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Hantana Phoenix: Frequently Asked Questions


About the Mushroom Spawn

Does this kit grow mushrooms or fungus?

A mushroom is the reproductive organ, or fruiting body, of a fungus. The fungus that you grow with this kit produces fruiting bodies we call phoenix oyster mushrooms.

The Phoenix Oyster Mushroom’s scientific name is Pleurotus pulmonarius. It is also known by the common names Summer Oyster and Indian Oyster, and by the erroneous scientific name Pleurotus sajor-caju. The particular strain in this kit we call HantanaTM Phoenix. We cloned it from a wild mushroom found on our farm, which we call Hantana.

Is this the same oyster mushroom I see at the grocery store?

Probably not. Most commercial producers grow the closely-related Pearl Oyster, Pleurotus ostreatus. The Phoenix Oyster has a more pungent flavor and aroma, a wider stem, a tendency toward wavy or scalloped cap edges and more reddish pigmentation. It is more delicate than and does not keep as well as the Pearl Oyster.

How can I tell if my spawn is alive and healthy?

First, the spawn bag should be intact, without holes or tears. If it is rolled up, unroll it and look through the plastic bag at the contents. The grains should look clean, with only white mycelial bers growing on them, and possibly with a few droplets of clear pink or yellow fluid. Patches of green, gray, or black indicate contamination.

Healthy spawn of this species has a slightly anise-like, sweet aroma. If it smells sour or rotten, don’t use it.

If you wish, test its viability by squeezing and shaking the bag to break the spawn into pieces, then letting it sit at room temperature, in the dark, for a couple of days. Healthy mycelium will grow and bind the grains together again. If it does not stick together after a few days, or discolors, you have a problem.

How long will my kit keep before I have to use it?

We try to deliver spawn at its peak of readiness for introduction to its new substrate. It should retain its vigor for a week or so at room temperature, longer if refrigerated. The sooner you use it, the better it will work. 

About Preparing the Substrate

What does the substrate mixture contain?

This fungus digests wood, usually of dead or dying trees. The pellet mixture contains about 34 ounces/970 grams of mostly hardwood sawdust pellets, and a teaspoon each of limestone (calcium carbonate) and gypsum (calcium sulfate). You add the rest of the ingredients, as described at the beginning of the instructions.

Why so much emphasis on cleanliness?

The substrate mixture can support many kinds of fungi, like molds, which will compete with our fungus, possibly even killing it. We try to minimize the number of uninvited spores and other contaminants that get into the container. A little bit won’t hurt, though — the peroxide will take care of it—which is why you don’t need strictly sterile conditions.

What do the instructions mean by “drinkable” water?

Water chemistry varies from place to place. Our kit formula works best
if you initially mix it using water with a neutral or somewhat alkaline
pH (7 or higher) and without strong chlorination. If you have acidic water (pH under 6), or if you just don’t know about your water’s chemistry, we suggest using bottled drinking water instead of tap water when you mix your substrate. If you have chlorinated tap water, let it sit for a day to lose its chlorine, or use bottled water. Do not use “softened” water, which contains salt.

For misting, tap water, including chlorinated water, will work ne.

Where should I get coffee grounds? What kind of coffee?

You can save coffee grounds when you make coffee at home, or you can ask a local coffee shop to give you a couple of cups of recently-brewed grounds. Espresso or regular coffee grounds will work, even those with added avors! If you don’t know how long they’ve been out in the open collecting contaminants, microwave them in a covered container until thoroughly steamed, or boil and drain them. Let them cool, covered, before use.

How should I handle the coffee grounds?

Ideally you want to get freshly-used grounds. The process of making the coffee beverage—soaking the grounds with boiled water or steam—will pasteurize them. Freeze them if you can’t use them right away, to keep contaminants from germinating and growing. If you need to collect coffee at home for several days to get enough, add each fresh batch to your frozen stash. Thaw them before use.

What if I can’t or don’t want to use coffee?

Your kit will work without it, but better with it. The coffee adds additional nutrients, in particular nitrogen, which helps the mycelium digest the wood and grow.

You could use other nitrogen supplements, but you must use ones that do not decompose hydrogen peroxide, or the peroxide will not work as well. Alternatives include soy our, corn gluten, powdered milk, and synthetic nitrogen fertilizers for plants. The proportions to use vary. We suggest consulting mycomasters.com for more information on this topic.

