Fun With Fungus

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Overview

A few weeks back we were wondering around the farmer’s market when a booth with alien-looking mushrooms grabbed me by the eyeballs. They were selling six or seven kinds of Dr Seuss looking mushrooms, but what really caught my eye was the mushroom grow kits. For $15 I too could become a mushroom farmer.

So, I became a mushroom farmer–probably their easiest sale of the day. If you work with kids you might want to give mushroom farming a try too.

Why Try?

Here area few reasons you should give it a try:

  • It’s inexpensive. You can get a mushroom growing kit for around $20 on Amazon. They have a variety of options and many offer free shipping if you’re a Prime member. (Use the affiliate link above and Playvolution HQ gets a small percentage to help support the site.)
  • It’s easy. Aside from the grow kit, you’ll only need a spray bottle, some water, and a not-to-sunny location to farm your fungus. The process pretty much consists of opening the container the grow kit comes in, misting the growing medium’s surface a few times a day, and harvesting your crop. If kids can’t do all this on their own, they sure won’t need a lot of supervision.
  • It’s a STEM activity. A STEM activity that can lead to interesting conversations and deeper understandings of how things grow and the diversity of life.
  • It’s a chance to practice responsibility. Remembering to mist the fungus every day at the age of three is a step towards managing a life time of responsibility.
  • It’s a chance to introduce a new food. I’m guessing most kids are not eating a lot of pink oyster, shiitake, or lion’s mane mushrooms. Growing them may interest many kids in giving them a taste. Even the kid who only eats goldfish crackers and pudding cups may try a nibble of the mushrooms she helped grow.

The Process

There are slight variations from kit to kit, but here’s the basic process:

You start out by opening the sealed container. I had to slice off the top of a plastic bag to grow my pink oyster mushrooms. Another popular kit variation requires that you open the side of a cardboard box.

After that, you give it a good misting, avoid letting it get water logged, and avoid direct sunlight.

Over the course of a few days, your mushrooms will grow.

And grow.

And grow.

Until it’s time to harvest. I just sliced them off with a pair of kitchen sheers.

They were pretty tasty raw, but even better sauteed in butter and eaten with a steak.

Note

If you give this a try, be sure to discuss with kids that they should not taste other mushrooms/toadstools/fungi they may run across unless an adult says it is OK.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a novel experience to share with a bunch of busy little brains this is a good one to consider. If you give it a go, I’d love to see and hear how it went in the comments below.

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Jeff is an early learning speaker, toymaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ who is really bad at getting his picture taken.

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