Low-Tech Mushroom Guide from 1901

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Part of what we do here is reviving technology that was common in the past but rare today. If you look for how-to guides on mushroom cultivation online, you find plenty of sites that show you how to make a HEPA-filtered clean room and intricate inoculation instructions, but people have been growing mushrooms well before the advent of germ theory and HEPA filters. What follows are a few excerpts from  William Falconer’s Mushroooms: How to Grow Them. A Practical Treatise on Mushroom Culture for Profit and Pleasure (1901). This book, and others like it, are out of copyright and thus in the public domain. You can find a link for a PDF of the entire book at the bottom of the page or view it in the embedded Google Books viewer.

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Mushroom greenhouse.

Falconer describes various mushroom-growing environments, from cellars to custom-built mushroom sheds, greenhouses to open air. He goes into detail on mushroom-growing medium of choice: horse manure.

The very best manure is that from strong, healthy, hard-worked, well-kept animals that are liberally fed with hard food, as timothy hay and grain, and bedded with straw. And if the bedding be pretty well wetted with urine and trampled under the horses’ feet, so much the better; indeed, this is one reason why manure from farm and teamsters’ stables is better than that from stylish establishments, where everything is kept so scrupulously dry and clean. (57-58)

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Parisian mushroom caves.

I can just imagine the fun time I’ll have mucking out some less-than-scrupulously dry horse stalls when I try this out.

Falconer lays out the preparation and establishment of the mushroom beds with spawn. He also details proper temperature and moisture maintenance. He also offers information on common problems and diseases.

The end of the book gives us a glimpse into the mushroom industry of the late 1800s in London and Paris.

Before long, we’ll be following these instructions to try and grow mushrooms in our own cellar. I am especially intrigued by the idea of mushroom and tomato intercropping. Updates to come!

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Mushroom and tomato intercropping.

PDF of Falconer’s Mushrooms: How to Grow Them (1901)

Also available on Google Books.


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