Book Review

Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms
by Paul Stamets

Cover: Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms

Our copy of the earlier edition of this book was used, reused, and loaned out so often that at this moment we have no idea where it is. Our comparison of this edition to the old one will thus be based, in part, on the review from our January 1994 issue. The key difference is that this latest edition adds cultivation information for seven more species, bringing the total to 32. The latest additions are:

Most of the other changes involve the addition of details and updates on techniques and procedures that should make things work more smoothly and successfully for you.

As before, the largest portion of the book covers growth parameters for each species. Each species gets several pages of discussion with subsections titled as follows:

The discussion on each species also includes several illustrative black and white photographs and sometimes diagrams and charts. The center section of the book includes 76 stunning, full-color photos of a variety of species, growth stages, habitats, and cultural practices. Elsewhere in the book you will find information on troubleshooting cultivation problems; farm, lab and growing room design; handling mushrooms for market; and the materials used in substrate production.

We are often asked: "How can I grow mushrooms?" Our response is,, "get this book." It contains all the information one needs to determine what species to grow. If you want to grow a medicinal species for a particular purpose - the information is here. If you want to grow outdoors and wonder which species might match your climate - the information is here. If you have a substrate or habitat and wonder which species will grow on it - the information is here. If you didn't know there was more than one cultivated species - well, you'll get the idea.

If you don't have a previous edition, be sure to get this one. If you have an older edition and have an interest in cultivating any of the added species, this edition is essential. If you just want to keep up to speed on Paul's new ideas, this book is the way to do it. We recommend it highly.




Review of the First Edition

Cover: Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms

This is the best available book for any specialty mushroom grower interested in more than shiitake. It's pretty expensive for a paper covered book, but then again we were shocked the last time we checked out textbook prices at the college bookstore. What do you get for your money? Lots of information you can get nowhere else. The book contains 24 short chapters and one long one in its 552 pages. Paul starts with the history of mushrooms and their role in nature. That discussion leads to a list of mushrooms that have been cultivated and suggestions for growing various species outdoors in your garden. The details on outdoor growing far exceed the information in the old stand-by, Mushrooms in the Garden by Hellmut Steineck. Paul moves back indoors with a discussion of substrate, biological efficiency, and the pros and cons of homemade spawn.

Paul recommends that commercial growers produce their own spawn. The next few chapters provide the background and discuss the techniques for doing just that. Substrate preparation including sterilization, pasteurization, and alternative techniques are covered in depth. A series of photos shows exactly how to prepare plastic columns of inoculated straw for oysters and similar species.

The longest chapter, running some 200 pages, contains the detailed information you need to grow 25 different species of mushrooms. The species are:

The final chapters discuss harvesting, storing and packaging; mushroom recipes; and trouble shooting. The appendices provide details on farm layout, laboratory design, and growing room design. In addition Paul has included a resource directory, data on hundreds of substrate materials, a glossary, and a bibliography.

Much of the information in Paul's earlier book, The Mushroom Cultivator, is also covered in the new book. The older book includes a few other species and has the details on contaminants and pests which the new book lacks. The two books do, indeed, compliment each other. This book includes many black and white photos like the earlier book, but the color plates are truly stunning. Beautiful specimens of many of the species discussed in the book are shown under various forms of cultivation.

Our biggest complaint about The Mushroom Cultivator was that it made growing mushrooms seem harder than it really is. The new book contains just as many details, but it is written in a more readable manner that somehow seems less formidable. We suspect that omitting the litany of potential contaminants removed some of the fear. The new book also uses a two-column format (mostly) and generally short chapters that make for easier reading.

If you're into growing gourmet mushrooms either for fun or for profit and you want to get beyond shiitake, this is one book you will want to own.