Gardening

How to grow and eat King Stropharia mushrooms

Oscar von Kitten checking out a King stropharia patch at Tyrant Farms.
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King stropharia mushrooms are the ultimate gardener’s mushroom. Not only do they produce giant edible mushrooms, they also improve soil health and even kill root-eating nematodes! 


Introducing the King Stropharia mushroom…

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 your only exposure to edible mushrooms is the small tan & white button mushrooms that are commonly sold at grocery stores, we completely understand why you might be less than thrilled by mushrooms. 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.

Good news: mushrooms are far more diverse than you may think and offer a staggering array of flavors: 

  • sublime and sultry morels (early spring),
  • rich & savory 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),
  • delicate umami goodness of maitakes.

Another edible gourmet mushroom that should be on every gardener’s list is King Stropharia, aka winecaps (Stropharia rugoso-annulata). Not only are King Stropharia mushrooms a choice edible, they also provide a host of benefits for your garden soil and plants.

Fungi: An essential part of a garden 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 edible landscape, from the forest layer to the soil layer. 

At the top end of the size scale are our fruit and nut trees. For instance, our majestic white oaks provide acorn flour. Hickory trees provide hickory nut ambrosia, and chestnuts provide a delicious starch.

On the smaller side of the scale are our edible “weeds” from sheep sorrel to chickweed. Beneath that is the soil layer that can produce edible mushrooms and root crops. In permaculture, there are seven layers in an edible food forest system, from trees down to the soil — we think an eight should be added to include mushrooms. 

The gardener’s mushroom: King Stropharia

A wonderful cultivated variety of mushroom that gardeners can grow right on the ground (the soil layer) alongside their edible plants is King Stropharia (Stropharia rugoso-annulata).

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

Oscar the Cat inspects King Stropharia growing at Tyrant Farms. Yes King Stropharia mushrooms can grow to giant sizes.

King Stropharia are native to North America and Europe. They’ve also earned the nickname “godzilla mushrooms” for obvious reasons. As you can see in the above picture, King Stropharia can grow to huge sizes.

Our first King Stropharia “crop” of the season (usually in mid-April) produce an abundance of mushrooms that can grow to the size of dinner plates in just a few days under optimal conditions.

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!

5 reasons to grow King Stropharia mushrooms

Here are five reasons you should go King Stropharia mushrooms in your garden: 

1. King Stropharia mushrooms taste great. 

King Stropharias have a delicious rich mushroomy flavor with undertones of potatoes and red wine. Imagine the best flavors in a portobello mushrooms turned up to maximum.  

2. King Stropharia mushrooms are very easy to grow. 

King stropharia mushrooms are incredibly easy to grow. (See instructions below.) 

3. King Stropharia mushrooms quite literally clean your soil. 

King Stropharia mushrooms are excellent at breaking down pathogens in soil, thus helping to keep nearby waterways clean. This is known as bioremediation or mycoremediation.

If you raise chickens, ducks, or livestock, King Stropharia can be used to help render pathogens such as E. coli bacteria inert.  

4. King Stropharias build your soil and can even protect your plants.

If you want good garden or farm soil, King Stropharias are a great mushroom to grow. They quickly break down biomass like wood chips, converting it into rich soil that is teeming with life. They even trap and eat certain detrimental root-eating nematodes that would otherwise damage your plants! 

5. King Stropharia mushrooms are prolific. 

King Stropharia can produce a lot of food in a short period of time in a relatively small space. One of our friends even grows them in plastic totes full of things like straw, wood chips, and cardboard.

Once you get them established, you can take chunks of their mycelium and spread them to new spots around your garden, including walking paths covered with wood chips. As long as they have new carbon-rich biomass to digest, they’ll be happy. 

Basket of King Stropharia - Tyrant Farms

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

How to grow King Stropharia mushrooms 

King Stropharia mushrooms are vigorous and easy to grow. Here’s how:

1. Wait until it’s no longer freezing outside or you have at least a few months before your first freeze of fall/winter. 

2. Get King Stropharia liquid culture or spawn from a good source.

3. Depending on whether you got a) liquid culture. or b) spawn:

a) King Stropharia Liquid culture: Think of your liquid culture as a starter culture. You’ll be using this to start a small batch of King Stropharia that you’ll then use to start larger patches, indoors or outdoors. 

