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…
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
- You can buy King Stropharia liquid culture on Amazon if you want to start a small colony in a contained space like jars or totes.
- If you want to get King Stropharia spawn to immediately start growing in your garden, get it from our friends at Mushroom Mountain.
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 shade 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!
Other fun fungi articles you might enjoy:
- 6 gourmet and medicinal mushrooms you can easily grow
- How to grow shiitake mushrooms (and boost their Vitamin D content)
- Complete guide to foraging and using chanterelle mushrooms
- How to ID, grow, and use chicken of the woods mushrooms
- How, when, and where to find and use morel mushrooms
- A recipe for bright blue indigo milk cap mushrooms
- How to find and prepare maitake mushrooms, aka hen of the woods