Gardening

How to Grow & Eat King Stropharia: The Gardener’s Mushroom

Oscar von Kitten checking out a King stropharia patch at Tyrant Farms.

Embrace your inner fungi with King Stropharia…

As you may have noticed, we LOVE gourmet mushrooms, both wild-foraged and the many varieties that we cultivate on Tyrant Farms.

Some people don’t share our passion for mushrooms. If their only exposure to edible mushrooms is the small tan & white button mushrooms that are commonly sold at grocery stores, then we completely understand why they might be less than thrilled by Kingdom Fungi. After all, button mushrooms are the fungal equivalent of iceberg lettuce: a bland, tasteless medium that has to be “sauced up” to have anything resembling an interesting flavor.

Mushrooms: More Diverse & Plentiful Than You May Think…

Despite what your grocery store or dining experiences may have led you to believe, Kingdom Fungi is an enormously diverse taxa that offers a huge range of edible delicacies with an equally diverse range of flavor profiles.

A few of our favorites to forage here in our temperate, forested Appalachian region (most of which are pictured in the photo gallery above):

  • sublime and sultry morels (early spring),
  • rich & savory black trumpets and bi-colored boletes (summer),
  • apricot-almond flavored chanterelles (summer-fall),
  • maple syrup flavored parasols (early fall),
  • lilac-nosed blewits that offer a hint of grape (fall-winter),
  • lobster-flavored lion’s mane, and many, many others.

Many of the mushroom varieties we enjoy eating for their flavor are also known to be medicinal mushrooms that have been used for thousands of years; modern science is also proving them to be effective in preventing/treating a wide range of diseases ranging from cancer to various neural disorders.

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Each new season offers a unique menu of fungal delights for those willing to take a bit of time to earn their foraging “learner’s permit” and start driving on the abundantly tasty “roads” of native, wild foods. Be warned: once you start down this road, your perspective on—and connection with—nature and the foods you choose to eat will be profoundly changed.

“But, you can get sick or die if you eat the wrong thing, right?” Sure. If you’re not smart about it.

If you start your foraging journey by going out with seasoned veterans and then take the requisite time to study and learn the rules, you have virtually zero chance of ever misidentifying or eating something you shouldn’t. In fact, we’d venture to guess that you have a much higher risk of getting sick (or worse) from eating at a typical restaurant or buying conventional produce or meat from a grocery store.

Fungus: An Import “Layer” of Every Garden and Natural Ecosystem

We used to think of our garden as a small geometrically-shaped space where we planted a few rows of food crops separated from the rest of our non-edible yard. Now, we view our garden as the entirety of the outdoor and indoor spaces that we interact with: the whole system (including us) is part of the equation from which delicious, whole foods are produced. From our majestic white oak trees and their rich, sweet acorn flour to our edible “weeds” such as dandelions and sheep sorrel, all eight layers in our biosphere are part of our garden—including the foundational fungal layer.

In any given year at Tyrant Farms, we find at least a dozen varieties of “wild” edible mushrooms around our property and have also cultivated many other varieties like oyster, shiitake, and blewit mushrooms. We always get a good chuckle when we see many of these varieties (usually past their prime and imported from other areas of the country) in the produce section at a nearby Whole Foods store selling for up to $50 per pound!

Oregon Morels in the Greenville, SC Whole Foods - May 2010

Oregon Morels in the Greenville, SC Whole Foods – May 2010

Introducing the Ultimate Garden Mushroom: King Stropharia

Now, we’re excited to add a new cultivated variety of mushroom to our garden list: the King Stropharia (Stropharia rugoso-annulata).

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Oscar von Kitten inspects a King Stropharia bed at Tyrant Farms.

Oscar von Kitten inspects an asparagus and King Stropharia bed at Tyrant Farms.

Wow, what an amazing shroom! King Stropharia (a native of North America and Europe) have earned the nickname “godzilla mushrooms” for a reason: our first crop of the season (in mid-April) has been producing an abundance of mushrooms that grew to the size of dinner plates in just a few days.

King Stropharia mushrooms - Tyrant Farms

Cut off the dense bases of your King Stropharia and put them in other wood chips bed to inoculate more beds!

