hello world

Kerala’s Tribal Cultures and their Ethnomycology


Nestled within the embrace of the majestic Western Ghats, Kerala’s landscapes boast an awe-inspiring fungal diversity, a testament to nature’s ingenuity. From vibrant orchids to elusive fungi, this biodiversity is a global marvel that resonates with our national pride.

This symphony of life is an integral part of India’s rich heritage. Yet, the encroachment of human activity and the changing climate threaten this legacy. The urgency now compels us to stand united as custodians, preserving this irreplaceable gift for our nation and the world. Kerala, a southwestern state of India, is adorned with an intricate tapestry of ancient tribal cultures that have flourished for centuries. These tribes, such as the Irulas, Kurichiyas, and Paniyas, hold the threads of a rich cultural heritage, contributing to the diverse fabric of the region. The annals of history carry records of their existence, revealing a timeless connection to the land and its resources. Tribal communities are widespread across Kerala’s districts, with a significant concentration in Wayanad, Palakkad, Idukki, and Kasargod. These areas harbor the majority of tribes, reflecting their rich cultural diversity. However, Alappuzha stands out with the lowest tribal population among the districts.

Have you ever wondered how Kerala’s ancient tribes discovered the hidden secrets of plants and fungi long before the advent of modern science? This blog is a small peek into the world that they have uncovered.

2 Kurichiyas tribal women (Source: http://www.ayurvedayogaretreat.com/ tribes-wayanad/).
2 Kurichiyas tribal women

Imagine this scene: tribes like the Irulas and Kurichiyas crafting their own versions of “green medicine cabinets” centuries ago. How did they know which plants could soothe a headache or which fungi could be the cure for the common cold? It’s like they were the original pharmacists, operating without a prescription pad!

And let’s not forget ethnomycology – the art of understanding fungi. While we’re still trying to pronounce the Latin names of mushrooms, these tribes have been incorporating Malayalam and its dialects for many species of fungi for ages. Did they possess a mystical dance that could unveil hidden mushrooms? Or perhaps, did they engage in a mycology-infused quest? akin to a treasure hunt straight from the heart of our tribal heritage?

Could their harmonious ways teach us a thing or two about sustainable living and preserving biodiversity? Maybe it’s time we took a leaf – or a mushroom – out of their book and rekindled our curiosity about the wild world around us. Who knows, we might even discover that our next breakthrough could be hidden in the forest, right beneath our curious noses!



Tribal Communities of Kerala

Imagine a mushroom buffet straight from the whimsical corners of Kerala! Hold onto your taste buds – there are around 40 different edible mushrooms in town, and about half a dozen of these are like the rockstars of the mushroom world. But here’s the twist: These fungal delicacies aren’t available year-round. They’re like the party guests who only show up after the monsoons hit – both the wild dancers, Edavapathi (south-west monsoon), and the cool breezes, Thulavarsham (north-east monsoon).

Now, let’s play hide and seek with these mushrooms in their favorite hideouts. They’re like little seasonal adventurers – popping up in plantations, hanging out at the edge of forests, strutting their stuff along forest paths, and even throwing shade inside bamboo breaks. Oh, and don’t be surprised if you spot them having a field day in fallow fields, on termite mounds, or chilling by the riversides.

Termitomyces microcarpus (Arikoon), Termitomyces microcarpus on termite mound
Termitomyces microcarpus (Arikoon), Termitomyces microcarpus on termite mound

And speaking of trees, some mushrooms are real tree huggers – you might spot them on tree trunks and snacking on decayed woods in the woods (yes, that’s a mouthful!). The real headliners of this shroom show are Arikkoon, Puttukoon, and Perumkali. These guys aren’t just delicious, they’re like habitat snobs too. Arikkoon and Puttukoon are the life of the termite mound party, while Perumkali prefers to strut its stuff in the open, moist areas, where the ghosts of old termite mounds still hang around.


So, next time you’re in Kerala, keep an eye out for these fungi fiestas. Who knows, you might just stumble upon a hidden mushroom rave in the middle of the forest!

From a paper titled,“Nutritional and biochemical studies of wild edible mushrooms used by tribes of Palghat and Wayanad districts of Kerala” – A fascinating journey into Attappadi’s tribal communities has uncovered a remarkable revelation – the taxonomic identification of wild edible mushrooms. An early documentation from 2018, of the tribal knowledge from the area. There were a total of 19 distinct edible delicacy species had been unveiled, spanning 12 genera, 9 families, and 4 orders. Astonishingly, 17 of these species are entirely new additions to the wild edible food repertoire of the Wayanad tribes, adding a new chapter to their culinary heritage.


Paddy straw (Volvariella volvacea) or Voikkolkkumma
Paddy straw (Volvariella volvacea) or Voikkolkkumma


(L-R) Favolous, Auricularia, Schizophyllum commune, Auricularia delicata, Favolaschia manipularis
(L-R) Favolus, Auricularia (Kathukkumman), Schizophyllum commune, Auricularia delicata, Favolaschia manipularis

Varieties like Auricularia delicata, Lentinus cladopus, Favolus tenuiculus, Schizophyllum commune, and Favolaschia manipularis, previously absent from records, now grace our tables. This tale unfolds as a journey into Kerala’s edible mushroom secrets, unearthing both gastronomic and medicinal promise.

Collage of mushrooms
(L-R) Cantharellus minor, Russula, Coprinellus micaceus, Lentinus cladopus

Amidst this bounty, Lentinus bambusinus, Coprinellus micaceus, and Cantharellus minor emerged as first-time subjects for nutritional study.
Their flavors and textures piqued curiosity, hinting at untapped livelihood prospects and even groundbreaking drug discoveries.

Providing a glimpse into influential tribes within the ethnomycological landscape, a study titled “Diversity, Use Pattern and Management of Wild Food Plants of Western Ghats: A Study from Wayanad District” from the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation’s Community Agro‐biodiversity Centre in Wayanad, Kerala, offers valuable insights.

Paniyas: The Largest Tribal Community in Kerala


Black and white photo of a paniya tribe woman
Paniya tribe woman

The Paniyas stands as the largest tribal community in Kerala, adding their vibrant threads to the state’s cultural fabric. In their forays into the forests, they’ve discovered an array of mushrooms and fungi that become an integral part of their culinary heritage.

United by their reverence for Kumman—mushrooms. They sing praises to Marakkumman, the tree-dwelling mushrooms as if the forest itself orchestrates a delicate symphony. Yet, it is Mannukkumman, the earthbound fungi, that binds their roots to the soil of their ancestors.

Each variety bears a name that echoes through generations – Valakkumma, sprouting from cow dung and compost, symbolizes the cycle of life and renewal; Vaikkolkkumma, rising from paddy straw, mirrors the dance of harvest and gratitude.

Kathukkumman, akin to human earlobes, is their treasured gem. With the monsoon’s touch, it adorns Murikku trees—a sight reserved for the Paniya. This delicate wonder transforms into sustenance, a sacred thread connecting their past and present.

In this dance with nature, the Paniya commune with whispers of the forest, finding solace in the smallest offerings of the earth. Their heritage blooms like Kathukkumman, reminding us of nature’s power to unite generations and kindred spirits across cultures.

Paniya women, in particular, possess a remarkable memory of seasonal mushroom availability, linked to precise times and distinct locales. This practice underscores their profound connection with nature. However, the current scenario necessitates arduous journeys to remote, less polluted areas for these mushrooms. This dual struggle epitomizes the resilience of feminism and tribal heritage—a testament to their enduring significance. Often seen as the protectors of termite mounds, and finding unique ways to preserve mushrooms.


Kurumbas: The Guardians of the Forest

Meet the Kurumbas, the guardians of the forest in Kerala. These tribal custodians boast an unparalleled connection with the woodlands, fostering a harmony between their way of life and nature’s rhythms. Amidst their daily routines, they come across mushrooms that weave seamlessly into their sustenance practices. Perhaps they’re well-versed in distinguishing the edible from the inedible, cherishing the flavorful goodness of Puttukoon and other forest finds.

Apart from mushrooms, this intriguing community collects tubers and potherbs. They communicate through a blend of Malayalam-Tamil, while women attire themselves in munda cloth and palm leaf-rolled earrings. Rooted in animism, they now revere Bagawati, a genderless deity, and are guided by the Nolumbukaran priests.

Kuruma culture embraces the term ‘Koonu’ from Malayalam to celebrate mushrooms, a prideful inclusion in their family meals. This term references around 14 mushroom species, notably favoring those on soil and termite mounds. Perumkoonu, Arikoonu, Nedumthali, and Puttukoonu (Termitomyces sp.) are cherished varieties. Unlike other cultures, Kuruma women uniquely undertake mushroom preservation by proficiently drying them. These dried mushrooms retain quality until the next season, a technique borne of their culinary ingenuity.

Interestingly, the mushroom collection is exclusively designated for Kuruma women, involving the gathering of safer types like Arikkoon and Puttukoonu, which necessitate minimal processing. Notably, mushrooms earmarked for processing and storage possess reduced mucilaginous substances and softer fiber coatings. These culinary experts immerse mushrooms in turmeric water for a day before smoke-drying them above the hearth.

Intriguingly, how do Kuruma women determine the suitability of mushrooms for extended storage? What spurred the development of their unique preservation practices amidst evolving culinary trends? These captivating questions uncover the intricate layers of Kuruma’s mushroom-related traditions, showcasing their profound connection with nature and the enduring role of women in safeguarding cultural culinary legacies.


