Mushroom cultivation can be a great hobby to grow fresh and organic mushrooms for your friends and family, but it's important to ensure that your growing environment is clean and free of contaminants. One way to do this is by sterilizing the grain that you'll use as a substrate for your mushrooms.
Sterilizing grain involves a simple process that uses heat and pressure to kill any bacteria or other contaminants that might be present in the grain. This helps to create a clean and healthy environment for your mushrooms to grow, and can improve the success rate of your mushroom cultivation.
Choosing your grain
One of the key elements to successful mushroom growth is the type of grain you use as a substrate. Different types of grains can provide different benefits and drawbacks for mushroom cultivation, so it's important to choose the right grain for your specific needs.
Here are some of the most common types of grains used for mushroom cultivation, along with their pros and cons:
Rye is a popular choice for mushroom cultivation, as it provides a good balance of nutrients and is relatively easy to sterilize. It's also relatively inexpensive and widely available. However, rye can be difficult to break up and distribute evenly, which can make it challenging to prepare for mushroom cultivation.
Wheat is another common grain used for mushroom cultivation, and it offers similar benefits to rye. It's easy to sterilize and provides a good balance of nutrients for mushroom growth. However, like rye, wheat can be difficult to break up and distribute evenly, which can make it challenging to prepare for mushroom cultivation.
Pro Tip: If you live next to a livestock feed store, you can see if they carry wheat berries with the hull on. These are actually much better for mushroom cultivation because the hull prevents the wheat berries from sticking to each other once cooked. This also makes breaking up your fully colonized grain spawn a very easy process.
Millet is another popular choice, although it is not often used by itself, but mixed in with other larger grain types. Millet is a great supplement for the mycelium because it offers complexity to the food source, which tends to keep the mycelium much more healthy.
Oat is a less common choice for mushroom cultivation, but it offers some unique benefits. It's relatively easy to break up and distribute evenly, which makes it easier to prepare for mushroom cultivation. It also provides a good balance of nutrients for mushroom growth. However, oat is more expensive and less widely available than rye or wheat.
Popcorn is a unique choice for mushroom cultivation, as it's relatively inexpensive and easy to sterilize. It's also relatively easy to break up and distribute evenly, which makes it a good option for mushroom cultivation. However, popcorn doesn't provide as many nutrients as other grains, so it may not be the best choice for some types of mushrooms.
Ultimately, the best type of grain for mushroom cultivation will depend on your specific needs and preferences. Consider the pros and cons of each type of grain and choose the one that best fits your goals for mushroom cultivation.
How to Sterilize
Here's how to sterilize grain for mushroom cultivation:
- Start by rinsing your grain in cold water to remove any dirt or debris. This will help to ensure that the sterilization process is effective, as there could be contaminants hiding in the debris.
- Transfer the rinsed grain to a large pot and cover it with water. You can add a tablespoon of coffee grounds and gypsum to supplement the grains. This will provide important nutrients to promote mycelium growth such as nitrogen, calcium.
- Soak the grains overnight to ensure your grains are prehydrated before boiling.
- Bring the water to a boil and let the grain cook for about 30 minutes, or until it's soft. This will help to kill any surface-level contaminants and prepare the grain for sterilization. The grains will expand and absorb water during the cooking process. Pro tip: You can check whether the grain is fully cooked by trying to break the grain with your fingers.
- Once the grain is cooked, transfer it to mushroom grow bags or mason jars. Take note to not fully seal the mason jar lids to allow the pressurized steam to reach the grains.
- Place the mushroom grow bags or mason jars into a pressure cooker and add enough water to fill at least 3 to 4 inches deep. Close the lid and set the pressure cooker to 15 psi. This will create a high-pressure environment that is effective at killing bacteria and other contaminants.
- Let the grain cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes at 15 psi, then turn off the heat and let the pressure cooker cool down naturally. This will allow the grain to cool slowly and evenly, which can help to prevent it from becoming contaminated again.
- Once the pressure cooker has reached room temperature, remove the grain. If you are using mason jars, this is the time to tighten the lids for long term storage.
Store the sterilized grain in a cool, dry place until you're ready to use it as a substrate for your mushroom cultivation. Keep it covered and in a clean environment to prevent contamination.
Next step is to inoculate your sterilized grain spawn with either agar culture, liquid culture, or grain to grain transfers (g2g). You should perform this task inside a sterile work environment such as the Bella Bora Still Air Box to reduce the chances of contamination.
By following these steps, you can easily sterilize grain for use in mushroom cultivation. This simple process can help to improve the success rate of your mushroom cultivation, and ensure that your mushrooms grow in a clean and healthy environment. So, it's worth taking the time to sterilize your grain before starting your mushroom cultivation project.