What is a lion's mane mushroom?
Lion’s mane mushrooms are large, white, edible mushrooms that grow quite big and are covered in ‘spines’ which get longer as it ages - earning its namesake. It’s not only delicious - it also boasts some pretty incredible health benefits.
Growing lion’s mane in the UK isn’t illegal however harvesting this mushroom from the wild is. It’s one of the most highly protected mushrooms in the country and is rarely found in supermarkets or farmer’s markets due to its short shelf life once picked. So, if you’re eager to give these shaggy-looking gourmet mushrooms a try, you’ll most likely need to grow them yourself.
How to grow your own lion's mane?
Growing lion’s mane mushrooms is a very rewarding, and delicious, activity. The large fruits are excellent in all kinds of recipes, can be dried and drunk as tea, and can even be eaten raw with many health benefits.
There are different methods to growing mushrooms but the basic steps stay the same.
The first step is to acquire a colonised block - this can be done yourself if you’re feeling adventurous, or through buying a pre-colonised kit.
Next is to ensure the correct growing conditions - keep it humid by misting the inside of the growing container daily with a spray bottle. Try to keep the temperature between 18 to 24 degrees celsius, and allow enough airflow to provide the best fruiting conditions.
Following that, if you’re growing in a bag, you’ll need to cut x’s in the sides to allow the fruiting bodies (what we know as the mushroom) to grow.
Finally, allow the mushrooms to fruit and, once mature, you can harvest and enjoy!
Different growing methods
The process for growing Lion’s Mane is quite similar to growing any other type of gourmet mushroom - although there are some slight differences to watch out for.
By far the easiest way to grow these delicious mushrooms at home is to start with a kit. Mushroom growing kits come with everything you need to get started including the spawn, substrate, and grow bags. This is the best option for people who are new to the hobby.
If you’re a bit more experienced in the hobby of growing mushrooms, you may be interested in starting with a commercially made spawn. This requires a few basic tools and involves a little more care - but you’ll have the satisfaction of seeing the mycelia in action.
Alternatively, if you're very experienced and want to really get into it, you can even make your very own spawn starting from a pure culture or spore prints on agar. This does require a lot of equipment however, and requires a sterile environment.
The process for growing Lion’s Mane is quite similar to growing any other type of gourmet mushroom- although there are some slight differences to watch out for. Depending on where you are at in your mushroom growing journey, you’ll want a suitable approach to growing at home.
Growing from a kit
Mushroom growing kits are a great option for those who are new to the hobby or do not want to get too deep into the art of growing mushrooms. Essentially, they either consist of a fully colonised mushroom fruiting block, or spawn which you mix with substrate, as well as detailed instructions. If you have a kit, most of the hard work has already been done for you.
You can buy mushroom growing kits from various places online, or sometimes even at local farmers markets.
Each mushroom growing kit may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer but they all involve keeping the spawn and substrate in a moist environment with “x’s” cut into the side of the bag to enable the mushrooms to grow. After a short time, Lion’s Mane will naturally start to form through the holes in the bag. Mist inside the bag with a spray bottle a few times a day, and make sure to fan in lots of fresh air.
To help encourage airflow, you can build a small shotgun fruiting chamber. These consist of a plastic tub with holes drilled in the sides which the mushroom block or substrate is scattered into and the lid replaced intact. These chambers allow plenty of airflow while still keeping the humidity inside - providing the perfect environment for your Lion’s Manes.
Spawn your own
Another option for growing your own Lion’s Mane is to buy the spawn. You then mix the spawn with substrate and it’s a much more hands on method that requires a little bit more experience.
The best types of substrate to grow your Lion’s Mane on include:
- Hardwood sawdust amended with bran
- A Master’s mix of 50-50 hardwood sawdust and soy hulls
- Sterilised straw
Each type of substrate will yield different amounts of mushrooms so you may need to try out a couple before finding one that works best for you. Once inoculated, a fruiting block should be fully colonised within 2 weeks.
Lion’s Mane mycelium can be wispy and thin in places, and looks quite a bit different than something more robust like oyster mushrooms so don’t be worried if the block doesn’t look fully colonised.
Lion’s Mane mushroom fruits pretty easily, so chances are you’ll start to see small fruits forming in the bag before you expose it to fruiting conditions. If this happens, simply move onto the next step and cut small “x’s” where the fruits are already forming. The pins will continue to develop, eventually forming large mushrooms outside the bag.
Starting from scratch
You can also start your own Lion’s Mane spawn from a culture. To do this, you may find it best to start with a culture on agar. You could start with a liquid culture but for longevity, a culture on agar is better for long-term storage. As long as you have a healthy culture, you should be able to grow fresh lion’s mane anytime you want.
The process for growing from a culture is similar to other methods, just a bit more involved - grow out the culture on agar, make grain spawn, add it to a bulk substrate, and fruit.
Harvest and enjoy!
Once the large, shaggy mushrooms have fully developed, they’re ready to harvest. Cut them as close to the growing bag as possible and eat them the same day for the best results.
Did you know there are more ways to enjoy these mushrooms than just cooking them? Check out our blog all about the different ways to enjoy Lion’s Mane as well as our blog post with some of our favourite recipes.
If you’re eager to enjoy some of the benefits of this amazing mushroom in a delicious alcohol-free cocktail, take a sip of our Social Elixir.