The lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is an edible mushroom native to North America, Europe, and Asia. It is named for its unique, cascading white tendrils that resemble a lion’s mane.
Lion’s mane mushrooms have gained popularity for their delicious flavor and meaty texture. They are considered a medicinal mushroom and are used in supplements and tinctures. Many people also enjoy growing lion’s mane mushrooms at home for their visual appeal and to reap their potential health benefits.
An Overview of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Lion’s mane mushrooms are characterized by their:
- Scientific name: Hericium erinaceus
- Appearance: Round, white, shaggy fruiting body covered in dangling spines up to 3 cm long
- Size when mature: 5-10 inches across
- Flavor: Described as seafood-like, similar to crab or lobster
- Texture: Firm and meaty when cooked
- Color: White, yellow, or orange depending on stage of growth
- Natural habitats: Hardwood forests and trees across North America, Europe, and Asia
- Optimal growing conditions: Cool temperatures between 55-75°F and high humidity
Lion’s mane mushrooms are ~20% protein by dry weight and contain antioxidants and compounds being studied for their potential neuroprotective and immuno-enhancing abilities.
Below we will look at how to grow lion’s mane mushrooms yourself at home, either from a kit or by creating your own substrate.
Growing Lion’s Mane Mushrooms from a Kit
Purchasing a pre-made mushroom grow kit is the easiest way to cultivate lion’s mane mushrooms. Here is an overview of growing from a kit:
Types of Lion’s Mane Kits
There are two main types of lion’s mane mushroom kits available:
- Substrate kits – Contain sterilized sawdust/wood chips already inoculated with lion’s mane mycelium. Just add water and harvest mushrooms.
- Plug kits – Contain lion’s mane mycelium in a sawdust plug. Requires adding it to your own substrate.
Plug kits produce more mushrooms but require more hands-on work. Substrate kits are beginner-friendly with less effort.
Growing Steps from a Kit
Follow these simple steps to grow lion’s mane mushrooms from a kit:
- Sanitize the grow area. Clean counters and tools with a 10% bleach solution.
- Rehydrate the substrate. For substrate kits, submerge brick in water overnight per kit instructions.
- Drain excess water. Remove substrate block from water and let drain for 1-2 hours.
- Cover with the provided plastic. Creates a greenhouse environment to stimulate pinning and fruiting.
- Mist occasionally. Mist the inside walls if the humidity drops below 90%.
- Provide air circulation. Use a fan to maintain fresh air exchange.
- Harvest mushrooms. Use scissors or a knife to cut at the base when the tendrils are 1-3 inches long.
- Rest and repeat. Soak and drain substrate between flushes to re-stimulate mushroom growth.
Kits produce 1-3 flushes about a month apart. Follow kit directions as varieties can differ slightly.
Grow Kit Tips
- Place kit on a steady surface in indirect sunlight around 65-75°F.
- Do not over-water or substrate will become soggy and inhibit growth.
- Avoid direct sun or temperatures above 80°F.
- Look for kits guaranteed to produce at least 2 flushes.
- Store unused substrate in fridge between flushes to slow further growth.
Growing from a kit requires minimal effort while reliably yielding mushrooms. It’s a great introduction before making your own substrate.
Creating Your Own Lion’s Mane Substrate
For the highest yields and lowest cost per pound, you can create your own lion’s mane mushroom substrate. Follow these steps:
Choose a Substrate
Lion’s mane mushrooms grow on hardwoods in nature. Good substrate options include:
- Hardwood sawdust or chips (oak, maple, beech, birch)
- Sawdust supplemented with rice bran or wheat bran (~20% by weight)
- Wood pellets or coffee grounds (~30% by volume) mixed with sawdust
Avoid softwoods like pine, which contain resins toxic to mushrooms.
Prepare the Substrate
- Pasteurize – Heat substrate to 160-180°F for at least one hour to kill contaminants and enrich nutrients.
- Hydrate – Soak in cool water for 24 hours to moisten. Drain off excess.
- Load – Fill growing containers (bags, jars, etc). Pack tightly to reduce air pockets.
- Sterilize – Pressure cook at 15 psi for 2 hours to fully sterilize.
Inoculate and Incubate
- Inoculate – Mix in lion’s mane grain or sawdust spawn. Distribute evenly.
- Incubate – Keep at 75°F and >80% humidity for 1-2 months until substrate is fully colonized.
- Wait – Allow a week for mushrooms to form after introducing to fruiting conditions.
Introduce Fruiting Conditions
- Fresh air – Increase FAE (fresh air exchanges) to 8-12 per day.
- Light – Provide 6-12 hours of light per day. Indirect sunlight or grow lights work.
- Humidity – Maintain humidity between 80-95% for primordia formation.
- Temperature – Keep steady between 60-75°F. Fluctuations inhibit fruiting.
Harvest and Additional Flushes
- Harvest – Use a knife to cut mushrooms at the base when they reach desired size.
- Soak – To stimulate further flushes, soak substrates in cool water for 6-12 hours.
- Rest – After rehydrating, let substrate rest for 7-14 days for next flush.
- Repeat – Aerate and maintain proper humidity and temperatures for additional harvests.
With ideal conditions, lion’s mane blocks can produce 2-3 harvest flushes. Refrigerate unused substrate between flushes.
Choosing a Lion’s Mane Mushroom Strain
There are several varieties of lion’s mane mushroom available. Consider these factors when choosing a strain:
|Wild (H. erinaceus)||North America, Europe, Asia||Irregularly shaped, robust fruiting body. Better medicinal compounds, less yield.|
|White (H. erinaceus)||Cultivated||Smooth, rounded. Heavy yielding, less potent compounds.|
|Yellow (H. citrinopileatus)||Cultivated hybrid||Bright yellow/golden color. High yields, good potency.|
|Po Hu (H. americanum)||Cultivated hybrid||Very heat tolerant. Good yields.|
|Jingzhe (H. coronarium)||Cultivated hybrid||Produces fewer, but|
Most cultivated strains offer improved yields and more consistent fruiting compared to wild varieties. Select a strain suited to your growing environment.
Common Problems When Growing Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Here are some common issues and how to avoid them:
- No fruiting – Ensure proper humidity, fresh air exchange, and light during fruiting conditions.
- Small mushrooms – Pick earlier before caps flatten out. Provide more light and moisture.
- Contamination – Sterilize substrates fully. Avoid opening uncolonized bags.
- Mushy mushrooms – Do not over-mist or provide too much FAE.
- Yellowing – Caused by bacteria. Improve air circulation and pick promptly.
With patience and care, you can successfully cultivate flavorful and unique lion’s mane mushrooms at home. They make an attractive and nutritious addition to many dishes.