Incorporating wine cap mushrooms in your edible and ornamental gardens is an easy way to both improve your soil and grow a valuable crop at the same time.
Growing wine caps in the garden
I first learned about growing wine caps at the winter MOSES conference for organic farmers. One of the guest speakers was a lovely mycologist from Field & Forest products. Her presentation was fascinating and quite honestly, blew my mind wide open with the possibilities of incorporating wine caps into my annual garden plan.
Wine caps are a natural soil builder, weed suppressor and a choice edible mushroom. They can be cultivated in woodchips or straw, two materials that you’ll find regularly used in the home garden. They make excellent companion plants to crops like asparagus, garlic, strawberries and tomatoes, as well as growing in otherwise unusable space like woodchip pathways.
How to plant wine cap mushrooms
Consider growing wine caps in the garden for their soil building powers and warming, nutritious taste.
- Purchase spawn: We purchased a 5lb. bag from Field and Forest to get us started. Make sure and purchase from a reputable source.
- Choose your location and growing medium: Find places in your garden that will receive consistent moisture so that the mushroom mycelium doesn’t dry out. Partially shaded areas are OK.
Wine caps can be planted in woodchips or straw. We tried both has an experiment in the garden and found they did the best in woodchips. Consider using them in otherwise unusable places like perennial landscaped beds or in woodchip paths.
- Plant and maintain: After all danger of frost has passed, sprinkle the wine cap spawn where you’d like it to grow and add 6 inches of your planting medium on top (woodchips or straw). Give it a good water and keep it moist throughout the season.
- Harvest: Depending on your growing conditions, mushrooms should fruit 3-4 months after planting. They are best when harvested at their smaller size, about 2-3 inches tall with a dark brown cap. They are still edible at their larger fanning out phase but the stem might be too tough to eat.
Harvest mushrooms by cutting them where they meet the ground with a sharp knife. Store in a paper bag in the fridge until ready to use.
Cooking wine cap mushrooms
Wine cap mushrooms have a mild onion flavor and are most desirable in their smaller size. As the mushrooms fan out and get bigger, they will lose begin to lose their shape when cooked (although they are still edible and delicious).
Simple Sautee: Slice the wine caps and sautee them with a little bit of garlic and butter. For a vegan version, use olive oil instead of butter. Add sauteed mushrooms to:
- Sourdough Toast
Wine Cap Mushroom Soup: Get the most nutrition from wine cap mushrooms in this soup recipe .
Dehydrate them: Dehydrating mushrooms is a great way to preserve them for later use.
Questions about Wine Cap Mushrooms:
Wine caps can take anywhere from 2-11 months to grow, however our wine caps began fruiting 3-4 months after planting.
Yes! They make great companion plants to other full-sun loving crops in the garden.
No, wine caps will not grow in leaves. Try hardwood woodchips or straw instead.
Because the wine cap mushrooms are known for breaking down their growing medium into rich soil, they will more quickly work through straw than woodchips. Straw beds will usually fruit for 1 year and woodchips for up to 3 years.
No, it is not a good idea to eat wine caps raw. It’s actually healthier to cook them!
Did you try this in your garden?
Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and tag @growingwithgertie on Instagram.
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