What are oyster mushrooms? Learn all about these popular edible, gourmet mushrooms, including their life cycle in this article now

What are oyster mushrooms? Oyster mushrooms are native to the Northeastern US, the most common being the species Pleurotus ostreatus.

The common name oyster refers to multiple species of mushrooms including but not limited to Pleurotus pulmonarius, Pleurotus salmonostraminus, Pleurotus djamor, Pluerotus citrinopileatus, Pleurotus ostreatus, Hypsizgus ulmarius, and others. These mushrooms cover a range of sizes, colors, and textures. Oyster mushrooms can come in brown, pink, yellow, blue, white or other colors. This allows the small scale grower to offer four or five different products while only growing oyster mushrooms.

What are oyster mushrooms: Fast, aggressively growing options for farmers

Oyster mushrooms grow extremely fast and aggressively and most of the strains and species of oyster mushrooms can be cultivated. This makes oysters suitable to beginners and mushroom farmers with low-tech equipment.

Oyster mushroom spawn is readily available as grain or sawdust throughout the United States. This is a valuable resource because the mushroom farmer does not have to dedicate the time and resources necessary to create a sterile lab.

What are oyster mushrooms in terms of fruiters? Certain strains of oyster mushrooms are abundant fruiters giving a good yield compared to labor input. They fruit in clusters making it easy to harvest and store. Oyster mushrooms tend to be fragile which can create some difficulty in packaging.

What are oyster mushrooms? Understanding the oyster mushroom life cycle

Mushrooms are basidiomycetes, which refers to their means of sexual reproduction. The gills of the oyster mushroom contain basidia, a microscopic structure resembling a tower with a ball on the top. Attached to the basidia are four haploid spores that are released at maturity into air currents.These spores germinate mycelium. The mycelium grows through its food source and eventually fruits a mushroom.

The mushroom is the fruiting body of the larger fungal organism. The entire point of the mushroom is to provide a platform for sexual reproduction and dissemination of off- spring. They are a temple of copulation with an intricate and flamboyant design. Humans, insects, and animals are part of the chain that spreads the spores of the mushroom.

Millions of these microscopic spores leave the mushroom. Oyster mushrooms in particular are known for their heavy spore load. This necessitates routine equipment cleaning and use of a mask in the fruiting room.

The mycelium continually exudes enzymes into its growing medium to break down food, create barriers, claim territory, and communicate with its surroundings. The mycelium is readily available physically to attack. The chemical enzymes contain antimicrobial compounds to create a protective barrier around the mycelial network. Fungi digest externally and then absorb the nutrients that have been broken down into their body. The enzymes exuded around the mycelium break down food like lignin and cellulose into simpler building blocks. These sugars are used for continued mycelial growth. It is important to be familiar with mycelium because this is what mushrooms fruit from. Without a healthy vibrant mycelium, fruiting bodies will not occur. A mushroom grower first grows mycelium and then needs to create and maintain the right conditions for a mushroom to form. Paying close attention to the health and growth of the mycelium will help to increase yields.

It is also important to understand strain selection. Mycelium with identical DNA and traits can be cultured from a mushroom.. From there the mycelium can be expanded by vast quantities. A single petri plate can be the starting point for the production of 1000’s of pounds of mushrooms. Culturing allows the grower to select the correct strain for their situation and have predictable results. Consistent genetic information is expressed by culturing the mushroom rather than going through sexual reproduction. Consistency is the key to success.

What are oyster mushrooms in relation to strain?

The strain used and spawn source is crucial to the success of any grower. Strains are different individuals of a certain species. Similar to how all people are Homo sapiens but each of us has a unique set of genetic information, which results in a unique expression of traits. In a mushroom the expression of different traits can mean a variety of things important to the cultivator. Morphology, yield, preference and ability to grow on certain substrates, storability, speed of colonization, environmental parameters for fruiting and ability to withstand competing organisms all can be determined by strain.

Strains can be discovered or developed through two approaches. The first is through finding and isolating a fruiting body in the wild. These strains need to be trialed and observed to learn their particular expression of different traits. Some of these traits can be observed when the wild mushroom is found. Recording data like the substrate found on, fruiting temperature, region, fruit body shape and color, size of fruiting is very valuable. Strains can also be developed and selected for certain traits through sexual reproduction in a laboratory. Certain desired traits like high yield and wide fruiting temperature can be encouraged through breeding. Strains with a history of use and distinct recorded traits are highly valuable to every grower. Visit this article to learn about the oyster mushroom strains we love. 

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