Why Grow King Stropharia?

The list of reasons that you should grow King Stropharia mushrooms in your garden is probable far longer than we’ve written below, but here’s a start:

  • Tasty – They’ve got a delicious rich mushroomy flavor with undertones of red wine and potatoes.
  • Easy – They’re incredibly easy to grow. Just get some spawn from a good source, make a wood chip & spawn + cardboard layered “lasagna” in a good spot, and voila! You’ll have large mushrooms within months (during warm, wet weather).
  • Cleaners – They’re excellent at “cleaning” soil and water. If you keep chickens, ducks or even livestock, they’re known for remediating the nasty stuff (non-scientific name for it) while producing edible fruiting bodies that don’t contain any harmful residues left over from the molecular structures they’ve broken down.
  • Soil – If you want good garden or farm soil, this is a great shroom for you. They quickly break down biomass like wood chips, converting it into rich soil that is teeming with life (they even parasitize and kill certain detrimental nematodes that would otherwise damage your plant roots).
  • Prolific – They produce huge amounts of food in a short period of time and chunks of their mycelial web can be taken out of one wood chip bed and placed in another wood chip covered bed with similar amazing results.
Basket of King Stropharia - Tyrant Farms

A nice basket of King Stropharia going upstairs for dinner at Tyrant Farms.

Where to buy King Stropharia Mushroom Spawn

We’ve gotten our King Stropharia spawn from two places: Fungi Perfecti and from our friends down the road at Mushroom Mountain.

Fungi Perfecti also has an indoor growing kit if you would rather not wait for them to fruit outdoors to be able to try them. When they’re done producing an indoor harvest (roughly 3 months) this vigorous and resilient species can be transferred to an outdoor bed to potentially produce crops of mushrooms for years to come.

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We highly recommend growing this fun fungi. You’ll be glad you did… and so will your garden!

KIGI,


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  • April Gordon

    Nice blog entry on the wonders of the fungal world. Oscar von Kitten provides useful perspective on the huge size of King Stropharia mushrooms, which presumably have no poisonous lookalikes for people to worry about. Unfortunately, some of the other tasty varieties out there are not so distinctive, and even experienced mushroom hunters have been sickened or even died from mistaken identification. Newcomers need to be especially cautious about eating any mushroom found in the wild unless they are absolutely sure of the identification of the mushroom in question.

    • http://www.tyrantfarms.com Aaron

      Yes, indeed. Unless someone is 100% certain about the ID of the mushroom or foraged plants they’re eating, they shouldn’t eat it. Period.

      There are plenty of “all natural” things that can make someone very ill or kill them. However, once a person is able to properly ID the various edible fungi and plants in their area (or just a few distinct varieties), it’s perfectly safe for them to enjoy the bounty. As for the King Stropharia in this post: 1) we inoculated a wood chip bed in our garden with the KS mycelium and there are no native poisonous look-alikes, 2) they have a distinct combination of identifiers between gill & cap coloration, spore print and veil. So, we were 100% confident in what we were growing and eating before they went into dinner. :)

      Thanks for the extra warning though! We can’t stress enough how important it is for people to make a 100% certain ID before eating any type of food, fungi or otherwise (hence the disclaimer on the bottom of this website).

  • http://www.veganactivist.wordpress.com veganactivist

    Nice post, I hope it encourages people to try mushroom cultivation. I finally got up the nerve to inoculate some king stropharia in the garden and have been enjoying my first harvest – wow! It’s very exciting. :)

    • http://www.tyrantfarms.com Susan

      Thanks! We hope so too. It’s hard for anyone to get excited about mushrooms if all they’ve ever eaten are white button mushrooms. It’s amazing how many flavors, colors and textures of mushrooms there are out there. King Stopharia is a great variety for any home gardener to grow to improve soil health, even if they don’t ever eat them. We love em!

  • Jim Schmidt

    The more I know about King Stropharia, the better off my community will be. I’m going to teach my fellow gardeners at Roots To Shoots how much fun growing mushrooms is. Thanks for the story about the hummingbird, too!

  • Janice Kelley

    If you grow too many to eat at once, what is the way to preserve for later use. Dehydration?

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