Growing Hericium erinaceus (Lions Mane) Mushrooms
Lions Mane mushrooms may also be referenced as bearded toothed mushrooms, bearded hedgehog mushrooms, or even pom pom mushrooms.+ These toothed fungi are certainly eye-catching, but they’re just as awesome (if not more) on the inside.
As a choice edible and highly praised medicinal supplement, the Lions Mane mushroom sweeps across the board, catching much-deserved attention along the way.
This mushroom is worth getting your hands on. It’s a relatively low maintenance type of species, only asking for some decent humidity and steady fresh air exchanges to produce happily, making it a solid starter for at-home hobbyist. Typically grown in artificial logs, or fully colonized bags comprised of (sometimes enriched) hardwood sawdust – Lions Mane can also be used to inoculate hardwood logs outdoors using colonized plug spawn or sawdust spawn.
Habitat & Range
Lions Mane mushrooms are a native species to Asia, Europe, and North America; where they tend to favor growth on hardwood species of trees (the American beech, in particular.)+ Foragers should keep their eyes peeled during Summer’s later seasons and into fall.
In the wild, these mushrooms easily stand out among others. Being a tooth fungus, the long, dangling spines look a bit like a hedgehog or an old man’s beard, giving way to some of its other nicknames. Often growing as a single clump, wild Lions Mane mushrooms should still be white and somewhat firm when considered for edible foraging. Browning mushrooms have either sporulated or will be soon and are often more bogged down with retained water.
When grown from home, these mushrooms often pop up out of colonized bags, first as small “blobs”. Then, as a few days go by, the blobs continue to grow and “teeth” can been seen, creating a sort of spiky ball. These mushrooms are able to be manipulated with gravity, meaning bag placement will determine how they grow. When left to fruit from a side angle, the teeth will form much more like the wild Lions Mane would be found.
There are several other species of Hericium that can easily be mistaken for H. erinaceus. All are popular edibles that grow wild in the same ranges.+
It’s not hard to dig into the somatic benefits of Lions Mane mushrooms, as it is becoming more popularly discussed as a prized medicinal.
- H. erinaceus is comprised of a number of components (polysaccharides) that make it a superlative superfood. Lions Mane is (so far) a sole producer of erinacines, a compound powerful enough to have an enhancing effect on nerve growth. ++++
Cultivation of Lion’s Mane
Lions Mane mushrooms are not only a commercial powerhouse mushroom (selling for both supplemental and culinary uses) but also one of the most forgiving species to cultivate indoors on a small-scale level. They are the perfect mushroom for budding home-growers and often a longstanding favorite for many myco-enthusiasts. Like any gourmet mushroom, Lions Mane can be started from spores on agar, a culture to grain transfer to create mushroom spawn, or from colonized substrates.
Most hobbyist growers choose to purchase colonized substrates or kits to begin with as they can get immediately to growing. Fully colonized Lions Mane substrate blocks will happily produce “spiky” puffballs or pom poms, when provided the right temperature, plenty of fresh air and moderate levels of humidity. Old cellars, cool basements or garages are among the many improvised places growers choose to fruit Lions Mane, but take into consideration the spore load if you let them mature for too long. Spores indoors can be a health hazard among other things.
Growing Lion’s Mane in Bags
When growing your own Lions Mane mushrooms from home, you’re typically going to be working with a bag based, artificial log substrate, and for here are a few tips for growing Lions Mane in bags to get the most out of the experience.
- The fruiting Lion’s Mane mushroom bags should be placed in an area where temperatures range between 60-70°F to initiate pin formation (less is okay, more will slow it down)
- If you can measure CO2 readings, stay around 800ppm – roughly 2x ambient air levels. Note, this is unnecessary for most growers outside of commercial settings!
- Maintain a humidity level of 85% or greater
- When fruiting, it’s important to remove all available air space within the bag.
- This is often done by deflating and rolling up the top portion of the bag, squeezing out all available air to inhibit primordial growth where we don’t want it and encourage it where holes are sliced into the substrate for fruiting
- Turn and face covered patch-side down and slice 4 slits on each side of the mushroom block (may be any number, but four slits usually allows for more evenly sized fruits)
- Once primorida (pins, baby mushrooms, pretty blob of mycelium) have formed temperatures may be range from 50-75F comfortably, and fresh air levels can be increased but take care not to dry the fruits. In most cases it’s best to just leave it alone, let it fruit and adjust if you see the fruits begin to ‘spaghettify’ or in other words, if the morphology is atypical (unlike a nice uniform blob, more like a stretch, straggly and bizarre looking mess) it’s always best to assume there’s not enough fresh air, and increase access to fresh air. Passive techniques in basements, cool cellars or other cool/damp locations require no maintenance at all outside of opening & harvesting, consider this if you have a cool/damp place!
Following these parameters, novice and seasoned home growers alike will produce gratifying results. Within 7-10 days of promoting the mushroom’s fruiting cycle, fully developed mushrooms should be present.
When do I harvest Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?
Typically, it is recommended to harvest while the mushroom still has somewhat “tight” teeth and a dull white coloration. Mushrooms that get to mature too long become more of a beige color and they become more water-logged. This tends to create a much less appealing texture for culinary use.
They aren’t once and done, either! The colonized blocks happily fruit again, putting on a whole other show. After harvest, you can expect to see more mushrooms push through within 7-14 days. You will want to keep growing conditions rather constant throughout these crop cycles, as you may easily see 3 to 4 before the block is “spent”.
*Another pro tip!:
Humidity tents are a great way to maintain the perfect micro climate for mushrooms blocks. Misting the inside of this tent 2-4 times a day will keep humidity levels elevated. It’s also recommended to fan the inside of the tent regularly throughout the day to keep CO2 levels at an optimal range. ++
What Does Lion’s Mane Taste Like?
Lion’s Mane has a mild (sometimes described as lobster-like when cooked) taste and the texture is unlike any other gilled mushroom. The “teeth” of this fungus create a satisfying meat-like texture that doesn’t easily become chewy or rubbery. The Lions Mane mushrooms spans across the board for culinary use.
Lions Mane mushrooms can be prepared in several tasty ways, popular and easy favorites include roasting and sauteing in butter. Once an even, golden brown layer is present, the mushroom is ready to enjoy! The savory, humble Lions Mane mushroom may be paired as a side or shine as a main dish. For vegan diets, Lion’s Mane is often used as a pork, crab & even chicken substitutes.