Kattunaickans: The Honey Gatherers

Photo of a boy from kattunaika tribe holding honey comb
Kattunayakan boy

Picture the Kattunaickans, deft honey gatherers who traverse the wilderness in search of golden sweetness. In their pursuit, they stumble upon mushrooms like Arikkoon and Perumkali, sprouting forth from the very ecosystems they roam. One of sustenance, connection, and a trove of mushrooms, known as ‘Anavae’ in their dialect. These 33 fungal species, each with a scientific name and a habitat tale, hold not just nourishment, but an invitation to ponder our place in the natural world.

Divided into three categories – the ‘Maranavae’ found on tree barks, ‘Huthaanavae’ on termite mounds, and ‘Mannanavae’ gracing the forest floor – these mushrooms paint a vivid portrait of diversity and adaptation. Enter the scientific realm, where ‘Huthaanavae’ belongs to the Termitomyces genus, attesting to the profound relationship between the fungi and the termites’ industrious homes.

The ‘Maranavae’ mushrooms, named after their arboreal companions, beckon us to the enchanting dance of symbiosis. Mushroom names are derived from their host trees—’Njeralanavae’ from Syzygium cumini, ‘Jalanavae’ from Dalbergia latifolia, and ‘Kavalanavae’ from Erythrina indica. This practice bridges nature and culture, prompting us to ponder our own heritage and relationship with our surroundings.

Yet, as we marvel at this harmonious existence, a stirring arises within. Do we, ensnared in the modern world’s frenzied pace, miss the essence of life’s communion? The Kattunaikkas’ reverence for these forest treasures provokes introspection. Are we forfeiting nature’s bounty for momentary conveniences?

Diving into the intriguing world of mushrooms, the community’s fascination lies with the Termitomyces species. Among these, the enigmatic Vellanavae boasts a milky white hue, the Ummanavae a delicate pale white, and the impressive Huthanavae, a large off-white variety. What’s captivating is their connection to termite mounts. Remarkably, these mushrooms are deemed safe, negating the need for elaborate preparation prior to consumption. Even youngsters fearlessly indulge in raw samples. Ummanavae and Vellanavae thrive in dense clusters, in contrast to the solitary or scattered growth of the Huthanavae. Intriguingly, the Mannanavae sprout from the soil, categorized by their solitary ventures or group endeavors. Within this community, a diverse assortment of about 15 such mushroom types finds its way to their plates, each offering a unique growth pattern. The names themselves evoke curiosity, inviting us to explore the mysteries concealed within.

Among the Kattunaikka community, the mastery of distinguishing toxic from edible mushrooms rests primarily with women, relying on cues like odor and color. How do they cultivate this skill and pass it down through generations? Remarkably, this ability isn’t limited to proximity; they can detect these fungi from a distance, showcasing an intimate knowledge of their surroundings. But who else in the community participates in this intricate tradition?

It’s fascinating that the practice involves not only women but also other members of the community. How does this collective engagement reinforce the cultural significance of mushroom collection? When harvesting mushrooms from tree trunks, the emphasis on selective harvesting to ensure regrowth is admirable. How is this wisdom imparted to the young ones, especially the enthusiastic Kattunaikka children?

Furthermore, the allure of some mushroom varieties being palatable even when consumed raw adds a unique dimension. How does this tie into the community’s relationship with nature and its culinary heritage? The multifaceted involvement and knowledge sharing within the Kattunaikka community exemplify a harmonious blend of tradition and practicality.

In the heart of this blog, stand 2 tribes, (Muthuvans and Kaani) nestled at the crossroads of border states. There may be a lot more that I am missing, but Like the enigmatic mushrooms that transcend conventional categories, these tribes straddle both Kerala and Tamil Nadu, embodying a narrative that persistently challenges the significance of the lines we draw on maps. Their roots run deeper than the ink of borders, existing long before we etched the concept of land ownership. They are the true inhabitants of the woods, guardians of ancient secrets whispered by trees.

To overlook their existence is to miss a vital piece of this intricate puzzle that weaves humanity and nature. What are these borders? Who are we without them?  These tribes remind us that our connection with the land precedes borders, awakening a yearning to explore the bonds we share with the wild and the wisdom they offer.

Muthuvans: The Story Weavers

Photo of women from Muthuvan tribe
Muthuvan tribe

The Muthuvans, skilled storytellers of their tribe, possess a unique ability to weave narratives that entwine the rich landscapes of Kerala. As they explore the wilderness, their tales might incorporate the mushrooms and fungi they encounter. The likes of Arikkoon and Perumkali become not only sustenance but also inspiration, embedding themselves in the stories that form the backbone of their cultural tapestry.

Kaani Tribe: The Culinary Kings

In the heart of the Kaani tribe’s traditions, a profound relationship with nature’s bounty emerges through a repertoire of unique mushrooms. Pleurotus sajor caju, known as Vellathazan Kumizh, and Termitomyces heimii, revered as Natarajan putru kumizh, are just a glimpse of this harmonious connection.
Termitomyces microcarpus, Ari Kumizh, Volvariella volvacea, Uppu Kumizh, and Auricularia auriculata, Murukkan Kumizh, form a constellation of edible treasures, each bearing a distinct cultural significance.


Early mornings witness the tribal people venturing into the wild, bamboo or reed baskets in hand, to collect these delicacies. With care bordering on reverence, the gathered mushrooms undergo a meticulous cleansing process, immersed in fresh water 2-3 times. Pounded in wooden mortars alongside rice, they transform into a blend steeped in tradition.

This medley is then simmered to perfection, a harmonious union of mushrooms and rice brought to life by the gentle caress of water. Eager to evoke a symphony of tastes, spices, salt, and wild green chilies are introduced, infusing the dish with a melody of flavors and aromas.

The final creation graces the table served alongside cooked rice and tapioca, a testament to the intricate relationship between sustenance and nature’s offerings. In a final touch, tribal artisans adorn their culinary masterpieces with grated coconut, a nod to timeless culinary wisdom. This elaborate process showcases not only their culinary artistry but also their deep-rooted respect for the land and its gifts, weaving a narrative of sustenance and harmony.


Ethnomycology in India: A Deep Dive

Across the globe, tribal people have recognized the value of these forest gems as dietary staples and potent healers. In Kerala, ‘Adivasis’ reside amidst the lush landscapes of the Western Ghats, their lives intertwined with the ancient rhythm of the forests. Cholanaikkans, Kurumbas, Kattunaikkans, Kadars, and Koragas, these primitive tribal groups, embody a cultural heritage as diverse as the mushrooms they forage. Cholanaikkans, named “Cavemen of Kerala,” dwell in Nilambur Valley’s forest. Living in rock shelters known as “aale”, their unique identity emerges from cave-named distinctions, adding -nu to names. Their distinct identity, denoted by cave-assigned names, remained hidden till 1971; gaining notice in 1977. With just 176 in number, mingling with Kattunaickan and Pathinayakkan tribes, this underscores the need for further research to unveil their story.

Regrettably, the Cholanaikkans, Kadars, and Koragas remain silent about fungi and mushrooms in my search. However, skepticism shrouds this conclusion, leaving a lingering sense of sorrow. It’s a poignant plea for individuals to reach out, imploring their grandparents to unlock the hidden vaults of knowledge. The shadows of doubt cast upon the absence of information evoke a melancholic realization. Yes, they all use them, but for what purpose? How are they valued? What are the names? The prospect that invaluable insights about the forest’s treasures might slip through the fingers of time paints a somber picture. This unfulfilled quest underscores the urgency to bridge the generational gap, yearning for a connection to ancestral wisdom before it fades into the mist.

Centuries of wisdom passed down through generations, have granted these tribes an innate understanding of the forest’s bounties. Their knowledge of the edibility and healing properties of mushrooms is a blend of folk taxonomy and indigenous lore. Yet, as modernity creeps in, this ancestral wisdom risks fading away. Auricularia auriculata, Agaricus bisporus, Boletus edulis, Ganoderma lucidum, Lentinus edodes, and L. squarrosulus – these names carry the weight of tradition, the echoes of ancient remedies. These medicinal mushroom species, once integral to the tribal communities, now stand at the precipice of being forgotten.

Diving deep into India’s cultural tapestry, we uncover a captivating realm of ethnomedicinal wealth – a repository of traditional mycological knowledge. Indian ethnic groups have embraced this ancient wisdom, harnessing the power of wild mushrooms for over 283 species out of the global tally of 2000. This journey dates back to antiquity, as the ancient medical treatise, Charaka Samhita (3000±500 BC), whispers tales of mushrooms’ dual role as sustenance and medicine.

The spotlight of ethnomycological exploration shines brightly upon India’s North-East. Among the vibrant tribes like Garos, Adivashis, Bodos, and Rajbangshis of Western Assam, seven mushroom species stand as cherished vegetables. G. lucidum emerges as an herbal hero, combatting ailments like asthma. In the mystic land of Sikkim, local folk healers craft herbal elixirs with cordyceps, a potent remedy for a spectrum of afflictions – from cancer to colds.

Venturing further, the tribal tapestry expands. Nagaland’s ethnic tribes infuse wild edible mushrooms into their culinary heritage. Down South, the Kaani tribes of the Kanyakumari district dance with flavors like P. sajor-caju, T. heimii, and more, embodying the fusion of taste and tradition. Amidst the verdant Similipal forest, tribal communities nourish themselves with Russula, Termitomyces, and Pleurotus – a feast that heals maladies and weaknesses.

