The 66 year old retired Colonel from the Thai Army is passionately meticulous about mycelium. On a hot dry day in rural Thailand he holds up a clear plastic canister filled with a sawdust/compost medium and points at the milky mushroom growing from its top. “Do you know what this part is?” he asks. The young spirited Kristen me responds with confidence “It’s the reproductive organs, where the spores are.” “Yes, this is where the sex is” he affirms. Then he points to the bag and explains how the main part of the organism (the mycelium) is much larger, much more expansive and it is living inside of the bag.
And so the day begins. From the making of the medium to the cooking of the mushrooms we were taught each process. Now all the details won’t possible fit on this blog but I will try to provide a summary of the process and some photos for illustration.
First step is to prepare the medium in which the mycelium will grow. This is basically creating a petri dish of any starch, gelatin and sugar. They prefer unprocessed sugar, of course. Then you can use old whiskey bottles to inject about 40ml of the skimmed medium and wait about 30 minutes until it solidifies. Now because you spores are practically everywhere you must sterilize the bottles. You can use a pressure cooker for this purpose.
At this point you can either use a part of the actual mushroom to insert into the bottle or a slice of the mycelium that will them grow. The process of transferring into a new bottle must be done in a sterile environment. If you are doing this the DIY way you can achieve this by setting us a clear plastic tub with holes for you arms. Then all instruments must be wiped down with alcohol and then you can expose them to an alcohol-produced flame between each time the instrument contacts anything. Assuming the whole process was a success the mycelium will grow (rate is dependent on the species) on the medium. If there was contamination mold or bacteria will contaminate the bottle.
Once the mycelium grows you can then move it into another growing medium, which is millet. Again, all must me sterile. The growing continues until it is ready to be transferred, once again. The final transfer is into a sawdust/compost/water blend. There is will grow and grow and finally produce an eatable mushroom. You give the mushroom a twist and take it to the kitchen for cooking.