Video: How to Grow Lion’s Mane Mushrooms Using the ‘Totem’ Method

With a little work on the front end, you can enjoy flushes of fresh lion's mane mushrooms for years to come. Here's how to grow your own at home.

It may be too cold to garden, but it’s the perfect time to inoculate various types of woods with mushroom spawn. I recently acquired sections of sugar maple, hackberry and poplar from some trees that were felled for safety reasons.

Their leaves were long gone, but the trees were still alive. What’s more, the wood didn’t make prolonged contact with the ground. That meant fungi in the soil probably hadn’t had a chance to colonize the wood yet.

I inoculated some of the smaller logs with blue oyster and shiitake mushroom plugs. As for the larger pieces of sugar maple? They were well-suited to grow lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) mushrooms.

Research suggests lion’s mane mushrooms offer many potential health benefits. Lion’s mane also boasts a lobster-like texture and taste.

Still, they aren’t the easiest mushroom to cultivate. They seem to prefer sugar maple and beech to other woods. Lion’s mane spawn also performs best when introduced via the totem method (demonstrated here), rather than as plugs inserted into pre-drilled holes.

Step by Step

To start, I ordered my lion’s mane spawn—grown on a substrate of sawdust and millet—from an online retailer. While I waited for the spawn to arrive, I kept the logs moist and stored high off of the ground. (Ultimately, I’d place all of the plug-inoculated logs and finished totems on pallets in a shady spot outside.)

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Once the spawn arrived, I cut each totem into three sections. Inoculating the totems one at a time, I placed the base section inside a white, plastic bag and applied about an inch of the lion’s mane spawn to the top of this section. Next, I pressed the middle section of the log firmly on top of the spawn. Then, I spread another inch of spawn on top of the middle section of the log. Finally, I put the log’s top section back in place over this second layer of spawn and loosely closed the plastic bag.

I’ll need to make sure the totems don’t get too dry, and, in eight to 12 months, the lion’s mane mycelia should colonize the logs. Once colonization has occurred, I can remove the plastic bags and I should have multiple flushes of mushrooms. As a general rule, you can usually expect one year of mushroom production per inch of log diameter, so (fingers crossed!) I’m hoping to enjoy fresh lion’s mane mushrooms for the next few years.

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