The saga continues through the undulating landscapes of Assam, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh, where wild mushrooms reign as nutritional saviors. But as we immerse ourselves in this mycological saga, questions arise: What untold stories lie within the mushrooms of the Northeast? How have generations of tribal wisdom influenced their use? Can these remedies hold the keys to modern ailments? As we tread the path of ethnomedicinal exploration, India’s tribal heart reveals a profound synergy between nature and healing, poised to captivate curious minds and inspire modern medicine alike.


Road Ahead: for Preservation and Innovation around fungal diversity

The road ahead in fungal diversity preservation and innovation presents a compelling blend of tradition and modernity. Firstly, steps toward preserving tribal knowledge and practices (A) are vital to safeguard centuries-old wisdom about fungi. Many indigenous communities possess a deep understanding of fungal diversity, utilizing mushrooms for food, medicine, and cultural rituals. Collaborative efforts between scientists and indigenous practitioners can lead to ethically responsible ways of documenting and sharing this knowledge, preventing its loss and aiding conservation.

Secondly, bringing ethnomycology and entheomycological into the mix holds exciting possibilities.
Picture this: Scientists delving into how tribes have been using fungi for ages – be it in medicine, religious and shamanic practices, cleaning up the environment, or even farming. It’s like connecting the dots between old-school wisdom and today’s problems. This fusion isn’t just about boosting our scientific know-how; it’s also a nod to the rich tapestry of cultures out there. We’re talking about a 2-for-1 deal – advancing our smarts while giving a tip of the hat to diverse traditions. Cool, right?

In India, the government has taken a few steps to safeguard indigenous wisdom. Tribal Research Institutes (TRIs) have been established nationwide to serve as reservoirs of information on tribal communities. National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) is a proponent of the “re-documentation” of tribal cultures and social practices, with the aim of transcending the colonial lens that has influenced existing scholarly literature. These collective endeavors embody a comprehensive approach that embraces indigenous perspectives, seeking to empower tribal communities in the endeavor to conserve fungal diversity. Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) endeavors to prevent the misappropriation of traditional Indian medicinal knowledge by maintaining its records within international patent offices. This is a start, certainly, but we have a long way to go, as far as on-ground research surrounding fungi is needed.

Where does it begin? Where does it end? How do we continue our efforts – only time will tell.

The preservation of ethnomycological knowledge rests not solely on academic institutions or government bodies, but also requires the active engagement of private organizations and citizen scientists. The intricate relationship between communities and fungi cannot be underestimated, and their preservation is a collective responsibility.

As Kerala rapidly transforms into one large bustling metro, it is imperative to acknowledge the few remaining pockets where traditional ethnomycological wisdom is still preserved. These enclaves hold invaluable insights into the symbiotic connection between humans and fungi, which can offer solutions to modern challenges.

The key lies in fostering a harmonious coexistence, where private entities and citizen scientists collaborate with local communities to document and safeguard this knowledge. It is crucial to create a space where sharing is encouraged, ensuring the longevity of ethnomycological wisdom for generations to come. By embracing this responsibility, we can bridge the gap between the past and the future, enriching our understanding of nature and our place within it.

P.S. Call any photojournalists, researchers, or any other anthropologist reading this. If you have any more information to share, or perhaps photos, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via support@nuvedo.com, would love to include any more information here that you may find. 


How to Grow Mushrooms at Home: A Step-by-Step Guide for Mushroom Enthusiasts

If you’re reading this, kudos to you for thinking about growing your own mushrooms. I hope this blog gives you the confidence to take the next step and get started on your mushroom cultivation journey. This blog is for anyone who wants to learn mushroom cultivation at a hobby level. It has tried and tested cultivation methods which are relatively easy for someone who wants to start growing mushrooms at home. 

If you don’t have much experience in growing mushrooms, then I recommend you go through our earlier blog on what mushrooms are and another blog with commonly used terminologies in mushroom cultivation.

What are the advantages of mushroom growing?

Why farm mushrooms?  As a budding mushroom farmer, you need to be aware of some of the benefits of mushroom cultivation before you get into the details of how mushrooms grow. Here is a list of 6 advantages of farming mushrooms –

  1. Growing mushrooms is sustainable: Mushroom farming uses agricultural waste such as paddy straw, wheat straw, ragi straw, rice bran, corn cobs, soya hulls, etc as input material. By cultivating mushrooms we are able to use a lot of by-products of agriculture and turn them into high-quality nutrition. Whatever waste is left behind can be added back into the soil or composted, making the process circular.
  2. Mushroom production is very water efficient: Though mushrooms are 90% water, they only use a fraction of water to grow as compared to traditional crops.
  3. Mushroom growing doesn’t require soil or sunlight: You don’t need outdoor space to grow your mushrooms and mushroom cultivation can be done indoors in minimal space. This also means that growing mushrooms at home doesn’t depend on soil fertility, pests, or other external factors which are hard to control outdoors.
  4. Mushroom cultivation is vertically scalable: Mushroom beds or bags can be stacked vertically which means that small-scale mushroom farming can be done even if you only have a small room at home.
  5. Mushrooms are a high-quality food source: Apart from macronutrients such as protein and fiber, mushrooms contain many unique bioactive molecules which can improve your health and well-being. They are a good source of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and even rare bio-compounds such as Beta Glucans, Terpenes, and Phenolics.
  6. Cultivation of fungi or mushrooms takes relatively less time: Mushrooms are quite fast-growing when compared to plants. Our pink oyster mushroom is capable of giving you your first harvest in 3 weeks! Compared to traditional food crops you can get more harvests in a year when growing mushrooms which means more income and lower overhead costs per cycle.

If you want to dive deeper into more reasons why you should cultivate mushrooms, please check out the three-part blog series on why India needs more mushroom farmers: Part 1.

What is mushroom cultivation?

Contrary to what most people believe, the most amount of time and effort in growing mushrooms is devoted to growing mycelium and not the mushroom itself. Let me give you an example: To grow oyster mushrooms the first 6-8 weeks are actually spent in making spawn and allowing the mycelium to grow and colonize the substrate. The actual fruiting process where you grow mushrooms takes only 7-10 days. Think of this similar to growing fruit trees, most of the effort goes into growing the tree and taking care of it as compared to the actual fruit. Fruit trees usually take 5-10 years to mature and give you the first harvest and the actual fruits take roughly 2-3 months to grow. To get good fruits you need to pay attention to how the trees grow. Similarly, to get good mushrooms, you need to understand and take care of mycelium which then gives you healthy mushrooms under the right conditions.

In short, mushroom cultivation is the process of growing mushroom mycelium, expanding it, feeding it, and then maintaining the right conditions to trigger the growth of mushrooms. Mushrooms are essentially the fruiting bodies of the vegetative mycelium, which exist to spread spores. 

How are mushrooms grown?

There are 8 broad steps in mushroom cultivation-

  1. Mycelium on Agar: A tiny piece of the mushroom tissue is placed on a nutritive medium called agar, in a petri plate. This process is called tissue culturing. Slowly, over the next week or two the mycelium expands and grows over the entire agar surface, “colonizing” it. Here the agar serves two purposes- a 2D surface for the mycelium to expand and also the nutrition for the mycelium to feed on. A fully colonized plate of mushroom mycelium is also called a mushroom culture.
    Picture of a myceliated agar plate
  2. Spawn production: Once the Petri plate is fully colonized by mycelium, a tiny piece of mycelium is transferred to a container filled with half-boiled grain or sawdust. The surface of the grain or sawdust provides more surface area for the mycelium to spread. The water and nutrients inside the grain/sawdust ensure the mycelium stays alive and healthy. Spawn helps the cultivator by providing more points for the mycelium to start growing from compared to a single point. If you want to learn more about spawn and how it is made, please go through our earlier Mushroom Spawn 101 blog.Picture of grain spawn The entire process mentioned in steps 1 & 2 is usually carried out in a lab or clean room. Sterile protocols are followed and all the work happens inside a Laminar Airflow or Biosafety Cabinet. Both these devices mentioned provided a smooth stream of HEPA-filtered clean air to work in, lowering the chance of contamination. This is why spawn production and mushroom culture preparation is considered expensive and difficult.
  3. Prepping the substrate: Any material that you use to grow mushrooms needs to be prepped beforehand. Prepping can include multiple steps depending on what substrate you choose. For example, if you’re working with paddy or wheat straw, steps include chopping it up into 1-3” pieces and then soaking it in water to hydrate it.
  4. Cleaning of substrate: Any material (substrate) that you intend to grow mushrooms on needs to be cleaned before you use it. This is done to reduce the chances of contamination by killing off competing microorganisms present in the substrate. There are many ways to clean your substrate including steam/heat pasteurization, lime pasteurization, sterilization in an autoclave, etc. You need to choose an appropriate method on the basis of your substrate material and resource constraints.
  5. Inoculation of the substrate with spawn: After the substrate has been prepped and cleaned, spawn is added to it. This step needs to be done in a clean space and depending on what mushroom you are growing and the kind of substrate you are working with, you might have to invest in some equipment for the same.
  6. Incubation of inoculated substrate: During this stage, the mycelium slowly starts growing and spreading across the substrate. Depending on the species this step can take anywhere between 3 weeks to 2 months. The bags are allowed to incubate undisturbed in a designated area where the temperature and light conditions are optimal for the growth of mycelium.
    Picture that shows colonisation of substrate
  7. Fruiting myceliated substrate: Once the bags are fully colonized with mycelium, they are shifted to a location where the conditions are optimal to trigger fruit body production. Specific fruiting conditions are dependent on the mushrooms being cultivated but it generally means maintaining ideal levels of temperature, humidity, light, and fresh air.
  8. Harvesting mature mushrooms: Once the mushrooms start pinning, they grow quickly and reach maturity very soon. The last stage is harvesting the mushroom at the ideal stage of growth. Mushrooms are usually harvested before they drop spores and timely harvest can influence the taste, texture, and shelf life of mushrooms.

