Reishi Conks (High FAE) VS Antlers (High CO2)
You may have seen my sticker & shirt design for the ‘Reishi Antlers’ – that’s the joke! When grown in a HIGH CO2 environment (important to note that the mycelium growing in the bag produces CO2), the morphology of Ganoderma species generally tends to produce an antler like stalk of an often candy corn colored fruiting body. When subjected to higher amounts of O2 (oxygen aka the ‘fresh’ of the Fresh Air Exchange FAE) the morphology becomes more conk or shell like. You can mix both styles as seen in the product photo, the bag was allowed to pin (baby mushrooms are technically called primoridia but we call them pins) for some time (growing mycelium produces CO2 therefore the area in the bag above the substrate CO2 dense and we see the response in the shape of the fruit body as ‘antlers’ – when the top of the bag was removed & introduced to fresh, humid air, it was allowed to blossom into absolutely GORGEOUS reishi conks. Reishi antlers, conks, or both? You decide. Here’s how!
“I have a table and I want to do absolutely NOTHING to grow my mushrooms”
GREAT! That’s the ‘antler in the bag’ or ‘In Vitro’ method of growing. You will be limited in final yield, but you can let these grow until they reach the filter and they’ll eventually grow through it. If you have a humid area in your home it will probably be fine, in my PA winters reishi bags have grown through the filter sitting on my desk and while not pretty on the outside of the bag, the inside was gorgeous!
“I have existing grows/experience with growing mushrooms and I’m down for a little work”
Great! Read through the above paragraphs again, it should inspire you to think about what style you’d like to try, or maybe a combination of both. Keep CO2 high (tight cotton in a monotub/taped holes in SGFC/tub with lid cracked) and you can cut the top off the bag and let the pins go nuts in the monotub. If you decide halfway through that you’d rather have conks, great! Unplug that polyfill and let the tub breathe more while still retaining humidity levels. If you would prefer to go straight to conks, great! Remove the top of the bag (you don’t want to remove the whole bag) and provide the same conditions you would any other gourmet mushroom (70-95%RH & lots of fresh air) and you will be set.
There Is a LOT of LIQUID!? Should I Worry About Reishi Metabolites ?
Reishi mushrooms can and do more often than not produce what is generally accepted as metabolites. Do not be concerned on pooling red or brown secretions that develop in the bag as your grow progresses. This may be dumped, & in doings so you will learn that Reishi mushrooms are one of the toughest – don’t worry about harming them. It’s why companies like Ecovative are using mushrooms to produce clothing, or companies like Critical Concrete with building mushroom based materials & more. I have personally made mushroom insulation and panels from recycled cardboard, I have to say – Ganoderma species are the toughest. I have one tub which was dried in the oven & allowed to sit outdoors. It’s nearly 2 years old, you’d never know. It’s super tough, and has promise for other applications – by getting your hands on your own Reishi you’ll see what I mean.
How To Harvest Reishi
Anyone who has ever let Ganoderma sp. spawn colonize for too long knows the struggle of fighting with this species. It can be tricky to harvest, it’s rather tough – almost wood like in texture & as the fruit body ages it becomes harder to slice. As such, you may find it easier to use a sharp pair of sanitized scissors or even pruning snips for gardening. You can also pull really hard, the substrate won’t mind if you take a small chunk out of it.
When Do I Harvest Reishi?
This is open to debate, but generally with conks the white band around the outside will begin to get smaller as the fruit body matures & just as this starts to happen is the best time to harvest before it over matures. You can harvest at any time you see fit, but to get the most from the kit, let it run it’s course! With antlers, the same concept applies (white edge of gandoerma fruit bodies is the growing edge) so as long as new growth is occurring, you’re good to grow. Again, harvest at any time but be patient to reap the full fruits of your labor, literally!
What To Do With Spent Substrate?
You will get one REALLY good harvest from this block before it’s ‘spent’ for artificial cultivation – but you can take your experiment outdoors by burying it so the block is 1-2″ beneath ground level and you may find that when all the conditions are right, you’ll have fruits. Try this in a shaded area! Watering won’t hurt, but it’s more fun to be surprised by the natural processes! You can also get creative and try the same in an indoor flower pot or otherwise, mushrooms are forgiving & just want to spread their spores. They’ll do about ANYTHING to do that, but the process of pinning requires a lot of CO2 and therefore creates an environment fit for competitors who have landed on and in the newly exposed substrate post harvest. By burying them, we let the organism exist in a more natural environment it’s prepared to thrive in, and as a result we can get more fruits than otherwise but this is not guaranteed. This is simply mimicking the processes used by commercial Reishi growers.
Spores And Mushroom Growing
It’s said reishi mushrooms can produce over a POUND of spores. Think about that! Letting this mushroom grow too long will result in spores as seen in the above photo from over 5 years ago before I knew ANYTHING about spore related sensitivities and allergies. Here’s a copy/paste from my favorite mushroom author ‘Peter Oei’, and his book titled ‘Mushroom Cultivation: With A Special Emphasis On Appropriate Techniques For Developing Countries’ Page 253, Appendices Section B:
Mushrooms produce millions of spores. Many people are sensitive to these spores and respond with allergic symptoms when exposed to extreme numbers of them. Up to now, Oyster mushrooms, Auricularia and Shiitake have been reported to cause allergic alveolites, a lung disease. Other mushrooms are likely to give the same problems if they are cultivated on a large scale in closed growing rooms. Spore allergies can also be caused by Actinomyces during the fermentation process of producing Agaricus compost.
This said, I do not have the same disclaimer with my Lion’s Mane kits as they are generally not as happy (read EXTREMELY UNLIKELY) to produce spores, I have only had Lion’s Mane sporegasm a few times in my 8 years. Reishi on the other hand, is happy to produce spores. KEEP AN EYE ON THE WHITE BAND! If it gets smaller, you’re on your way to sporulation and you should harvest before it’s too late! A few spores will not kill you (unless you are already sensitive) but I have seen mushroom lung first hand in my commercial experience with Agaricus sp. & I would hate to miss an opportunity to spread consumer awareness. Sporeless strains have been developed for a lot of commercial species, but a sporeless Reishi is unlikely to be sought as Reishi spores are generally regarded as a more potent medicinal byproduct of reishi than the spores alone.
Please take into consideration spore load when growing mushrooms in your home, and try to exhaust your grows outside if there is a chance they may sporulate OR – if they do, try to wear a respirator when you’re moving the spores/bags around. That’s all it takes to prevent long term exposure which may exacerbate otherwise non-existent sensitivities.
Don’t let this scare you, but inspire you to take control of your health & that of others around your grows. Demand sporeless strains, the market will follow suit and it has been. Sylvan has ‘Spoppo’ a renowned sporeless Pleurotus strain. If you’ve grown a ‘Sporeless Oyster’ – it’s likely to have come from Sylvan.