conditions that aren’t between 60°F and 85°F (about 15°C to 30°C).
You need a space that’s at least 80% humid at all times too. In deciduous, temperate forests these conditions occur naturally, and the same goes for certain outdoor areas. Indoors you may need to modify conditions, or create a fruiting chamber where these conditions are controlled.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Substrates
While it might seem that the wood from deciduous trees mentioned above might be the only substrate that you can grow lion’s mane mushrooms in, that’s not the case! Here we’ll cover two substrates you can use to grow lion’s mane at home. Note that a sawdust-grown lion’s mane mushroom will have a slightly more bitter flavor than one grown in a log.
Create your own fruiting blocks and grow in bags with hardwood sawdust pellets and livestock feed. Seasoned growers recommend oat bran or wheat bran, with wheat being the preferable nitrogen-boosting food for the mycelia. A hardwood fruiting block needs the right combination of the two above ingredients and the right amount of moisture. You’ll make 5 pounds of substrate by combining 5 cups of hardwood pellets, 1 ¼ cups of wheat or oat bran, and about 1.4 Liters or ⅓ of a gallon of water.
Alternatively, use a mastermix. Make your very own spawn by combining hard wood sawdust with soy hulls in a 1:1 ratio. Master’s mix is great for new mushroom growers because it’s more reliable than a bulk substrate, and soy hulls are available year round. Rather than scrambling for oat or wheat forage, you can use master’s mix.
After you’ve measured each of your components, combine the water to the hardwood pellets in a large bowl or container. Mix them until the pellets break down significantly to the texture of sawdust. Then add the wheat or oat bran and distribute it evenly throughout the water and sawdust mixture.
Add your substrate to your growing bag. While you can inoculate in jars, that’s a complex process that is too rich to cover here. If you’re working with a large spawn bag, you can probably fit all the substrate within. Most smaller bags can fit anywhere between 1 and 3 pounds of substrate.
Then fold the bags and affix a filter that prevents unwanted molds from entering and colonizing the substrate. There are companies that sell specialized filters, but you can create one from flashspun high-density polyethylene fibers or a cut square from a painter’s suit. Place it in between the folded areas of the bag’s sides. Then fold the bag a few times to keep it closed.
Sterilize the substrate inside the bag with a process like pasteurization or pressure canning. To pasteurize the substrate, submerge the entire bag in hot water for at least an hour or two. Otherwise, place the entire bag in a pressure cooker, and fill with water up to just below the top of the bag. Place a heat-resistant plate on top of the bags and pressure cook them for 2 ½ hours.
Logs From Hardwood Trees
In nature, lion’s mane mushrooms grow in fallen hardwood logs of oak, beech, sycamore, maple, and walnut trees. Any of these are suitable for growing lion’s mane at home, though most guides suggest using maple, oak, and birch for long-term projects, when you’re producing multiple flushes in one substrate.
Shorter-term projects for growing lion’s mane can be done in oak, chestnut, black walnut, or elm logs. When you choose a log, be sure you’ve picked one that isn’t green, and isn’t already colonized by another fungus. Use logs that have at least a foot of diameter.
Have one of the above trees at home? Trim off a large branch in winter, and dry it on a raised surface for anywhere from 1 to 3 months. The goal with this drying process is to ensure you have just under 50% moisture in the log – enough to support the fruit of lion’s mane fungus.
Keep the log away from firewood, brush, or other decaying matter to keep it sanitary.
Another important rule of thumb is to keep the log out of direct sunlight but in an area where natural rainfall can moisten it. Even though growing in logs is a much slower process, you’ll be able to harvest mushrooms for up to six years from the time they first fruit.
Inoculating Your Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Now that we’ve discussed the appropriate substrates for different ways to grow lion’s mane, let’s talk about inoculating your shrooms. If you’ve grown oyster mushrooms before, you may notice lion’s mane is slightly more difficult. Still, even a beginner can tackle growing lion’s mane mushrooms, especially if they choose to work with a commercially made spawn.
Inoculating in Hardwood Sawdust
Assuming you’ve acquired the spores to inoculate your substrate, you can inoculate your sawdust grow blocks after you’ve allowed them to cool down for at least 8 hours if you’ve pressure sterilized it. Then you can add lion’s mane grain spawn to the bag, and shake to evenly distribute it.
Then place your growing bag in a well-ventilated area. In professional settings, growers use a laminar flow hood. However, most home growers don’t need this, and a simple glovebox or handling the substrate with mylar gloves is enough to keep the substrate sterile.
