Growing Mushrooms from Home with Heart and Science
I’ve had an unusual journey to wind up working with mushrooms. I’ve always worked in some pairing of technology and creative arts; over the past decade, that’s primarily been focused on game development. My husband Elijah and I own Mitten Pixels, where we do both game development work and created a series of STEM video game design workshops for 5th-12th grade students to learn hands-on interactive 3D video game development skills. I’ve also put a lot of focus on creating opportunities for girls and women in science and technology and have developed several Rosie the Riveter-related projects that tie into that effort.
I was homeschooled all the way from preschool to my senior year in high school, and my parents did a dynamite job of tailoring education around our interests – and they were great at making research fun and exciting. I learned to code at an early age, had a flock of shetland sheep, and was perpetually working on various creative DIY projects. I think that this is largely what keeps me coming back to teaching – I love the experience of diving deep into unusual subjects and finding ways to make them more digestible and accessible for other people.
My interest in mushrooms really developed about ten years ago, when I took a wild mushroom foraging class at a state park. It was amazing to suddenly be able to see how many different kinds of fungi were growing in the forest that day, and as someone who absolutely loves to cook, I was blown away at the multitude of flavor profiles and textures that can be found in various varieties of mushrooms. Anyway, I walked away from the class that day completely dazzled by mushrooms and simultaneously terrified that I’d incorrectly identify a mushroom and inadvertently wind up poisoned. So I figured growing them would be the only way I’d get all the mushrooms I wanted without being a bit nervous about it the whole time. And then I started reading about how to grow them, got completely intimidated at what seemed like an endless list of necessary equipment and work, and didn’t even attempt it for a few years.
When I finally decided to try cultivating mushrooms, I spent a few months reading about it before I got the nerve to give it a try. I finally stumbled across the precooked rice method that’s in the instructions for the Oyster Mushroom Science Kit – it cut out enough steps and gear required for getting started that I was able to jump right in without the intimidation and see a harvest in a few weeks. I was instantly hooked, and my mycology efforts spun into a full-blown obsession, suddenly I found myself the proud owner of a really great microscope and an oversized pressure cooker and had spores and liquid cultures stashed in every corner of our fridge. I finally rented a warehouse in Ann Arbor to grow in when all of my mushroom gear had taken over our house to a ridiculous point. Our kids were as fascinated as I was, and it surprised me how tuned into it they were to the entire process. With baby #3 coming this fall, I decided that more than growing en masse, I’d like to start focusing more on providing curated liquid cultures for mushroom growing, and develop kits that were hands-on enough but also doable enough to give others the ability to begin exploring mycology without the overwhelm that I experienced when I first became curious about it.
Feel free to drop me a note any time if you have questions along the way – you can also sign up for my email list below to get updates, how-to’s, and anything else that I find relevant and interesting. Have fun growing!!!