Growing Lion's Mane
Hericium erinaceus, also known as lion’s mane, monkey head or even pompom mushroom amongst other common names is one of a number of hericium species that are commonly cultivated and eaten.
Hericium erinaceus has recently garnered a lot of attention due to its potential therapeutic uses. A number of studies focusing on the mushroom’s effect on nerve growth factor have been the source of great interest demonstrating the potential for use to treat degenerative brain disorders such as Parkinsons, Alzheimers, Dementia and ALS. More research is yet to come to confirm its efficacy in in-vivo human studies.
Lion’s mane is valued for its unique webbed structure which when cooked results in a fibrous, meat-like texture. It’s mild umami flavour resembles that of chicken or lobster making it a wonderfully versatile meat substitute.
Lion’s mane must be cultivated with a hardwood substrate. Although lion’s mane can be grown outdoors on logs that have been inoculated with dowels, it is more commonly grown in hardwood fruiting blocks.
Hardwood fruiting blocks are made from a mixture of hardwood sawdust or hardwood fuel pellets (HWFP) and supplementation. Generally the added supplementation will require that the substrate is sterilised in a pressure cooker being being inoculated while adhering to aseptic technique.
At first it may be difficult to identify when a the fine, translucent strands of lion’s mane mycelium has fully colonised the substrate fruiting block.
After transit this outer layer of mycelium may be much less visible requiring a few days to rest and regenerate. Once colonised it can be exposed to fruiting conditions with little risk of contamination.
For beginners it may be easiest to keep the grow kit sealed until a white layer of primordia begins to form on the top of the block, this is where it receives most fresh air exchange. This white layer of primordia will develop into fruiting bodies, the plastic bag can be cut and folded against the block to expose this thickened layer of mycelium to fresh air and humidity.
More experienced cultivators may open and fold back the bag as soon as it has colonised despite the overall fine appearance of the mycelium. In the photo attached a longer exposure has been used to illustrate the fine webbing of mycelium amongst the dark substrate.
Lion’s mane mycelium is much finer and less opaque than other commonly grown gourmet fungal species.
The mycelium will often thicken and develop an opaque, white layer where it makes most contact with fresh air. This is due to the formation of primordia, this layer of primordia can be removed prior to using the grain spawn.
Maturing grain spawn will often produce yellow, liquid metabolites which are a natural byproduct of the mycelium.
Due to the fine structure of lion’s mane mycelium recently colonised grain spawn will often appear underdeveloped after being shaken, however the grains will remain inoculated and ready for use.
Humidity can be managed through a diligent misting and fanning regime, however the introduction of a humidifier and humidity controller can help automate the process and ensure consistency.
Adding a 6L humidifier and controller to a greenhouse with the addition of a USB fan is a quick and easy way to make a low cost fruiting chamber that delivers excellent results.
Mushrooms require humidity to grow. We recommend using a mini-greenhouse. Spraying the inside walls of the greenhouse will help raise humidity. A cheap humidifier can used to automate the process.
It’s important to ensure that the grow kit has fresh air exchange. Mushrooms produce carbon dioxide and will grow long and leggy if they require more oxygen.
Check the product pages for species specific requirements.
Alternatively you can build a Shotgun Fruiting Chamber (SGFC) from a few common items found easily in your local hardware store.
Lion’s mane may be generally grow slower than oyster mushroom species but colonisation times are greatly increased by using a supplemented substrate. Full colonisation may occur within 10 – 14 days with primordia often developing within the bag.
The mycelium may appear fine and difficult to identify.
Lion’s mane will form firm, round, white protuberances called primordia, or pins when temperatures are below 22 degrees Celsius.
Lion’s mane will generally begin forming primordia within the humid conditions of the sealed bag if left unattended. The primordia can be released and exposed to fresh air and humidity for it to develop into a fruiting body or mushroom.
Ensure that the fruiting block is exposed to humidity over 80% with temperatures below 22 degrees Celsius if pinning not occur.
Lion’s mane will fruit best when stored at temperatures between 15 – 25 degrees Celsius, although it will tolerate fluctuations outside these parameters.
Maintain humidity over 80% and slowly increase fresh air if the fruiting body appears to be stretching in search of fresh air rather than forming round, bulbous, spined fruits.
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