In a small container (jars or small totes), add the liquid King Stropharia culture to sterilized media such as sterilized straw, shredded un-dyed cardboard/paper grocery bags, or hardwood wood shavings/sawdust. The medium needs to be damp (not wet) and as sterile as possible to prevent contamination by other fungi and microorganisms.

b) King Stropharia spawn: Layer pieces of King Stropharia spawn in between 2-3″ layers of fresh hardwood wood chips or straw. Use a minimum of two layers spawn + wood chips.

The best outdoor placement for a King Stropharia bed would receive morning light and afternoon shade. Unlike other mushrooms, King Stropharia actually LIKE sunlight, although afternoon sun can make them dry up and not grow as large.    

4. Wait and harvest. In our area (Zone 7B in Greenville, SC), King Stropharia fruit in the early spring and again in the fall. If you start an outdoor colony in the spring, you should get your first flush of mushrooms in the fall. If you start them in the fall, you’ll get mushrooms the following spring. 

As long as you keep feeding the colony new food (straw of hardwood chips), your King Stropharia colony can live as long as you do! 


If you’re a gardener or gourmet mushroom connoisseur, we highly recommend you grow King Stropharia! You’ll be glad you did… and so will your garden!

 

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    Gabrielle
    September 11, 2021 at 12:11 pm

    Hello, Do you know when the “King Stropharia liquid culture” will be available on Amazon?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      September 11, 2021 at 12:38 pm

      Hi Gabrielle! Sorry, we don’t know. You could maybe contact the seller to ask? Or try to find another seller. Apologies we can’t be more helpful on this on.

  • Reply
    JC
    May 14, 2020 at 4:35 am

    Thanks so much for the great info! I’m setting up to get started an am wondering why Stropharia needs to have hardwood shavings. Why doesn’t softwood work?
    Thanks

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      May 17, 2020 at 1:54 pm

      JC – There are probably mycologists that could really geek out on exactly why certain mushrooms prefer specific types of wood (including King stropharia). The short of it is that they definitely do have specific growth medium preferences. For instance: you’ll never get oysters or lions manes to fruit from a pine shavings/sawdust/logs. Conversely, some mushroom species only grow on pine. Each species of fungi is adapted to specific food sources due to the ecological niche they’ve filled for millions of years. It likely has to do with resins in the wood or even something to do with the cellular structure of particular trees, but we can’t say for certain. Regardless, you’ll definitely want to use hardwood chips (the fresher the better) for your King stropharia.

      • Reply
        JC
        May 17, 2020 at 2:32 pm

        Thanks for the info. I got a freshly cut and mulched beech tree delivered yesterday by an arborist. Hope my King stropharia does well on it!

        • Aaron von Frank
          May 19, 2020 at 1:10 pm

          Nice! Good find. Check back in when your King stropharia start fruiting. Might have a small flush in the fall. If not, they’ll start popping next spring.

  • Reply
    dbell5
    September 8, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    Nice article on a great mushroom! They grow beautifully in the San Francisco area.
    One edit suggestion:
    Step 3b – “afternoon shade can make the dry up”
    Shouldn’t that be “afternoon sun”?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      September 9, 2019 at 11:48 am

      Thanks for the kind words on our King Stropharia article and thanks also for catching our mistake! Edit made.

  • Reply
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    April 28, 2015 at 3:12 am

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  • Reply
    Janice Kelley
    November 29, 2014 at 3:19 pm

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

  • Reply
    Jim Schmidt
    July 18, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    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!

  • Reply
    veganactivist
    August 9, 2013 at 7:19 am

    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. 🙂

    • Reply
      Susan
      August 9, 2013 at 2:34 pm

      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!

  • Reply
    April Gordon
    April 28, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      Aaron
      April 28, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      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).

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