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Mushrooms are simply magical. With textures ranging from crunchy to plain, these tiny fungi have the ability to add a unique flavor to your meals. However, not all mushroom types will always be readily available at the market. But when you decide to grow your own, you could be enjoying this delectable and healthy ingredient more frequently. Growing mushrooms in aquaponics gardens is one of the ways you can have this great-tasting ingredient without paying a high price.
In this article, you will learn how to cultivate mushrooms so that they thrive in your aquaponics garden.
Getting To Know Mushrooms
What’s interesting to know about mushrooms is that they are not like most plants you can grow aquaponically. In fact, they’re neither plant nor animal as they belong to their own kingdom – fungi. They lack chlorophyll and so they don’t really need sunlight to photosynthesize or grow. Instead, they rely on other substances, such as wood chips, grain, and sawdust, for growth and nourishment.
Mushrooms play a crucial role in the ecosystem as decomposers. They, along with other species in the Fungi kingdom, break down organic matter, ultimately producing vital nutrients that soil needs. Essentially, without fungi, nutrient cycling wouldn’t be possible, and this would lead to a food chain collapse.
Why Should You Grow Aquaponics Mushrooms?
Having mushrooms in your aquaponics garden would be an interesting project since mushrooms can have unique appearances. You’ll be taking a different-than-usual approach to growing food since they’re not plants. Also, thinking about it, growing mushrooms is a fun opportunity to see and understand the life cycle of fungi.
More importantly, growing mushrooms in aquaponics gardens mean you’ll have a continuous supply of this precious ingredient, which not only makes your dishes more flavorful but is also packed with nutrients, which you can read more about below.
Nutritional Content of Mushrooms
Mushrooms have long been considered a superfood for being an excellent source of nutrients. Many types of mushrooms offer the same nutrients found in vegetables. Also, they can mimic the taste of meat, which is why they’re popular in meatless diets.
According to the USDA, one cup (70g) of raw mushroom slices contain the following:
- 0.2g of fat
- 4 mg of sodium
- 2.3 g of carbohydrates
- 1.2 g of sugars
- 2.2 g of protein
- 15 calories
The nutritional profile of mushrooms varies depending on the type. For instance, the common button mushroom is found to be rich in selenium and potassium. Specialty mushrooms like shiitake and oyster have higher levels of the antioxidant known as ergothioneine. Some mushroom varieties can also be a good source of vitamin D, especially when they’re grown with exposure to sunlight or UV light.
Overall, whatever type of mushroom you decide to grow, you can be sure you’re having a healthy meal when you include mushrooms.
Choosing Mushroom Types To Grow in Aquaponics
There are millions of mushroom types perfect for a variety of recipes, so it can be a bit challenging to choose which ones to start with. Below are some popular types of mushrooms you can grow in your aquaponics setup:
- Shiitake – not only delicious but also offers plenty of health benefits
- Oyster – most popular to grow among beginners; perfect for Asian cuisine
- Button – the most commonly available found in many grocery stores
- Chanterelle – considered a gourmet mushroom; has an intense flavor
While there are other types that you can grow, most aquaponics gardeners recommend oyster mushrooms, especially for first-timers. This type of mushroom is versatile enough to withstand a wide range of temperatures. Shiitake is another option that’s also relatively easy to grow.
Requirements for Growing Mushrooms in Aquaponics Gardens
Below are some of the factors to consider when growing aquaponic mushrooms:
Mushrooms love cold environments, so to produce the best quantity and quality of mushrooms in your aquaponics garden, maintain temperatures of 63 to 68 deg F and humidity of 80 percent or higher. Keeping temperatures consistently over 74 deg can result in stunted growth, and beyond 86 deg F can kill the mushroom mycelium (the fungi’s vegetative body that produces mushrooms).
Ideally, the growing environment should be kept dark, but allowing some light won’t hurt the mushrooms. In fact, the mycelium is encouraged to fruit into mushrooms with a few hours of light – no more than 5 hours a day.
There are a couple of media options you can consider when growing mushrooms in aquaponics gardens. The best you can do is to mimic how they grow in the wild, which is by:
- Providing standing logs in your media bed – the logs should be inoculated with oyster mushrooms
- Building mound beds in your garden of veggies – in this option, you can use moist gravel or the expanded clay aggregate
Another option is to purchase growing kits. Some aquaponic growers go this route and then place the kits on the media bed. Depending on the variety, some kits produce mushrooms that can be harvested within weeks.
The general rule when harvesting homegrown mushrooms is to do it when the convex caps have turned concave or when the heads are round. Remember that size should not be an indicator of a harvest-ready mushroom. If you have growing kits, the supplier should have instructions on harvest time.
Fish Type To Consider
Fish types that thrive in cool waters are a great match for mushrooms in an aquaponics setup. Crappie is a good fish to consider as they like cool waters, but they can also be tolerant of temperature changes. They also need to be in a pH range of 7 to 8. Keep in mind that it is generally better not to mix crappie with other fish types.
Common Problems When Growing Mushrooms
Some beginner mushroom growers will find that their inoculated logs didn’t produce fruit. If this happens to you, know that you’re most likely dealing with slow harvest time. Some mushrooms can take years to start fruiting, so you may need to be patient. However, there are things you can do to speed things up a little bit, such as:
- Misting your inoculated logs
- Soaking your logs in cold water for 24 hours
- Improving airflow, making sure your setup is well-ventilated
At some point, you might also find yourself growing mushrooms with deformities, such as long stems or cracked caps. These issues usually result from too much moisture, inadequate lighting, or poor ventilation. Though mushrooms don’t need much light, you still need to provide a source of diffused light, especially for growing spawns.