March 14, 2012

Indoor Mushrooms: The Gateway Drug. ~ Heather Topcik

We’re growing mushrooms! Shiitakes. Indoors.

This involves dutifully spraying an odd-looking block of sawdust twice a day that has been inoculated with shiitake spores. Inspired by this Huffington Post article, I ordered it through Amazon as a project to do with my kids—something more akin to a Butterfly Garden (a family favorite) than actual indoor agriculture. As promised, within two weeks our sawdust block went gangbusters with mushrooms – enough for one main course for two adults (which is fine because, as it turns out, my children love to grow mushrooms, but not eat them).

In the meantime, the Take Back Urban Homesteading(s) page on Facebook has grown to over 10,000 followers, and I spent some time acquainting myself with the dozens (no, hundreds!) of blogs and websites published by people living in various degrees of the urban who are experimenting with sustainable living, growing their own food and reviving lost domestic arts. The galvanization of this community has been exciting for this armchair urban farmer. I discovered Grown in the City and FarmCurious, sites devoted to practical resources for urban gardening and composting, as well as a number of other interesting folks doing really creative things in small spaces.

So, are we urban homesteaders too? We have the urban pretty well covered. You can’t get more city than a 9th floor apartment in a midtown Manhattan high-rise—a place I never thought I would find myself, but strangely can’t imagine leaving.

As far as sustainability goes, we’ve got it going on: no car, small footprint, features common to living in Gotham. According to David Owen, New York is the greenest city in America. While I have dreams of keeping bees and chickens on our rooftop, I must content myself with our shared garden space, which is lovely for playing in a sandbox or having coffee, but doesn’t get enough light to grow food. So it’s all indoor gardening for us. 

So you can imagine my delight when after two weeks of spraying my indoor mushroom farm, I actually got a whole bunch of mushrooms! Enough to sauté over rice or add to miso soup.

I’m hooked and I’ve already ordered another mushroom kit – an actual log this time.  It also has encouraged me to build a window farm, which is so very awesome! 

Watch out for the mushrooms, they’ll leave you thirsty for that next wild step into the “grow-your-own” food universe.

This is an original post from Heather Topcik, Domaphile.

Heather Topcik is a librarian and mother of two young children living in New York City. Passionate about windowfarming, composting, and making stuff, she blogs about the joys and challenges of urban domesticity and sustainability at domaphile.com.


Prepared by Jill Barth/Editor: Kate Bartolotta.

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