How do I get started?

Before you begin your journey of growing mushrooms at home, you need to think about a very important question- Which mushroom am I going to grow? 

Let’s look at this question in a little more detail – 

Deciding which mushroom you will grow is a really critical decision in mushroom cultivation, if not the most important one. Your choice of mushroom will have an effect on-

  1. Growing conditions: The mushroom you choose should be suitable to grow well given your local weather conditions. If you want to grow exotic mushrooms such as Lion’s mane, you might have to invest in an AC room dedicated to growing them which might turn out to be an expensive affair. Different mushrooms have very specific temperatures, humidity, fresh air, and light requirements. Please make sure you do a bit of research on the fruiting conditions of your strain before you go deeper into growing it.
  2. Choice of substrate: Each mushroom has its own preference for what medium it wants to grow on. Most oyster mushrooms tend to do very well on paddy/wheat/ragi straw as compared to mushrooms such as button or portobello which prefer compost-based substrates. One of the major challenges as a home cultivator will be finding a reliable local source for substrate. So, make sure you choose mushrooms that you can grow using locally available materials so that the overall process remains sustainable.
  3. Choice of substrate cleaning method: Once you have narrowed down the substrate that you want to use for your mushroom, you will have to choose which method of substrate cleaning will work best for your needs. Substrates that are relatively low in nitrogen such as cardboard and straw can be boiled or even cold pasteurized using hydrated lime. Others such as master’s mix (hardwood sawdust + soy hulls) need to be sterilized using an autoclave at 121 degrees Celsius and 15 PSI pressure.

Please note that the fruiting temperatures can change depending on the strain for the same species. For example, we have seen strains of Shiitake mushroom which can fruit at 24 degrees Celsius and some that fruit only below 16 degrees Celsius

Table 1.1 with 15 commonly cultivated mushrooms, their substrates, and fruiting temperature

What substrate do I use?

Once you have chosen your mushroom, the next question to address is what material am I going to use as a substrate to grow my mushrooms?

When evaluating substrate here are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Economical: Your substrate material should be affordable. It doesn’t make economic sense to grow your mushrooms using really expensive material as the substrate
  2. Easily Available: Use materials that can be sourced locally or can be procured online with ease.
  3. Right nutrients: Substrates should have the right ratio of Carbon and Nitrogen to support the growth of mushrooms. Most agricultural wastes which are rich in lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose make good substrates but you need to ensure that any material which is very high in nitrogen content is better suited as a supplement and should not be used exclusively as substrate. For example: spent coffee grounds, rice/wheat bran, and soy hulls are very high in nitrogen and are best used as an additive to other substrates which are high in carbon such as sawdust, cardboard, or straw.
  4. Hydration capacity: A good substrate should be able to hold 50-70% moisture by weight. This water is what the mycelium will use to grow. A good way to know if a substrate is hydrated to the right amount is by doing a squeeze test- when you squeeze a fist full of hydrated material it should feel wet without the water dripping down in a stream. Different substrates can absorb different amounts of water so ensure you check the hydration capacity of the material before you choose to use it as a substrate.
    Here is a simple formula for you to check the hydration% of your substrate: Hydration % = [ [(Wet weight of substrate after hydration) – (Dry weight of substrate before hydration)] ÷ (Wet weight of substrate after hydration) ] × 100
  5. Aeration: Your substrate should allow airflow so that the mycelium can breathe. Lack of airflow or poor airflow leads to anaerobic conditions which can promote the growth of bacteria leading to contamination. Any substrate can get anaerobic if it gets overhydrated or too compacted while packing it.
  6. Free from competing organisms: Substrates you use should not have other organisms growing on them as this can lead to competition with mushroom mycelium ultimately resulting in poor or no yields. This happens because the mycelium ends up spending all its energy on defending itself against competition rather than producing mushrooms.
Figure showing properties of good substrate for mushrooms
Figure 1: Properties of a good substrate

If you’re new to mushroom cultivation, we recommend using hardwood fuel pellets as a substrate, to begin with. These are sawdust which has been heat treated and extruded into the shape of pellets. They come pre-pasteurized and therefore the chances of contamination while using them are very low compared to sawdust procured from mills or even straw.  We have sawdust substrate pellets available on our website for home use here!

What method of substrate cleaning should I use?

Now that you have an idea of what substrate you will be using, the next thing that you need to decide is how you’re going to clean your substrate. There are plenty of ways to do this depending on your scale and budget. I will list down the 6 most common ways and how to perform them.

  1. Steam Pasteurization:
    Suitable substrates: Straw, sawdust, cardboard, agri-waste such as shredded banana leaves, bamboo leaves, etc Time taken: 2-8 Hours

    1. Pass steam generated in a boiler to a chamber with hydrated substrate.
    2. Continue to pass steam and ensure the temperature is maintained at 60-65 C for 4 hours or at 80-85 C for 2 hours for straw or other agri-waste. In case you are using sawdust, you will need to pasteurize for 6-8 hours at 80-85 C.
    3. Allow bags to cool overnight before inoculation.
  2. Hot Water Pasteurization
    Suitable substrates: Straw, cardboard, agri-waste such as shredded banana leaves, bamboo leaves, etc. Time taken: 2 Hours

    1. Plunge dry/hydrated substrate placed in a sack for 2 hours in hot water maintained at 80-85⁰ C for 2 hours.
    2. Remove the sack and allow it to cool and release excess water.
    3.  Note that the same water can be used 2 times, after which it needs to be discarded.
    4.  If you’re using cardboard, a quick dip in hot water at 80-85 C should suffice.
  3. Lime Pasteurization
    Suitable substrates: Straw, cardboard, agri-waste such as shredded banana leaves, bamboo leaves, etc Time taken: 12-20 Hours

    1. Add hydrated lime (Ca[OH]) at a rate of around 2-2.5 g / Litre of water to 20 L
    2. 1.5 Kg of straw is then bagged in a sack and submerged in this water for 12-20 hours. (Keep a heavy object to make sure the straw stays submerged)
    3. After soaking, the straw is drained well to remove excess water and then inoculated as normal. 
    4. Excess lime water can be used for subsequent treatment batches, just be sure to add more lime as needed to maintain the proper pH (12-13).
  4. Cold Fermentation
    Suitable substrates: Straw Time taken: 7-14 days

    1. Submerge the straw in a drum filled with water for 7-14 days.
    2. The substrate will smell somewhat foul and the water surface will be covered in a thin layer of slime. This is good; it means that the fermentation was successful. 
    3. The substrate is then removed and suspended above the fermentation tank to drain until water stops dripping from the substrate.
  5. Ash Pasteurization
    Suitable substrates: Straw, wood ash, cardboard, agri-waste such as shredded banana leaves, bamboo leaves, etc. Time taken: 12-20 Hours

    1. Add Wood Ash at a rate of around 20g / Litre of water to 20L.
    2. Use a PH strip to ensure the PH is more than 10. If it is lower, add more ash.
    3. 1.6 Kg of straw is then bagged in a sack and submerged in this water for 12-20 hours. (Keep a heavy object to make sure the straw stays submerged)
    4. After soaking, the straw is drained well and then inoculated as normal.
  6. Autoclave/Pressure Cooker Sterilization
    Suitable substrates: ALL-hydrated substrates. Time taken: 30 – 180 Minutes (30 minutes for straw, 2-3 hours for nutrified sawdust)

    1. Put enough water in the bottom of the PC so that by the end of the pressure cooking there is still some water left at the bottom of the PC. For most runs, 0.5 inches (1.25 cm) of water is sufficient. Never run the pressure cooker dry!
    2. Place your materials in the PC and securely close the lid. If using a “rocker top” pressure release system, leave the weight off the vent port. If using a “petcock” pressure release, open the petcock. Turn the heat source to a level that requires 15 minutes to pass before steam begins to flow from the petcock or vent port. Heating the PC too rapidly can cause substrate bags to break.
    3. Allow a steady jet of steam to escape from the pressure release vent for 1-5 minutes and then place the weight on the vent port or close the petcock. This ensures that everything heats evenly. The PC will quickly come up to pressure in 5-15 minutes. Once the desired pressure is reached (typically 15 psi), reduce the heat level on the burner until the pressure stabilizes. It may take a few minutes of adjusting the heat to get it just right. If using a “rocker top;’ adjust the heat source so that the rocker maintains a slow, steady rocking motion and/or jiggles once a minute or so.
    4. Once the pressure is stabilized, start your timer. You will need to sit with the pressure cooker during the entire run to make sure the pressure remains constant and to adjust the heat accordingly. Cook your materials for the specified run time. If you are above 2000 feet (6000 m) in elevation you will need to add 5% to the cooking time for every 1,000 feet (300 m) (i.e. at 3,000 feet [900 m] add 5%, 4,000 feet (1,200 m] at 10%, etc.).
    5. When the run time is over, turn off the heat source and walk away to let the PC cool and de-pressurize on its own. I do much of my PC work at night so that everything is cooled by the following morning.

