Saturday, January 24, 2009

Habemus Fungus

We grew these!
At home.
In a cardboard box.

Yes, that's right, these delightful portobellos popped up as little brown buttons a few days ago and quickly er...... mushroomed to these large beauties in a couple of days.

I ordered the mushroom kit as a Christmas gift to my husband and another one for my father. There were quite a few companies selling the kits via the internet, but I ordered mine from a company in California. Email me if you want specifics.

I got the mushroom gift idea when we were traveling through the Italian Abruzzo countryside last fall. There we were on a country road, tootling along (is that a word?) when I see a sign with an arrow that says "Fungaia" (mushroom growing place).

"Stop the car," I shout. "Let's go find the mushrooms." Always up for a new eating or gardening discovery, my husband quickly turns the car around. We end up a few minutes later at the fungaia - a quanset hut with a sign out front instructing visitors to ring the bell for assistance. Which we did. A few minutes later, a very handsome young Italian man appears to show us inside - a vast space filled with what look like bales of hay and two different types of mushrooms sprouting all over them. After a tour of the fungaia and a brief stop at the shop next door, we leave with a basketful of fresh oyster mushrooms (pleurotis), and a jar of mushrooms preserved in olive oil to take back to the U.S. Worth the detour, wouldn't you say?

So back to the kit... A few days after Christmas my husband followed the easy directions that came with the box. Only a few simple instructions and we were off and waiting. We would have had our first crop earlier, if only we hadn't initially stored the box in a place that was a little too cool.

Fast forward a few days to the dining room - a warmer climate than the guest room - when the little buttons appeared. A few days later and we were ready to harvest our first crop. Which is just what I did earlier this week. The mushrooms are supposed to keep producing with two very large crops and then a tapering off to smaller harvests. When all the nutrients are exhausted, the fungi stop doing their thing and go to mushroom heaven, or a compost pit in our case.

In the meantime, I'm going to have fun turning these into some delightful eats. Look for a recipe to follow. That is, if you can peel your eyes off this good-looking Italian dude who works at the fungaia.


  1. Wow! I would like to grow truffles in a cardboard box! Do you think I can do this? (doubt it!).
    Your portobello pasta looks fabulous! What an informative post.

  2. Fascinating post Linda! What a great idea.Could you supply your source please? I enjoy hydroponic gardening in winter months. I'd love to try this too! Your resulting mushroom pasta dish looks delicioso!

  3. P.S. Am really trying hard to peel my eyes off fungaia guy now! LOL

  4. For any of you interested, I bought the mushroom growing kit online from

  5. Sorry... what did you say? I was busy checking out the hot Italian dude!!

    Oh... mushrooms right!!

    I've been wanting to grow Shitakes for a while now... I think I should look into it further!

  6. Wow nice mushrooms!
    Way to go Linda!

  7. OMG would you have the exact address? Or at least the nearest town? I know that I'll be googling until I find one near me. Wonderful post, and yes, he is a hottie!

  8. Rowena:Here's the exact address and photo number of the fungaia:
    Azienda Agricola Lucchitti Maria Gabriella
    Farming and Transformation of Mushrooms and Vegetables
    Via Forconi, 15
    Tel (+39) 0872 984134