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Candidates For Cultivation: The Reishi Mushroom

(This article is mainly about growing reishi. Looking to learn about the health benefits of Reishi Mushrooms? Click here!)
Growing the Reishi Mushroom is a good choice for the home cultivator. Not only has it been long revered for its medicinal properties, the Reishi is also fascinating to watch grow – and it’s fruits are stunningly beautiful. It is rather easy to grow, fast to colonize and resistant to many forms of contamination. It can be grown in two different forms, namely the conk form and the antler form, depending on the amount of fresh air it receives. Scientific Name: Ganoderma lucidum

General Description

The Reishi mushroom naturally takes on the “conk” formation unless it is grown in a high CO2 environment, which cause it to form antlers. It is a polypore and naturally forms on the side of dead or dying hardwood trees. The top side is shiny, and can come in a variety of colors, red/orange being the most common. Reishi mushrooms don't have gills, but rather pores, from which brown spores are released. Reishi is a strong fruiter, sometimes even pushing through the filter patch on a grow bag. The mushroom is extremely woody and bitter, not good for culinary use. However, teas and tinctures can be made to extract the medicinal compounds from the mushroom.
reishi mushroom conk
A Reishi “conk” starting to form.
reishi mushroom antlers
Reishi “antlers” starting to transition into “conks” Natural Habitat: Usually found on dead or dying hardwood trees and stumps. Found May-November in warmer temperate regions. Widely distributed throughout the world. Difficulty of Cultivation: Easy to Medium. Agar: Reishi looks very unique on agar. Glowing white rhizomorphic strands emanate from the center of the plate. The mycelium is incredibly tough and even difficult to cut through with a scalpel. Spawn Types: Reishi grows well on Rye and other grains. Not suggested to use sawdust because it so tenaciously holds the sawdust together, making it difficult to use as spawn. Reishi spawn is difficult to break up in jars, make sure to not let the grains consolidate too much before spawning. May have to break apart with a spoon.
reishi mycelium on agar
Close up of brilliant white Reishi on Agar.
reishi mushroom agar plate
Transferring a wedge of Reishi. Scalpel required Substrate Types: Supplemented hardwood sawdust. Reishi will not do well on straw. It is also possible to inoculate hardwood stumps with Reishi plugs for outdoor cultivation. Fruiting Containers: For indoor cultivation, use large autoclavable grow bags. Allow antlers to form inside the bag on the top of the block. Once the antler has reached desired size, cut off the top of the bag and bring the block into fruiting conditions, The increase of fresh air will cause the reishi to start forming spore producing “conks”. Yield: Typically, Reishi mushrooms will only produce one flush. 1/2 lb of mushrooms is typical from a 5lb block. For biggest yields, allow the mushrooms to form conks instead of the antler form. This is done by allowing lots of fresh air exchange in the growing environment.
reishi mushroom grow bag
Reishi conk stubbornly forming through a filter patch.
reishi mushroom spores
The underside pores of a Reishi conk. Harvest: Harvest Reishi mushrooms just before the fruitbody drops spores. The Reishi mushroom has a heavy spore load which can cover a grow room with brown spores in no time. Use a sharp blade or serated knife to cut the mushroom off the block. You may have to saw through the mushroom, as it is incredibly tough, Usually the block is discarded after the first flush. Dry Reishi mushroom slices in a dehydrator for long term storage.
reishi mushroom tea
Some harvested and dried Reishi with some tea ready for the fridge. Weakness: Reishi mushrooms are resilient against contamination, but the spawn is incredibly tenacious making it hard to break up the spawn. This can make it difficult to spread evenly in the grow bag. Reishi will sometimes start forming fruitbodies before the block is done colonizing. Difficult to harvest. Cooking: Reishi mushrooms have no culinary use, as they are extremely woody and bitter. Only a brave soul would try to cook with Reishi, but the best option would be as a dry powder sprinkled in dishes. They are better known for their medicinal properties. Boil fresh Reishi mushrooms in water for 20-30 minutes in order to extract medicinal compounds and make a tea. Dried Reishi must be boiled for longer 1-2 hours. Thea tea is extremely bitter. Can be stored in the fridge for a number of days after preparing the tea. Reishi being cultivated naturally on logs.

The Specifics

Spawn Run: Incubate grain spawn at room temperature for 10-14 days. Ensure to break up spawn and inoculate substrate as soon as colonization is complete.
Initiate Pinning: Lower temperature slightly to around 18 deg C. Increase humidity to 95%. Usually Resihi will start to fruit in the grow bag.
Fruit Development: Once antler are desired size of stem, cut off the top of the bag and place in grow room. Humidity 85- 90%. Room temperature is fine. Can take 30 + days to form full conks.

Try Growing Reishi at Home!

The Reishi mushroom is a great choice for the home cultivator. Resistant to contamination, and a strong colonizer makes them a delight to grow at home. They are incredibly beautiful to watch grow and produce unique formations. The can be grown without specific grow room conditions, and can even be grown inside the grow bag. The harvest can be dried in a dehydrator and stored for long term use. Try growing Reishi mushrooms at home! Start today!
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