      Figure 2: Autoclave of 20L capacity
Figure 3: 200L vertical Autoclave
Figure 4: Industrial Scale Autoclave


Choosing between sterilization and pasteurization:

Both sterilization and pasteurization have pros and cons, as a cultivator you will have to choose one of the methods based on your constraints and requirements. Here are some fundamental differences between both approaches:

Figure 5: Pros and Cons of Pasteurization


Figure 6: Pros and cons of sterilization

5 Really easy ways to grow mushrooms at home

Here are 5 of the easiest and simplest ways to grow mushrooms at home. Please note that most of these methods are geared towards the cultivation of Oyster mushrooms as they are really aggressive and less prone to contamination. If you want to learn how to grow mushrooms like shiitake and lion’s mane you will need to use an autoclave or steam sterilizer. They also need to be inoculated under sterile conditions using a Laminar Air Flow or a Still Air Box.

There are many other ways to cultivate mushrooms out there but I find these 5 methods to be the simplest:

Method 1: Use a mushroom-growing kit

This is the easiest way to grow mushrooms. The best part about growing kits is that they come pre-inoculated with spawn and fully colonized. You can proceed to grow mushrooms from day one without waiting. There are many advantages in starting your home cultivation of mushrooms using growing kits-

  1. No risk of contamination: As the kits come pre-inoculated and colonized, the risk of contamination is eliminated.
  2. Saves time: The kit is ready to use from day 1 and you can save a lot of time (2-6 weeks) that would have otherwise gone into prep and incubation.
  3. Very convenient: The kits usually come with all materials and instructions included which means that you don’t need to spend time or effort in procuring any extra materials.
  4. Customer support: At Nuvedo we ensure that we help each and every one of our customers in their mushroom-growing journey. We have a support team who will help you troubleshoot and answer any queries you may have while you grow your mushrooms. Before you get started make sure you select the mushroom which is best suited for your location.
    At Nuvedo, we offer many different kits for home use including white, pink, and golden oyster mushrooms and even Lion’s mane. If you’re unsure which kit is suitable for your location please use this widget and enter the temperature and humidity at your location, the widget will then suggest the best kits for your location.
    What you need: Any fully colonized mushroom growing kit with a species of mushroom suitable for your location.Time taken: 5 minutes

    1. Find a good location to place your kit. Make sure it is clean, free from pests, and has ambient lighting, and enough fresh air.
    2. Cut a small  2-3 inch ‘X’ mark on the plastic cover.
    3. Mist with drinking water regularly (Make sure you don’t spray directly on the mushrooms themselves)
    4. Watch your mushrooms grow!
    5. Harvest the mushrooms when they’re ready!


Figure 7: Grey and Pink Oyster mushrooms grown using Nuvedo’s Mushroom Growing Kit

Pink oyster mushroom growing from Nuvedo's pink oyster mushroom growing kit
Figure 8:Pink Oyster mushrooms grown using Nuvedo’s Pink Oyster grow kit

White oyster mushroom growing from Nuvedo's fairy white oyster mushroom growing kit
Figure 9:White Oyster mushrooms grown using Nuvedo’s Fairy White grow kit

Method 2: Bucket Tek using straw

This technique is quite popular with both home growers and commercial cultivators and also eco-friendly since you avoid using single-use plastic completely. Here you use a reusable food-grade plastic bucket or container to house your substrate while the mycelium feeds on it. We will be using the lime pasteurization method to clean your substrate. Please note that this method of cultivation is best suited for oyster mushrooms.

What you need: 10L Paint bucket or food grade plastic container (PP5 is a really good plastic to use), 900g-1Kg straw, low magnesium hydrated lime powder or NuvoPast, scissors, micropore tape, isopropyl alcohol or any disinfectant of your choice. Our DIY Mushroom Growing Kit comes with most of the materials mentioned above including an information pamphlet and YouTube video which explains the entire process.

Time taken: 90-120 minutes


STEP 1: Cleaning and hydrating your substrate.

  1. Put 1 Kg chopped straw into a meshed bag/cloth bag/pillowcase
  2. Fill a 20-liter bucket with water, leaving a 2-3 inches gap from the top of the bucket
  3. Using a weighing scale, measure 25-30 grams of hydrated lime powder
  4. Mix the powder into the water thoroughly
  5. Put the substrate-filled bag into the bucket and place a heavy object on top to make sure that all of your substrates is submerged underwater
  6. Leave the substrate bag submerged for 12-20 hours
Figure 10: 20L water filled with water and NuvoPast


Figure 11: mix in 2 tablespoons of lime powder


Figure 12: Sack full of straw being submerged in hydrated lime water

STEP 2: Preparing the bucket

  1. Make 3-5 x 8mm diameter holes on the bucket as shown below. These holes are where the mushrooms will grow from
  2. Make 4 x 3mm holes at the bottom. This is for excess water to drain out of the substrate
  3. Clean the bucket and lid thoroughly with isopropyl alcohol or soap solution
  4. Tape all holes on the side wall of the bucket (not the holes below), with 2 layers of micropore tape. This is to ensure that no contaminants enter the bucket through these holes.

    Figure 13: Diameter and number of holes to be made


Figure 14: Sticking micropore tape

STEP 3: Inoculation

  1. Remove the bag with substrate from the bucket
  2. Squeeze the bag to remove excess water
  3. Take a fistful of the substrate and squeeze it. The straw should feel wet without any water dripping out of it. If the straw feels wet, it needs to be dried more before use
  4. Take the sanitized bucket and pack the bottom with a 5-6 cm thick layer of substrate
  5. Using the spawn packet provided, make an even thin layer of spawn above the substrate layer
  6. Alternate with layers of substrate and spawn and top off the bucket with a final layer of substrate
  7. Pack everything in and close the lid.
Figure 15: Alternating layers of spawn and substrate

Your mushroom growing bucket is now ready for incubation!


STEP 4: Incubation

Leave your bucket in a cool, dry, and hygienic place away from direct sunlight, for a period of 2-3 weeks. The mycelium slowly grows on the substrate and breaks it down to feed itself, over the next few weeks.

STEP 5: Inspection & Fruiting

  1. After the 3-week mark, open the bucket lid. The inside should be almost completely covered in white mycelium.
  2. If you can still see straw that has not been colonized, close the bucket and check it after a few days
  3. If you notice any discoloration such as green, blue, or pink, this means that your substrate has been contaminated. You will have to empty the bucket, clean thoroughly and start again
  4. Once your substrate has been completely colonized, open the micropore tape. This increases the airflow, triggering the mycelium to produce pins
  5. Spray the bucket with clean drinking water 2-3 times daily
  6. Watch the mushrooms grow!
  7. Harvest them at the right time to enjoy your first flush of oyster mushrooms!

    Figure 16: What your substrate should look like after 3 weeks


Figure 8: Pinset of white oyster mushrooms growing from a bucket


Figure 9: Fully matured White Oyster mushrooms grown using bucket tek, ready for harvest


Figure 17: Mature pink oyster mushrooms grown using Nuvedo DIY Mushroom Growing Kit ready for harvest



Method 3: Using hot water pasteurized sawdust pellets

In my opinion, this has to be the easiest and most foolproof way to grow mushrooms at home. You can use this method to grow all varieties of oysters and even some hardy medicinal varieties such as Reishi and Turkey tail (since they are aggressive colonizers). Other mushrooms such as shiitake, lion’s mane, enoki, etc can be grown on plain sawdust pellets but they need additional supplements such as soy hulls. Nutrified sawdust needs to be autoclaved to sterilize it well and they can only be inoculated inside a Laminar Air Flow or a Still Air Box which makes them hard to grow for beginners.

What you need: PP5 bag with breathable filter, 1 kg sawdust pellets, hot water, scissors, isopropyl alcohol or any disinfectant of your choice, and tape.
We have a DIY Mushroom Cultivation Kit which comes with all the inputs you need including a detailed instruction pamphlet that describes the process in depth! 

Time taken: 6-7 hours


STEP 1: Pasteurizing the substrate

  1. Add EXACTLY 1.5 Liters of boiling hot water inside the filter patch bag containing 1 Kg substrate pellets. This helps in pasteurizing and hydrating the substrate pellets
  2. Fold the top of the bag and tape it down with a piece of cello tape.
  3. Wait for 5-6 hours while the bag cools down to room temperature.

Figure 18: Adding hot water to substrate pellets

Figure 19: Taping the top of the bag while the substrate cools

STEP 2: Inoculation with grain spawn

  1. Sanitize your hands, scissors, and workspace with soap water/Isopropyl alcohol, or any other disinfectant
  2. Break up the spawn inside the packet and then cut open the packet using your scissors
  3. Remove the tape on the cooled bag of the substrate and add the spawn into it
  4. Fold the top of the bag over itself and tape it shut using cello tape. Ensure that no air can enter or leave the bag as it can lead to contamination
  5. Mix the spawn into the substrate from outside the bag using your hands


Figure 20: Adding grain spawn to hydrated and pasteurized wood pellets after cooling it down

Figure 21: Mixing the spawn and substrate after sealing the bag with tape

STEP 3: Incubation

  1. Move the bag to a cool, clean area away from direct sunlight and let it incubate for 15-21 days.

STEP 4: Fruiting

  1. Once the mycelium has completely colonized the bag, you can proceed to cut an X mark on the bag using a sharp knife or a blade.
  2. Spray clean, drinking water using the spray bottle provided on the plastic thrice a day
  3. Once the mushroom pins emerge, let them grow till they reach maximum size. Twist and pull gently to harvest!
Figure 22: ‘X’ shape of 2-3″ cut on the plastic

Method 4: Hot water pasteurized straw in plastic bags

This method is the most commonly used method to cultivate mushrooms in India. Most mushroom farms in India that grow Oyster mushrooms tend to boil their straw in order to pasteurize it. This is a fairly simple method but the only downside is that you need to have a heat source and a container large enough to fit 1kg of chopped straw.