Baker’s shelves are excellent storage for your lion’s mane mushrooms as they colonize the substrate and fruit. Provide a fan nearby to keep the air moving and a humidifier to keep the humidity at 80%. If you’re using a kit, they’re specialized to grow on countertops, and you won’t need more than a well-ventilated area and a spray bottle.
Inoculating in Logs From Hardwood Trees
If you choose to use logs over hardwood fuel pellets, ensure you’ve allowed the fresh-cut log to sit for the appropriate amount of time before inoculating. Start by drilling holes in the hardwood log in a diamond pattern with a 85-millimeter drill bit. Space your holes about 2 inches apart. A 3 to 3 ½ foot log should have about 80 holes. If you’re working with plug spawn dowels, hammer them gently into each of the holes. Then cover the holes with wax or a wax-based lip balm to protect the spawn plugs.
Lion’s Mane Colonization
Lion’s mane mushroom colonies form in about 10 to 16 days. You’ll start to see white nerve-like structures forming in the substrate or within the log. This is the lion’s mane mycelium, and it needs to develop a network before you can harvest even one fresh lion’s mane mushroom.
During the time between colonization and fruiting, monitor the substrate for contamination. While this isn’t as likely in a mushroom kit, it’s still important to look out for discoloration, excess moisture, or strange smells. When you’re growing lion’s mane mushroom colonies in logs or sawdust, monitoring for this purpose is even more important.
This is the most important phase of mushroom cultivation in general. Without mushroom mycelium, there’s no way for the fungus to develop those delicious mushrooms you’ve worked so hard to cultivate. Therefore be vigilant in this part of the process of growing mushrooms.
When the substrate is full of lion’s mane mycelium growth, it’s time for them to fruit! Like most gourmet species, the conditions required for fruiting will be the same. If you’re cultivating a healthy culture in grow bags, simply cut off the top of the plastic bag and place it in your fruiting chamber. Then you’ll see small fruits forming. These result from the lions mane mushroom mycelia. They will start small, eventually forming large mushrooms after a short while, usually in one to two weeks. During this time, keep monitoring for any off conditions.
Harvesting Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
One great thing about this part of the process is you can harvest lion’s mane mushrooms at multiple stages and enjoy fresh lion’s mane mushrooms each time. Younger lion’s mane mushrooms are just as useful as large mature fruit. You want to harvest them while they’re fresh and haven’t started to get golden and dry.
Use a sterilized sharp knife to harvest lion’s mane mushroom fruit by cutting them at the stem. Avoid cutting into your substrate or in the area where the lion’s mane spawn is still developing and fruiting. Your grow bag or oak logs will continue to put out flushes that you can draw from multiple times. Usually 3 to 4 flushes can be harvested in a kit or bag.
What To Do With Spent Substrate
After you grow lions mane, your substrate can be broken down and put in the compost pile or in a soon-to-be-used garden bed. While your gardenias, camellias, and hydrangeas aren’t a fan of mushroom substrate, basically every other plant is!
There are three ways you can use your substrate, making this entire process completely sustainable. Firstly, smaller amounts can be broken down by hand and added directly to the soil of a bed. Mix the substrate in and you’re set! You can also weather it on an open compost pile for a while before using the compost in your garden. You can even add the substrate into your vermicomposting bin, like the Urban Worm Bag we stock in our shop. You may even grow a few more mushrooms in your bin!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How long does it take to grow lion’s mane?
A: The entire mushroom growing process takes about 3 to 5 weeks for mycelium to develop and for a mushroom to form. The process may take longer in logs.
Q: Can you grow lion’s mane at home?
A: Absolutely! That’s why we’ve dedicated this piece to mushroom growing at home.
Q: Where does lion’s mane grow best?
A: As we’ve discussed above, hardwood substrate is the only way to cultivate lions mane. You’ll need either hard wood sawdust in grow bags, or logs. A lions mane grow kit should have this all set up for you.
Q: What temperature does lion’s mane grow?
A: Ideally, your fruiting area will be between 60°F and 85°F (15°C to 30°C).
Q: How much does lion’s mane sell for?
A: This gourmet mushroom is sold in stores at a rate of about $8 to $36 per pound.
Q: Can you eat lion’s mane raw?
A: Absolutely! The spongy texture of a raw lions mane is delicious, but there are tons of health benefits that come from cooking or steeping it in hot water.
Q: How long does it take lions mane to colonize?
A: It takes roughly 3 weeks for the mycelia to colonize the substrate.
Q: Why does my lions mane look like coral?
A: If that is occurring, it’s probably because your shrooms don’t have as much air as they need. Find some way to provide a little more airflow in your fruiting area to help them develop their pom-pom shape.