Best Mushroom Strain for Beginners

Hello, and welcome to the world of mushroom.

If you are just at the beginning of your journey, everything seems daunting. That was it, at least for me in the beginning. I did not know where to start, which steps I should take, and especially what are the best mushroom strain, to begin with.

For that reason, I sum everything I read so far together, so you don’t have to figure it out for yourself. You just take what you found here and put it into practice. It’s that easy.

The most recommended and most likely researched mushroom for beginners is the Oyster mushroom or Latin Pleurotus spp. There are a lot of reasons for that.

Why Oyster Mushrooms are the Best Mushrooms for Beginners

  • They grow on a variety of different substrates like straw (wheat, rice, …), wood (wood chips, sawdust), grass (thatch grass, …), sugarcane bagasse, and mixtures of them.
  • They accept a wide range of temperature and humidity (see below growing conditions)
  • Fast growth rate (5 to 6 mm/day)
  • Good yield (biological efficiency between 50 and 200)
  • They have a unique taste. Ranging from nutty (P. eryngii), salmon (P. djamor), citric (P. citrinopileatus) to neutral (P. ostreatus).
  • Some of them have a thick flesh (P. ostreatus or P. eryngii)
  • They are nutritious (Table 1)
mushroom nutrional values

Table 1: Effect of different substrates on proximate composition and mineral content of Pleurotus ostreatus[1]

Because of these aspects, there are a ton of different varieties of Pleurotus from which you can choose. So that you can grow the type(s) that are growing and selling the best in your region.

Oyster Mushroom Varieties

Pleurotus ostreatus aka Pearl Oyster or Tree Oyster

This mushroom has no strong taste itself and can, therefore, added to many dishes. The caps are “meaty” and can, if someone like, replace the meat on the plate.

Source see footnotes

Pleurotus djamor aka Pink Oyster

As you can see from the following picture[2] Pleurotus djamor has a bright color. The taste is like salmon. Not strong, but still something you will taste.

Source see footnotes

Pleurotus citrinopileatus aka Yellow Oyster

The following picture comes from one of my first tests[3]. This mushroom has a citrus taste.

Pleurotus citrionpieatus
Source see footnotes

Pleurotus pulmonarius aka Indian Oyster or Italian Oyster

And another picture of one of my first test[4]. This mushroom is similar to his cousin Pleurotus ostreatus.

Source see footnotes

Pleurotus eryngii aka King Oyster

This mushroom is cultivated all over the world. It has a thick stem and a nutty taste.

source see footnotes

Pleurotus cystidiosus aka Abalone Oyster[5]

This mushroom is similar to Pleurotus ostreatus.

Source see footnotes

Growing Conditions

To grow any kind of mushroom, you must get the growing conditions right. To give you an idea about the range, I will provide you with an overview of the general growing conditions across the Pleurotus spp. family for the three phases spawn run, pinhead formation, and fruiting.

Spawn Run

During the spawn run, the mycelium colonizes the whole substrate. If you get the parameters right, the mycelium needs between 7 and 14 days to colonize a 6 lb bag fully.

Temperature     24°C to 30°C

Humidity            90 to 100 % RH

CO2 level            5,000 ppm

Air exchange     0 to 1/hr

Light                    none

Pinhead Formation

After the substrate is fully colonized, we need to trigger the mycelium to start pin heading. To so, the temperature is lowered, the air exchange rate is increased, and we introduce now light. Depending on the species you have chosen, it takes between 3 to 10 days to start pinning.

Temperature     10°C to 18°C

Humidity           95 to 100 % RH

CO2 level            < 1,000 ppm

Air exchange     4 to 8/hr

Light                   500 to 1,000 lx

Fruiting

If you see pins coming out of the substrate, then it is time to adjust the parameters again. This time we increase the temperature and keep the air exchange as well as the light at the same level or slightly adjusted. It will then take about 3 to 8 days until the first harvest.

Temperature     15°C to 30°C

Humidity           80 to 95 % RH

CO2 level            < 1,000 ppm

Air exchange     4 to 8/hr

Light                    > 500 lx

If you follow the instruction for your specific mushroom species, then it takes between 14 and 32 days, give or take, from the point you inoculated the substrate until the first flush.

If you want to know which mushroom species will grow in your region, you should check out my article about 26 Delicious Mushroom Species You Should Cultivate.  In it, I show you not only the regions but also the specific growing conditions for them.

The main difference between the three phases is due to the initiation of the pinhead formation. While in nature, the change in temperature or humidity occurs through the seasons. In the cultivation of mushrooms, we, as mushroom farmers, must trigger the initiation by changing the parameters.

To give you a better idea, the following five graphs (Figure 1 to Figure 5) is showing the change in the temperature, the humidity, the CO2 level, the air exchange rate, and the light intensity throughout the cultivation.

I extracted the parameter out of Paul Stamets’s book “Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms” As a visual person, it helped me to understand the different phases better. But see for yourself.

Figure 1: Example of a temperature profile during the cultivation[6]

Figure 2: Example of a humidity profile during the cultivation [7]

Figure 3: Example of the CO2 level during the cultivation[8]

Figure 4: Example of the air exchange rate during the cultivation[9]

Figure 5: Example of the light intensity during the cultivation[10]

Did you get a better impression of the different phases? With this understanding in mind, you will avoid making mistakes. Now back to the topic.

If you have decided what oyster mushroom you want to grow, then it is time to set up the necessary structure.

Starter kit – low budget

You can do it on a low budget. I set up my first grow chamber for under $ 300. Which equipment I bought, how I set everything up, and especially what kind of results I got are summarized in the following article, “What Do I Need to Start Growing Mushrooms?

As you can see in figure 6, I didn’t use fancy equipment to start. But it helped me to get my first experiences in growing mushrooms. If you can figure this out too, then your only thing you must do is scale. But that is for another article.

grow chamber with shelves

Figure 6: With this tent, I started out.


[1] Ahmed2010

[2] Own picture

[3] Own picture

[4] Own picture

[5] Source of the picture

[6] Own figure based on Stamets

[7] Own figure based on Stamets

[8] Own figure based on Stamets

[9] Own figure based on Stamets

[10] Own figure based on Stamets

Pl. cystidiosus: Source picture

Pl. eryngii: Source picture

Pl. ostreatus: Source picture

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