What you need: Plastic bag (preferably food grade), 1Kg straw, scissors, micropore tape, isopropyl alcohol or any disinfectant of your choice, stove/induction cooker, needle or safety pin

Time taken: 2-3 hours


STEP 1: Cleaning and hydrating your substrate.

  1. Put 1 Kg chopped straw into a meshed bag/cloth bag/pillowcase
  2. Fill a 20-liter metallic vessel with water, leaving a 2-3 inches gap from the top of the bucket
  3. Put the substrate-filled bag into the bucket and place a heavy object on top to make sure that all of your substrates is submerged underwater
  4. Turn on the stove/hotplate and put it on high heat to bring the water to a boil
  5. Reduce the heat so that the temperature is maintained above 80 degrees
  6. Leave the substrate bag submerged for 2 hours

Figure 23: Chopped straw between 1-3 inches

Figure 24: Jute bag filled with straw being boiled

Image- https://cdn.bitlanders.com/users/galleries/315133/315133_gallery_551542dd62ea2_jpg_fa_rszd.jpg


STEP 2: Inoculation

  1. Remove the bag with substrate from the bucket and let it dry for 1-2 hours in a clean area.
  2. Squeeze the bag to remove excess water
  3. Take a fistful of the substrate and squeeze it. The straw should feel wet without any water dripping out of it. If the straw feels wet, it needs to be dried more before use
  4. If the spawn is clumped up, break it up into smaller pieces from the outside
  5. Take the plastic bag and pack the bottom with a 5-6 cm thick layer of substrate
  6. Use the crumbled spawn packet provided, make an even thin layer of spawn above the substrate layer
  7. Alternate with layers of substrate and spawn and top off the bag with a final layer of substrate
  8. Pack everything in and seal the top by folding it and taping it shut
  9. Using a small needle, poke 15-20 tiny holes around the bag (for best results we recommend you use a filter patch bag and heat seal it to prevent any contamination but for home cultivation of oyster mushrooms the technique mentioned above will work)

Your mushroom growing bag is now ready for incubation!

Figure 25: Plastic bag inoculated with spawn















STEP 4: Incubation

Leave your bag in a cool, dry, and hygienic place away from direct sunlight, for a period of 2-3 weeks. The mycelium slowly grows on the substrate and breaks it down to feed itself, over the next few weeks.

Figure 26:  After 3 weeks of incubation

Figure 27: Zoomed-in view of mycelial growth on substrate

STEP 5: Inspection & Fruiting

  1. After the 3-week mark, check the bag. The entire bag should be covered with white mycelium
  2. If you can still see large patches of straw which have not been colonized, let it incubate undisturbed for a few more days.
  3. If you notice any discoloration such as green, blue, or pink, this means that your substrate has been contaminated. You will have to discard the bag and start again
  4. Once your substrate has been completely colonized, use a pair of clean and sanitized scissors (Use soap water, or Isopropyl alcohol to clean the blades) to cut open an X-shaped slit on the bag. This increases the airflow, triggering the mycelium to produce pins
  5. Spray the bag with clean drinking water 2-3 times daily
  6. Watch the mushrooms grow!

Harvest them at the right time to enjoy your first flush of oyster mushrooms!

Figure 28: Flush of Elm Oyster mushrooms grown on pasteurized Ragi straw

Figure 29: Flush of Elm Oyster mushrooms grown on pasteurized Ragi straw


Method 5: Lime pasteurized sawdust pellets

This is another method of mushroom cultivation that makes use of sawdust pellets and is the same as hot pasteurization of sawdust pellets apart from one difference. The difference here is that you will be using hydrated lime powder to pasteurize your substrate instead of boiling hot water. This method doesn’t need any heating and can be done very easily at home. This is different from Bucket Tek since you don’t need to spend much time soaking or drying the substrate. The waiting time is much less- 3 hours compared to 6 hours of hot pasteurization and 12 hours of lime pasteurized straw in buckets.

What you need: PP5 bag with breathable filter, 1Kg sawdust pellet, low magnesium hydrated lime powder OR NuvoPast, scissors, isopropyl alcohol or any disinfectant of your choice, tape

Time taken: 90-120 minutes

STEP 1: Pasteurizing the substrate

  1. Add 2 heaped tablespoons of Pasteurization powder into EXACTLY 1.5 Liters of drinking water and mix well. Add this water to the filter patch bag containing 1 Kg substrate pellets. 
  2. Fold the top of the bag and tape it down with a piece of cello tape.
  3. Wait for 3 hours for the pellets to get hydrated and then mix the pellets and water mixture by applying pressure on the outside of the bag using your hands.

STEP 2: Inoculation with grain spawn

  1. Sanitize your hands, scissors, and workspace with soap water/Isopropyl alcohol, or any other disinfectant
  2. Break up the spawn inside the packet and then cut open the packet using your scissors
  3. Remove the tape on the cooled bag of the substrate and add the spawn into it
  4. Fold the top of the bag over itself and tape it shut using cello tape. Ensure that no air can enter or leave the bag as it can lead to contamination
  5. Mix the spawn into the substrate from outside the bag using your hands
  6. Move the bag to a cool, clean area away from direct sunlight and let it incubate for 15-21 days

STEP 3: Incubation

  1. Once the mycelium has completely colonized the bag, you can proceed to cut an X mark on the bag using a sharp knife or a blade.

STEP 4: Fruiting

  1. Spray clean, drinking water using the spray bottle provided on the plastic thrice a day
  2. Once the mushroom pins emerge, let them grow till they reach maximum size. Twist and pull gently to harvest!

What is the best way to fruit mushrooms?

Once you’re done with incubating your substrate bags, the next obvious question is how do I go about fruiting it? Well, each mushroom species has a specific fruiting condition in which it does best so it is important to ask your spawn vendor what the right conditions are for the strain they have provided. 

Fruiting conditions mean 4 parameters:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • CO2 levels
  • Light levels

The fruiting room should be clean and hygienic to start with. The room should have ample ventilation to ensure fresh air exchange. There should be enough light in the room- a window that allows sunlight during the day or even a lightbulb will do. Make sure the bulb doesn’t make the room too hot (unless you live in a place where temperatures are very low). As for the humidity, most mushrooms thrive in RH of >80% but anything above 60% will do. If you live in a really dry area you can try one of these hacks or you can consider investing in a small humidifier. Temperatures are hard to control without an Air Handling Unit or AC so please make sure you’re growing mushrooms that are suitable for your local microclimate. Please note that ACs tend to de-humidify the room, so in case you are using one make sure the humidifier is not directly in line with the flow of air from the AC! 

All the conditions mentioned above become critical when you’re cultivating mushrooms for commercial use at a slightly bigger scale. As a home user, you can get away with using a humidity tent or wrapping a wet towel around the base of the kit.


In closing, thank you for taking this journey through the world of mushroom cultivation with me. Your curiosity and interest have already set you on the path to a rewarding and exciting venture. Remember, as with any new endeavor, you might encounter challenges along the way, but rest assured, the satisfaction and joy derived from growing your own mushrooms will far outweigh any obstacles.

Should you find yourself with questions or seeking further clarification on any aspects of this guide, please don’t hesitate to comment below. Your insights, experiences, and queries enrich our community of mushroom enthusiasts and may very well inspire my next blog post.

Always keep in mind that mushroom cultivation, like any horticultural activity, is as much an art as it is a science. There isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, so I urge you to experiment and discover the methods and techniques that resonate best with your own unique situation. This blog is simply a stepping stone, a launchpad to your personal adventure in the realm of fungi.

Lastly, remember that the journey is just as important, if not more so, than the destination. Stay motivated, stay curious, and most importantly, enjoy every moment of the process. This journey of mushroom cultivation promises a world of discovery and I’m excited to hear about your triumphs and learnings along the way.

May your home teem with bountiful fungi and your spirit be enriched by the process.
Happy mushrooming!

Check out our Mushroom Cultivation Supplies to start your journey!

The Role of Women in Mycology: A Tribute

I. Introduction

This Women’s Day Month may we be fully aware that the relationship between science and women has been a hard one. While this blog will show some of the more popular names and the ones that paved the way, we must not forget that mycology as a field has been around long before it was even termed “mycology”. While I would refrain from calling myself a mycologist, I believe this field requires above all, a curious mind which is open to possibilities. Having spent a few years with mushrooms through Nuvedo and understanding their behavior – I continue to be enamored by their ways. As a woman, we’re often challenged in roles of leadership but we do jump from the shoulder of giants (female ones). I must take the opportunity to look back at the women who have contributed to the space and acknowledge their struggle in studying these organisms which even today defy our simplistic, reductionist attempts to categorize or generalize facts about them.
I must add though, that my blog is only a slice of the actual contribution that women have contributed to the space both present and past. Each time I’ve dug deeper I discovered so many incredible women doing the work of the mycelium making this blog, a work in progress. 

