Choosing Wood Chips to Grow Wine Cap Mushrooms: Part 1

Wine Cap Mushrooms are incredible organisms that grow in wood chips and straw. However, "wood chips" is a broad category that leads to the question "Which type of wood chips should I use for Wine Cap mushroom cultivation"?

Making wood chips for wine cap beds
planting a wine cap bed with wood chips
Wine Cap mushrooms ready to harvest.

Which Wood Chips to use for Wine Cap Mushrooms

When it comes to wood chip type suitability, we can generalize that soft hardwoods are best, followed by hard hardwoods, (some which benefit from a little bit of aging), and then the Conifer group: Firs and Spruce are suitable but Pines benefit from a little aging. Ultimately each species must be checked individually. Two ways to make sure your chips or sawdust is suitable for Wine Cap if they are untested is: 1. Get a mix of chips (most community recycling centers have these for free), or 2. just add straw.

We chip our own wood chips at the Field & Forest research farm and we able to chip several different varieties of wood to use for Wine Cap plots. For these plots we used a base of soaked cardboard to suppress weeds, followed by the wood chips and wine cap sawdust spawn, and then covered with a shallow layer of straw to add a layer of protection. We planted each plot in June of 2021 and observed harvests in the fall of that year. Below are the types of chips we inoculated and how they fared.

Red Oak

Moderate yield. Red oak did produce mushrooms, but it wasn't a jaw-dropping amount. However, the mushrooms that it did produce we're excellent quality (this likely has to do more with the stage of harvest than the chip itself).

Douglas Fir

This chip surprised us by not only producing Wine Cap, but by producing a nice amount of Wine Cap! Keep in mind that with all evergreen chips we recommend aging the chips for several months prior to building your bed.


Similar in yield to red oak. Nothing spectacular, but it did produce mushrooms.


See Red Oak and Birch. Aspen was another species that did produce mushrooms, but it wasn't a jaw-dropping amount.


Cherry chips were slightly less productive than Red Oak, Birch, and Aspen. However, the plot was also smaller than the others so we feel comfortable saying that the overall yield would have been similar had the plot sizes been equal area.

Box Elder

Box Elder was the clear winner in this study. The Wine Cap bed made with Box Elder chips not only produced the most (wagons of mushrooms!), but produced the first mushroom of the study and the last mushroom of the study.


Species Tested:
Red Oak, Birch, Douglas fir, Cherry, Aspen, Box Elder, Ash, Apple, and Red Maple
Most Promising Chip Type:
Box Elder
Structure of beds:
Soaked cardboard, wood chips and spawn, straw
Find the Spawn:

What has yet to produce?

We have yet to see fruiting out of Red Maple, Apple, and Ash chips. However, we do see good spawn run in all of the beds so we certainly are not giving up on those plots! Wine Cap can take up to a full year to show their first mushrooms depending on a variety of factors, so like most things mushroom we're dialing in our patience until June.

Second Season of Wine Cap Plots

We will be following these plots through the summer of 2022. Most Wine Cap beds will fruit within a year of inoculation assuming the bed is less than 10 inches in depth, so we expect to see most of these beds fruiting by June of 2022. Stay tuned for second season results!

Interested in planting your own Wine Cap? You can purchase Wine Cap Sawdust Spawn here.