Do you have to grow mushrooms in the dark? (Solved!)

While mushrooms do not need complete darkness to grow, they often fair better in darker environments, allowing for the right amount of moisture, temperature and other conditions.

Have you ever seen mushrooms growing at random in parks or next to sidewalks in your neighbourhood? This occurrence alone proves that mushrooms do not need complete darkness to flourish. Having said that, mushrooms require certain levels of moisture, temperature and other conditions for optimum growth that are often found in darker environments.

What exactly is a mushroom?

Mushrooms are classified under the Kingdom Fungi, not Kingdom Plantae. This means that mushrooms do not fit the criteria for plants and, although they also grow in the soil and are not animals, they share little else in common. For most mushrooms, their means of taking in food, reproduction and even colour are different than most plants. 

How many different kinds of mushrooms are there?

According to mycologists, there are currently over 10,000 known types of mushrooms in 4 main categories: saprotrophic, mycorrhizal, parasitic and endophytic, which describe how the mushroom feeds itself. With such variety, come differing needs of light, moisture and temperature for growth.  

What are the different kinds of mushroom?

1. Sapotrophic mushrooms

Sapotrophic mushrooms thrive on decay and include many gourmet and medicinal mushrooms, such as the delicious morel, shiitake and white button species.

2. Mycorrhizae mushrooms

Truffles, the expensive gourmet delights, are a form of mycorrhizae mushroom, which depend on a mutual union with the roots of trees and other plants. Other mushrooms included in this category are porcini, often used in soups and sauces, as well as matsuke, valued for its aroma and flavour in cooking.

3. Parisitic mushrooms

Parisistic types of mushrooms, including honey fungus, also rely on plant-hosts, which the mushroom infects, feeds off and eventually kills. Whilst the honey mushroom is harvested and edible, most parisitic types do not even produce mushrooms and may be too small to be seen.

4. Endophytic fungi

A final kind of mushroom, endophytic fungi, join with plants, invading their tissue and benefiting from nutrient absorption, yet do not harm the host. However, not much is known about this category of mushroom, and their relationship with plants is not fully understood.

Do mushrooms require sunlight?  

Unlike plants, mushrooms do not require light or photosynthesis to grow as they do not contain the green-pigment chlorophyll commonly found in plants. Mushrooms produce their spores or units when their environment – moisture, temperature and some light – is present. Mushrooms are not dependent on sunlight and can still grow and reproduce without.

What is the best light to grow mushrooms in?  

Mushrooms are known to grow faster in the dark than when exposed to light. Since they thrive in moist humid conditions and are made of 92% water, dark places away from direct sunlight often provide better conditions of moisture in the soil and atmosphere.

What is the ideal moisture level for mushrooms?

As with all fungi, moist environments are best for mushroom’s optimum growth. Again, this may differ with different kinds. For example, shiitake mushroom logs must be kept at around 40% moisture level and fully shaded, requiring soaking for 48 hours if the logs become dry. Other kinds such as button mushrooms, require higher levels of up to 80% humidity to develop completely.

What is the ideal temperature for mushrooms?  

Mushrooms vary in the temperature each kind prefers, which can be difficult to control unless a sterile indoor environment can be provided. Nevertheless, most species of mushroom do well in mild temperatures with high humidity.

According to growers, a tried method for optimum growth is to start growing the mushrooms at a temperature somewhere in the higher 70’s farheinheit (20’s celsius) and subsequently drop the temperature after it begins fruiting. This is a reason be why mushrooms are more abundant in the fall period. 

What is the best medium to grow mushrooms on?

Mushrooms can grow in all sorts mediums (or fruiting substrates), including trees, soil, compost, decaying leaves, dung, even dead or decaying matter. Safe to eat and commercially grown mushrooms are usually grown in a combination of manure and straw. You may find wild kinds, such as morels, growing among dead leaves on the forest floor.

What is a fruiting body?  

A fruiting body is the part of the mushroom which is sprouted out of the tree, ground or other fruiting substrate on which your mushroom grows.This is the part of the mushroom that you may initially think of, of which some kinds can be harvested and eaten. 

What is mycelium?

The mycelium is the other part of the mushroom, the vegetative part. This looks like white filaments that grow through whatever substrate the mushroom comes from. It can be likened to a root structure.

What are mushroom’s main source of nutrients?

Mushrooms all synthesize their nutrients from organic materials. Nutrients they require include protein, sugar, starch, lignin, fats and nitrogen, which can be provided by a rich compost made from manure and straw. Such an environment would provide the ideal amount of nutrients for species such as the button mushroom. Other species, including shitake, may be able to extract nutrients needed from log wood or sawdust.

Are there any benefits of mushrooms?

Mushrooms strains have been made famous for being poisonous, delectable and even possessing psychedelic properties. Currently, mushrooms are not accepted as part of traditional medecine, despite their medicinal value and benefits.

Known to help treat depression, anxiety as well prodiving a good source of fibre, protein, Vitamin D and selenium, it is worthwhile to consider adding mushrooms to your diet. Health benefits include weight control, diabetes management, and aiding digestion, with some research even suggesting that mushrooms can help prevent specific types of cancer.

Are glowing mushrooms real?

Yes, glow-in-the-dark mushrooms are a real thing. Bioluminescent mushrooms have been found in places like Brazil and Vietnam. In 2015, a team of researchers discovered that mushrooms use luciferins, light-emitting compounds, to attract insects. This compond is found to give mushrooms their glow, in a similar way to fireflies and even bioluminescent underwater creatures.