Women have been making significant contributions to the field of mycology, the study of fungi, for many years. However, their work has often been overshadowed by their male counterparts. In recent years, there has been a growing movement to recognize and celebrate the contributions of women in mycology. In this blog, we will explore the history of women in mycology, their current contributions, and the challenges they face. 

“Current estimates suggest that fewer than 10% of all fungal species have been described. It was only in 1969 that fungi were recognized as their own distinct kingdom of life, which has entrenched a disciplinary bias: There are fewer opportunities to research fungi than animals and plants. Even though fungal pathogens are on the rise, no vaccines have been developed against fungal infections, and the small number of existing antifungal drugs are becoming increasingly ineffective” as told by Giuliana Furci and Merlin Sheldrake in a recent TIME Magazine article.

Our early interactions with fungi go back to hunter-gatherer times when women were the central forces behind foraging. Often deemed to be the ones nuanced in skills of identification, while men would go out to hunt. Interestingly, a poem by Neil Gaiman captures exactly this essence of feminism about how “early scientists” found their way through the thick forests, carrying their babies and finding mushrooms.

The Mushroom Hunters" by Neil Gaiman - read by Amanda Palmer with music by Jherek Bischoff - YouTube

“The women, who did not need to run down prey,

had brains that spotted landmarks and made paths between them
left at the thorn bush and across the scree
and look down in the bole of the half-fallen tree,
because sometimes there are mushrooms.

The race continues. An early scientist
drew beasts upon the walls of caves
to show her children, now all fat on mushrooms
and on berries, what would be safe to hunt.

The men go running on after beasts.

The scientists walk more slowly, over to the brow of the hill
and down to the water’s edge and past the place where the red clay runs.
They are carrying their babies in the slings they made,
freeing their hands to pick the mushrooms.

II. History of Women in Mycology

Here’s a look at some of the historical women mycologists who had immense contributions to the field. Whether it was illustrating morphology or developing taxonomical research, quite a few key aspects have been tapped into:

  1. Beatrix Potter – Before she became a famous children’s author, Beatrix Potter was a passionate amateur mycologist who studied the life cycle of fungi and illustrated their morphology. She concluded on findings regarding lichen being a fungal-algae combination. Her repeated experimentation with fungi, led her to show the importance of the mycelium beneath the soil and the emergence of a lifecycle with spores.
    Helen Beatrix Potter was an English writer, illustrator, natural scientist, and conservationist.
    Helen Beatrix Potter was an English writer, illustrator, natural scientist, and conservationist.


    Anna Maria Hussey – Anna Maria Hussey was a British mycologist who collected and studied fungi from around the world in the mid-19th century. She was one of the few women who were allowed to attend scientific meetings in her time and worked with M. J. Berkley, to illustrate over 6,000 new species of fungi. For a woman at that time, to assist with identifications and supply him with specimens was a big deal. She also worked with mycologist M. C. Cooke, who cites Hussey in his 1875 Fungi: Their Nature and Uses and called her “friend”. Although published in the name of her husband, a significant contribution was made to Illustrations of British Mycology: Containing Figures and Descriptions of the Funguses of Interest and Novelty Indigenous to Britain.

  2. Marie-Anne Libert – Marie-Anne Libert was a Belgian botanist and mycologist who lived in the 19th century. She was the first woman to describe and illustrate the genus Agaricus, which includes many edible and poisonous mushrooms.
    Marie-Anne Libert was a Belgian botanist and mycologist. She was one of the first women plant pathologists.
    Marie-Anne Libert was a Belgian botanist and mycologist. She was one of the first women plant pathologists.


  3. Mary Elizabeth Banning: Mary Elizabeth Banning was an American mycologist who lived in the early 20th century. She was the first woman to earn a PhD in mycology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focused on the taxonomy and ecology of fungi, and she discovered several new species of fungi. Much like many women in her time, her works remained unrecognized however, now her remarkable and significant book of watercolor illustrations of mushrooms (including some species new to science), has become popular. 
Illustration of Agaricus brownei by Mary Elizabeth Banning (unpublished, 'plate 32', catalog i-542). Courtesy New York State Museum, Albany, NY. 
Illustration of Agaricus brownei by Mary Elizabeth Banning (unpublished, ‘plate 32’, catalog i-542). Courtesy New York State Museum, Albany, NY.


5. Marie Curie-Another pioneer in the field of mycology was Marie Curie, who is best known for her work on radioactivity. However, she also made significant contributions to the study of fungi, including discovering a process for isolating pure cultures of yeast.

Marie Salomea Skłodowska–Curie was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity.
Marie Salomea Skłodowska–Curie was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity.

6. Elsie Maud Wakefield, an extraordinary scientist who served as Head of Mycology at Kew for 40 years. Wakefield studied the fundamentals of fungal sexuality by pairing colonies that developed from mushroom spores. She was a specialist in Basidiomycetes and an international authority on Aphyllophorale. Her dedication in setting up the Herbarium at Kew elicited Wakefieldia and Wakefieldiomycesare as two genera named in her honor.

Selection of E M Wakefield fungi sketches
Field sketches by Elsie Wakefield
Field sketch by Wakefield
Field sketches by Elsie Wakefield
Amanita muscarias by Wakefield
Two illustrations of Amanita muscarias, watercolour on paper, 1940s, Elsie Wakefield (1886-1972)


III. Indian Women in Mycology

While the scientists that I will list below have come out in recent years with incredible work, I am taking a moment to acknowledge the tribal women in India. India has the biggest Adivasi population in the world – in these communities lie plenty of  “mycologists” doing work in understanding their intricate role in our ecosystems, their multitude of medicinal properties and also working with mushrooms to create culinary delights that many are yet to taste. Women in tribal communities in India have played important roles in the collection, processing, and consumption of forest products, including mushrooms and fungi. In many cases, women are the primary guardians of forests and that it provides, and their knowledge and skills are essential for the sustainable use and preservation of these organisms and their intricate relationships with the forest ecosystem.

For example, a study published in the Journal of Economic Botany in 2003 documented the traditional knowledge and practices of women in the Kumaon region of northern India in relation to wild mushrooms. The study found that women in this region were skilled at identifying and harvesting different mushroom species, and had developed a range of techniques for preserving and cooking mushrooms. The study also noted that women were the primary caretakers of the forests in the region, and played a key role in the conservation of forest resources.
Very interestingly, a recent study in the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry showcased the role of women in mushroom farming and the development of a gender-sensitive entrepreneurship model for enhancing income. This study was done in Demando and Baliapada villages from the Cuttack district of Odisha. Findings demonstrated that there was a strong correlation between the success of a farm and the number of women stakeholders involved.

  1. Dr. Meera Pandey – Dr. Pandey is a mycologist and researcher who has conducted extensive research on the biodiversity and ecology of fungi in India. Her work focuses on the use of molecular tools for the identification and classification of fungi, as well as their role in soil ecosystems. Having also trained under her, I do believe her expertise and passion for the field have been immense.
  2. Seema Sangwan– Dr. Sangwan is a mycologist and professor at Indian Agricultural Research Institute in India. Her research focuses on the diversity and ecology of fungi, particularly those that are important for agriculture. She has also conducted research on the use of fungi in bioremediation and the dynamic interactions of plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.
  3. Veena Prakash – Veena Prakash is an Indian mycologist who has made significant contributions to the study of fungal taxonomy and biodiversity in India. She has authored numerous research papers and has been actively involved in the documentation and conservation of fungal diversity in India.
  4. Latha Rangan – Latha Rangan is an Indian mycologist who has published several research papers on the identification and classification of fungal species and has been actively involved in promoting the study of fungal diversity and taxonomy in India. Her work in mycoremediation and sustainable agricultural practices is one to note. Her paper published, focused on soil amendment techniques, which use biochar in combination with Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), which is an indispensable biotic component that maintains the plant-soil continuum.
  5. Dr. Bina Gupta, has worked on the diversity of fungal species in India, including the taxonomy and ecology of rust fungi, which are important plant pathogens. She has also contributed to the understanding of fungal endophytes, which are fungi that live inside plants without causing any harm to the host plant.
  6. Dr.Vrinda K.B. is another prominent woman mycologist in India who has worked for 30 years on the mushroom taxonomy and characterization of species across the state of Kerala.
Field work by Dr. Meera Pandey
Field work by Dr. Meera Pandey

IV. Current state of women in mycology

Today, there are many women working in mycology and making important contributions to the field, including Dr. Kathie T. Hodge, an associate professor of mycology at Cornell University. A recently notable work that has created some waves is the connection she found between the fungus Cordyceps subsessilis (exceedingly rare beetle pathogen)  and Tolypocladium inflatum which a mould that grew on this particular fungi. Back at the lab, its spores germinated to form colonies Tolypocladium inflatum which is infact the source of the important immunosuppressant drug cyclosporin.

Dr. Anne Pringle, a professor of botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who studies the invasion & conservation biology of fungi specifically, the death cap mushroom Amanita phalloides as a model. Her work is involved in conservation, which is a rapidly developing focus for research with microbes. This interdisciplinary approach to conservation aims to facilitate dialogue among the diverse stakeholders who care about fungi. She urges stakeholders to collect “baseline” data documenting fungal biodiversity and the impacts of the movement of soils and fungi by humans over the last century. 

