A Guide To Growing Lion’s Mane Mushroom
It’s hard for me to pick my favorite mushroom to grow. Aren’t they all equally great?
But… if I had to choose, I would say growing Lion’s Mane mushroom takes the top spot.
That’s because Lion’s Mane is not only easy and fun to grow, but also produces huge delectable fruiting bodies that can be an awesome addition to any meal. As an added bonus- it also boasts some pretty incredible health benefits.
Unfortunately, you’re not likely to find Lion’s Mane at your local grocery store- so having a fresh supply means that you’ll need to learn how to grow it indoors yourself.
Luckily, there’s lots of techniques on this site to get you started, but first, let’s take a look at what makes this mushroom so special.
Scientific Name: Hericium erinaceus
Lions Mane Mushroom grows in large snowball like formations. The mushroom is white, sometimes browning if the spines are damaged or with age. Individual mushrooms can be quite large, sometimes weighing over 1 lb. The spines or “teeth” start out quite small, but elongate with age.
The mushroom is spongy and sometimes semi-hollow. It is sensitive to direct spraying when growing, bruising easily.
Lions Mane Mushroom starts out as tiny spines.
Lions Mane teeth elongate as the mushroom grows.
Natural Habitat: Lions Mane is most commonly found on dead and decaying hardwood logs, most often in the fall throughout North America.
Difficulty of Cultivation: Easy-Medium
Agar: Lions Mane is unique on Agar. It rarely grows out to the edge of the plate, but instead form little glacier like formations emanating from the initial wedge. Long teeth grow out from the wedge in all directions. The mycelium is also slow to take off initially.
Spawn Types: Grains, especially Rye grain. Watch Lions Mane grain spawn very closely, as it has the tendency to start fruiting well before full colonization. Lions Mane grain spawn needs to be shaken often to ensure full colonization of the spawn.
The mycelium can look thin and whispy, so close inspection is required. It can sometimes look like colonization is incomplete even though its fully colonized.
Tegan holding a bag of fruiting Lions Mane.
Showing the elongated spines of the Lions Mane Mushroom.
Substrate Types: Lions Mane grows best on supplemented hardwood sawdust. Supplement with wheat bran at 10-20%. Higher spawn rates are effective with Lions Mane, increasing the chances that full colonization will take place. Lion’s Mane will also grow well on the “master’s mix”.
Fruiting Containers: Use large autoclavable filter patch grow bags to create a fruiting block. Once full colonization is achieved, fruit by slicing small “x’s” in the bag at the site of primordia, or where the Lions Mane naturally starts to fruit. Do not cut off the top of the bag. More holes will cause more smaller fruit, whereas less holes will ensure fewer but larger fruit.
Yield: More than 2 lbs of Lions Mane can be harvested from a single 5 lb fruiting block over multiple flushes. Some individual fruits can weigh well over one pound.
Harvest: Harvest the Lions Mane by cutting the “snowball” off close to the bag with a sharp knife. Be very delicate with the fruit as to not damage the spines. The mushroom will store much longer in the fridge if handled delicately.
Simply leave the fruiting block in the grow room without cutting new holes in the bag. Subsequent flushes will occur, with fruits developing at the sites of previous fruits.
Sliced up sections of Lions Mane Ready for the Frying Pan!
Weakness: Lions Mane is sometimes difficult to achieve full colonization. Some growers have had more success with Liquid Culture techniques. The mycelium is slow to take off on agar and rarely grows out in a natural circular pattern. The mushroom bruises easily and great care must be taken during spraying of the grow room and especially during harvest. Lions Mane will last a long time in the fridge if properly handled.
Cooking: Lions Mane is a culinary treat, extremely versatile in the kitchen. It acts as a good supplement for meat in many dishes, especially chicken. It has a spongy texture that soaks up whatever flavor it is cooked in. Simply cut the mushroom lengthwise into slices and fry in a pan. Many people find Lions Mane mushroom to be a good imitator of lobster, fried in a pan and dipped in melted butter. Lions Mane mushroom is also said to have medicinal properties, and thought to increase cognitive abilities by initiating nerve growth and regeneration. It can be found in health stores.
Incubate at room temperature for 10-14 days. Watch closely for whispy and thin colonization, and early primordia formation. Shake Often.
Pinning usually starts on its own. Lower temperature to 15 deg C. Cut holes in the grow bags and place in grow room.
Temperatures between 15-20 deg C. Humidity at 90%. Ensure not to spray fruits directly when misting. Fresh air requirements are relatively low.
How To Grow Lion’s Mane Mushroom
The process for growing Lion’s Mane is quite similar to growing any other type of gourmet mushroom- although there are some slight differences to watch out for. Depending on where you are at in your mushroom growing journey, you’ll want to a suitable approach to growing at home.