What does the peroxide do?

Using hydrogen peroxide in the right concentration keeps spores from germinating, providing a defense against contamination, while allowing the live mycelium to grow.

Why doesn’t peroxide harm the mycelium?

Fungi can cope with a certain amount of peroxide in their substrate if they have gotten used to it. The spawn we include in the kit was raised using peroxide so it doesn’t mind having some peroxide in its new substrate. We call it peroxide-conditioned spawn. If you used unconditioned spawn, the peroxide in the mixture would kill some or possibly all of it. 

About the Growing Bag

Can I use a thermal food storage sealer instead of tape to seal the growing bag?

Yes, you can seal the growing bag with a heat sealer.

How does the plastic growing bag work?

The bag has a filter patch that keeps out contaminant particles but lets gases pass, so the fungus gets air. These polypropylene bags are reusable, but unfortunately not recyclable.

About Pinhead Formation

How do I know the mycelium block is ready to form pinheads?

For the first week or so the mycelium looks like cotton fibers spreading through the substrate. Then it will start forming solid masses on the surface of the block. This primordial tissue will start rising from the surface in lumps, then form tiny mushroom starts we call pinheads. If pinheads form before you notice, you should cut an opening right away.

Why cut such a small opening for such big mushrooms?

A small opening reduces moisture loss and minimizes exposure to contaminants and insect pests. It also creates a single cluster of large mushroom caps which you can easily harvest as a unit. If you cut a larger opening you will get more, but smaller, caps.

Why cut the bag open before pinheads form?

The block will tend to form pinheads in the presence of fresh air, light, and moisture. By creating an opening early you encourage the block to form mushrooms where you want them.

What happens if pinheads form before I cut the opening?

You can still cut an opening where you want mushrooms to emerge, but
we suggest instead cutting a small opening where some pinheads have already formed, so they don’t go to waste. If you have lots of little pinheads, you should still pick a single spot for the opening rather than trying to release them all. It sounds cruel, but remember that the block acts as a single organism, of which each pinhead is a tiny part.

My pinheads weep droplets of clear pinkish fluid. Is that OK?

Yes, normal, healthy pinheads do this. It diminishes as they mature.

My pinheads keep growing longer but don’t form caps or gills.

This happens most often because the air around them has too much carbon dioxide. Fungi absorb oxygen and give off carbon dioxide, so without ventilation it will build up.

First, they need to get out of the bag to breathe. If they are growing out of the bag but still don’t widen into caps, you have a ventilation problem. Don’t keep the block in a container that only ventilates at the top, like a bucket or a sh tank. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air so it pools in containers. Poorly-ventilated rooms, especially basements, can ll with carbon dioxide from the mushrooms as well as from people, pets, and gas appliances. 

About Harvesting, Cooking, Storing Mushrooms

How do I know the mushrooms are ready to harvest?

The caps start with edges curled down.

As they mature they stretch upward, exposing more of the gills, which produce the spores. When one or more of the caps in a cluster has raised its edge until almost straight, the whole cluster is ready to harvest.

Should I cut the mushrooms at the base to harvest them?

No, gently twist the cluster off the block. They usually come with a little bit of sawdust substrate attached to the stem butt, which you need to trim off before cooking them.

How should I store the mushrooms?

Store them in the refrigerator, in paper (kraft or waxed) or cellophane bags. They will keep for a week or two. During this time they may dry somewhat, but will still be good to eat. In sealed containers they soften and spoil faster.

To freeze, first slice and sauté. You can also dry them in a dehydrator.

How should I cook the mushrooms?

You can fry (sauté), roast, or grill oyster mushrooms. You almost always sauté them before using them in dishes like mushroom soup, mushroom risotto, mushroom sauce for pasta, and the like.

How do I cut the mushrooms to cook them?

The entire oyster mushroom, cap and stem, is good food, so take full advantage of both. You can chop them into small pieces for things like mushroom burgers and stuf ngs. Or slice them the long way, from center of the cap edge to the end of the stem, making long, at slices that fry evenly. We use these to make “mushroom bacon,” fried in oil or butter until brown and slightly crisp on each side. They’re great as a breakfast side dish, over pasta with marinara sauce, on a salad, or in a sandwich.