Like any other living organism that you try to grow, mushrooms respond to the environment that they are given, and every household is different. There is a delicate balance between humidity, airflow, and temperature and if one of these are off the mushrooms will look different than what you may expect. Most of the time the environment can be adjusted for and your mushrooms can continue to grow on their merry way!
Black Pearl Oyster
Black pearl is a prolific first-round fruiter, but there is a best way to harvest the first crop and start your second. To harvest your crop you will want to pull down the plastic, but don't remove it as you'll need to fold over the excess plastic for round two. Remove the skewers and slice the entire cluster off at the base. You will then want to fold that extra plastic over the top of the block and flip it over. Then, cut the plastic off the bottom of the block to allow the mushrooms plenty of room to grow. It will be a little more difficult to keep the humidity up without a higher plastic collar, so we suggest at this point adding additional humidity in the form of a dampened towel that you can lay across the block, inside the tent. (See above left image)
Oftentimes hericium will appear pink when the humidity is high (see center image). These are still perfectly fine to eat, so you can either mist a little less, or continue as you are and have the extra excitement of pink mushrooms! On the other end, mushrooms will yellow when there isn't enough humidity. Fortunately, you can fix this but just removing the dry clusters and increasing the humidity for new growth. Placing a folded up damp rag across the block to add that extra humidity will oftentimes be enough to have your next crop look normal. Another question we often get is "did you send me Comb Tooth instead of Lion's mane?" Under certain conditions Lion's mane will grow with a lack of spines OR a very branchy appearance (again, see center image). This happens when there isn't enough airflow and the high levels of CO2 cause malformations. An easy way to fix this is to untuck the tent from the bottom which will allow for more airflow and therefore less of a concentration of C02.
With chestnut you will often see mushrooms forming underneath the plastic. When this happens all you need to do is cut away the plastic around those pins to release them- giving them room to grow! And if you're not seeing pins after your other kits have started- don't worry. Chestnuts often take at least 21 days to develop. If a chestnut kit has too much humidity it will, for lack of a better word, begin to leak. Essentially this is extra moisture mixed in with the digestive juices of the mushroom. The block will still produce, but it is important that you drain the excess moisture from your tray. It is also helpful to cut a small slit in the plastic surrounding the block to release any extra water buildup in direct contact with the block. You can then resume the kit, misting a little less frequently. Another thing that you will see with high humidity is the beginning of patches of black or green mold on the block. The fix is to completely remove the plastic and spritz the affected areas with a dilute bleach solution. Instead of resuming the kit with a misting bottle for humidity, use the towel technique where you fold up a damp rag, and lay it over the top of the kit before re-tenting. The block will recover and give you a beautiful flush (see recovered block in above right image). Similarly, sometimes the mushrooms themselves will start to have mold spots. If you already have those spots, you can use a damp paper towel and just wipe the caps off. You may lose some of the white ornamentation, but you'll also lose the mold. A way to help prevent this in the first place is to be diligent in keeping airspace between developing pins and the humidity tent. Without airflow between the pins and the plastic, they become easy prey for molds and bacteria to sneak in.
You can tease a second fruiting out of your shiitake tabletop by cold shocking your block. To do this you will first need to dry the block out by letting it sit outside the humidity tent for at least a week. The block will shrink in size by one third its size (look at these two for comparison). After this you need to soak your block in cold water for at least 12 hours. You'll need to weigh your block down to keep it submerged as it is rather buoyant after it dries out. After the 12 hours you can remove it from the water, place it on the tray, and restart! The second fruiting will be smaller than the first, but still worth the effort.
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