By far the easiest way to grow Lion’s Mane at home it is to start with a kit. This is the best option for people who are new to the hobby.
Looking for a more authentic experience for DIY Lion’s Mane at home? If so, you could start from commercially made spawn. This requires a few more tools and a little more experience, but you’ll get substantially better results. Even better- if you really want to go down the rabbit hole, you can even make your very own spawn starting from a pure culture on agar.
Lion’s Mane Grow Kit
Mushroom growing kits are a great option for folks who are new to the hobby, or do not want to get too deep into into the art of growing mushrooms. They are basically just a fully colonized mushroom fruiting blocks. If you have a kit, most of the hard work has already been done for you.
You can buy these kits from various places online, or perhaps even at your local farmers market. I have even seen kit at the grocery store, although never for Lion’s Mane.
Once you have the block, all you need to do is to put it in a relatively humid environment and cut some “x’s” into the side of the bag. Put the block on it’s side on a plate, so that the mushrooms will fruit out the top. For humidity, place a sheet of perforated plastic over the block, making sure there is lots of free space between the block and the plastic. Lion’s Mane fruits will naturally start to form through the holes in the bag.
Mist inside the bag with a spray bottle a few times a day, and make sure to fan in lots of fresh air. To make this even better, build a small shotgun fruiting chamber.
You are likely to get 2 or 3 flushes with a kit, and depending on where you live, might not require any special environment whatsoever.
Lion’s mane will even grow pretty well in sub-par conditions, so unless you are looking for spectacular results, you don’t need to be overly concerned about the block’s environment.
I have even had Lion’s Mane blocks fruit heavily after placing them in the garage (humidity around 65% RH) and simply forgetting about them. The fruits themselves were large, with small spines, and lasted over a week in the fridge without looking any worse for wear. Talk about care-free growing!
Lion’s Mane fruiting on grain spawn (way over colonized), and grown in a garage without due care and attention.
Starting From Spawn
Of course, if you have experience with mushroom cultivation, you could also just get some Lion’s Mane spawn, and add it to a suitable substrate.
Hardwood sawdust amended with bran is one of the best substrates for growing Lion’s Mane. The typical fruiting block recipe works great, and should give you a a good yield over a number of flushes.
Recently, I have also had great success growing Lion’s Mane on the Master’s Mix, a 50-50 hardwood sawdust and soy hulls that has been hydrated to 60%. Yields seem to be slightly higher, and the shelf life seems to be a little better on this substrate, although some further experimentation is still needed.
Lion’s Mane can also grow on straw, although I have not personally tried this method. (I try to avoid messy straw as much as possible!) Growing Lion’s Mane on straw might only yield great results for particular strains that have been specifically adapted to straw. For best results, you are better off just using a wood based substrate.
Add the spawn at 10-15% spawn rate to sterilized substrate in a clean environment. A laminar flow hood works best. Although lion’s Mane is reasonably resistant to contamination, all precautions should still be still be taken to protect your grow. Once inoculated, a fruiting block should be fully colonized within 2 weeks.
Lion’s Mane mycelium can be whispy and thin in places, and looks quite a bit different than something more robust like oyster or reishi. Dn’t be alarmed if the block doesn’t look fully colonized.
This mushroom fruits easily, so chances are you’ll start to see small fruits forming in the bag before you expose it to fruiting conditions. When this happens, simply bring the block to the fruiting area and cut small “x’s” where the fruits are already forming. The pins will continue to develop, eventually forming large mushrooms outside the bag.
Growing Lion’s Mane From Scratch
If you want to grow Lion’s Mane from scratch, you ‘re best to start with a culture on agar, and make your own grain spawn from there. You could also start with a liquid culture, although you are still better off to just put the liquid culture on agar for long term storage and re-use.
The process for lion’s mane is the same as other species- grow out the culture on agar, make grain spawn, add it to a bulk substrate, and fruit. As long as you have a healthy culture, you should be able to grow fresh lion’s mane anytime you want.
Lion’s Mane mycelium will last for a long time on a culture plate. In fact, I have cultures that are over 3 years old that still perform fantastically. If you want to store the plates for the long term, ensure that you keep them in the fridge. Lion’s Mane mycelium is prone to fruiting on the agar plate, forming long spines that eventually try to work their way out of the dish, leading to contamination. Keeping the culture in the fridge will prevent this from happening.
Often fruit on the grain spawn as soon as it finishes colonizing. As long as you catch it in time it won’t be a problem. You don’t even need to remove the tiny fruits- just mix it up with the rest of your grain spawn before adding it to the bulk substrate.