As I mentioned above, mycology is not limited to a mere formal study or research but to art and awareness like the works of Marion Neumann. Her documentary, The Mushroom Speaks, explores the healing qualities of fungi and their ability to regenerate. To offer ideas of interconnectedness and collaboration, her deeply emotional documentary is what we need today, to build the emergent culture surrounding fungi.

Visuals from The Mushroom Speaks
Visuals from documentary The Mushroom Speaks

Mycologists like Dr. Rachel Swenie, are studying the impact of fungal pathogens on crops as well as taxonomical updates to current fungi. Last year she worked on describing a new species, Cantharellus vicinus, an oak-associated chanterelle known only from lower-elevation areas in east Tennessee, USA based on phylogenetic and morphological data.

A well-known mycologist, activist, and key inspiration for me, is Giuliana Furci who founded the worlds first NGO dedicated to fungi. Giuliana was also the first female mycologist of non-lichenized fungi in Chile. She was self-taught for 16 years. Giuliana has co-authored 14 research papers, including the one delimiting the term “Funga”, the latter being the initial point for the FFF Initiative (Fauna, Flora, Funga) which advocates for the use of mycologically-inclusive language worldwide.

The Chilean mycologist celebrating fungi's "hidden kingdom" - BBC Travel
Furci calls Chile a “fungi hotspot”, noting that there are few better places on Earth to study these organisms

Some very young scientists, like Anne Pringle, an American mycologist who studies the ecology and evolution of fungi in natural ecosystems. Her research has helped to elucidate the role of fungi in nutrient cycling and has contributed to our understanding of the impacts of climate change on fungal communities.

Despite so many years of research and work put into mycology, we see challenges with the lack of support for women in the field. Women may face barriers to funding, networking, and mentorship, which can make it difficult for them to advance in their careers.

The underrepresentation of women in STEM fields has been a longstanding issue, and while progress has been made in recent years, there are still significant challenges that women face. One of the most pervasive of these is unconscious bias, which can manifest in hiring, promotion, and evaluation decisions, and can perpetuate gender stereotypes that discourage women from pursuing STEM careers. For example, studies have shown that men are often evaluated more positively for the same work as women and are more likely to be given credit for their ideas.

Harassment is another challenge that women in STEM fields face. Studies have found that women in STEM are more likely to experience sexual harassment than women in other fields, and that this can lead to a lack of confidence, a loss of interest in STEM careers, and even mental health issues. Moreover, women of color and LGBTQ+ women are often subjected to even more severe forms of harassment and discrimination.

Addressing these challenges requires a multi-pronged approach that involves education, policy changes, and cultural shifts. For example, organizations can implement unconscious bias training and diversity programs, as well as policies that make it clear that harassment will not be tolerated. Additionally, creating more inclusive and supportive work environments can help women feel valued and supported in their STEM careers. Ultimately, it is essential to work towards a cultural shift that challenges gender stereotypes and promotes gender equity in STEM fields.

IV. The importance of diverse perspectives in mycology

Women have also contributed to the field through their innovative research, which has led to important discoveries about fungal biology and ecology. Women have made significant contributions to the study of fungi, bringing unique perspectives and insights to the field.

In my opinion, mycology as a field has broken some of the biggest barriers in explaining traditional ecology. Proposed by Patricia Kaishian and Hasmik Djoulakian who explains, “science of mycology through a queer theory framework with the intention of situating the state of the field in a historical and social context. Our scientific understanding of mushrooms and other fungi have been shaped and indeed impeded by mycophobia, a condition of fear and revulsion that we compare here to queerphobia.”

Dr. Patricia Kaishian
Dr. Patricia Kaishian is a mycologist and Visiting Professor of Biology at Bard College in NY.

“Mycology is a science that, by its very nature, challenges paradigms and deconstructs norms. Mycology disrupts our mostly binary conception of plants versus animals, two-sex mating systems, and discrete organismal structure, calling upon non-normative, multimodal methodologies for knowledge acquisition. Mycelium is the web-like network of fungal cells that extends apically through substrate, performing sex, seeking nutrients, and building multi-species and multi-kingdom symbioses,” writes Patricia.






Calculus of an Infinite Rot, Part 1, created for 2022 Rhubarb Festival in Toronto, Ling selected 35 tree stumps and had them shaped in various ways to host fungal and bacterial cultures.

Through different mediums of art, including performance arts, artists tend to become mycologists in their own way by using their work to explore the world of fungi and challenge the norms of society. Much like the installation of Calculus of an infinite rot by architect and researcher Andrea Shin Ling that taps into of the connection between decay and regeneration. “Decay and regeneration are paired processes, where the entropy of one system is used for the organization of another. Through decay, the differentiation occurs between humans, trees, insects, and microbes blurs, as parts of us become parts of them and vice versa, in a process that is leaky, smelly, and messy,” explains Ling.
Exposing people to the rot of 34 stumps of fallen trees, injected with fungal and bacterial injections, she has created an olfactory experience to stay and embrace what we must know as an integral part of death and decay. A strongly moving piece that I could not help but add out here.

Whether it’s art or science, there is no difference. Dr. Joan Bennett is a pioneer in the study of fungal genetics and the role of fungi in the environment. Her research has led to a greater understanding of how fungi interact with their surroundings and the important ecological functions they serve. The Bennett laboratory studies the genetics and physiology of filamentous fungi. In addition to mycotoxins and other secondary metabolites, research focuses on the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by fungi. These low molecular weight compounds are responsible for the familiar odors associated with the molds and mushrooms. Similarly, Dr. Lynn Margulis revolutionized our understanding of the evolution of eukaryotic cells by proposing the endosymbiotic theory, which suggests that eukaryotic cells evolved from the merging of different types of cells, including fungi.  Integrating fungi into education like what Sue Van Hook an educator and founder of the company “Mushroom Maestros,” offers classes and workshops on mushroom cultivation.

Women have also brought important perspectives to the study of mycology, the branch of biology that focuses on the study of fungi. For example, women have been instrumental in promoting the study of mycology from an interdisciplinary perspective, integrating knowledge from fields such as ecology, genetics, and chemistry to gain a deeper understanding of fungi and their roles in the environment.

Overall, the contributions of women to the study of fungi have been vital, bringing unique perspectives and insights to the field and driving important advances in our understanding of fungal biology, ecology, and potential applications. The role of women in mycology is crucial for understanding the complex and fascinating world of fungi. Today, we pay tribute to the brilliant female minds that have advanced our knowledge in this field. It’s time to push mushroom queens to the forefront and elevate their voices and perspectives. We need more women writing about their experiences in mycology, sharing their knowledge and expertise, and inspiring the next generation of female mycologists. 

#MushroomQueens #FungiFridas #WomenWhoMoldMinds

Other References:

  1. “Women in Mycology: A Study from India” by Jitendra Kumar, Manju Sharma, and Jai Prakash Sharma. Journal of Mycology, 2016. This article discusses the role of women in mycology in India, including their contributions to the field and the challenges they face.
  2. “Mushrooming Women Entrepreneurs in India: A Study of Socio-Economic Empowerment through Mycology” by Jaya Jaitly and Vijay Kumar. Journal of Entrepreneurship Education, 2016. This article explores the growing trend of women entrepreneurs in the mushroom industry in India, and how mycology has become a tool for their economic empowerment.
  3. “Mycology in India: A Review” by S.K. Singh, S.B. Singh, and M. Ojha. Mycological Progress, 2012. This review article provides an overview of the history of mycology in India, including the contributions of women scientists.
  4. “Women in Mycology: Diversity, Challenges and Opportunities” by Joan W. Bennett. Mycologia, 2019. This article discusses the underrepresentation of women in mycology globally and provides recommendations for increasing diversity and equity in the field.

Beta Glucan: The Immune Boosting Wonder You’ve Been Searching For (Part 2/3)

Beta Glucans: What are they really?

Mushroom extracts are all the craze today. Have you ever wondered what are in these extracts? What do you as a consumer look out for when you buy a product? The answer to these questions is not very simple as there are an array of different bioactive molecules which give mushrooms their functional benefits. The three main classes of biomolecules being- polysaccharides, terpenes and phenolics.  In this blog we will delve deeper into the world of polysaccharides, an important class of compounds that are responsible for giving mushrooms a lot of their healing properties. However, please do keep in mind that all polysaccharides are not the same, as we will see later in this blog. Our primary focus here will be Beta glucans, which are the main functional components of mushroom polysaccharides

In our previous blog we had a look at the intricacies of the fungal cell wall. The three major layers (Chitin, beta glucans and mannoproteins) are intertwined into a dynamic barrier that has stood the tests of time and allowed fungi to thrive (See Figure 1). Having evolved with fungi for billions of years, our immune systems recognize these cell wall components as a threat and spring into action. These molecules are what give mushroom extracts their immuno-modulatory function. A major active ingredient in these extracts are the beta glucans. They are polysaccharides that form the middle layer of the fungal cell wall (Layer 2 in Fig 1). 


Cell wall


Fig 1: Cartoon representation of a Candida albicans (yeast) cell wall (Source)


Beta glucans are incredibly diverse in their composition and function. Different mushrooms contain different beta glucan molecules. To fully understand these differences, we will be exploring these polysaccharides from a molecular perspective. 

In this blog we will deconstruct the polysaccharide molecule and understand how they are named. We will also explore some of the common beta glucans obtained from mushrooms and their health benefits. By the end of this blog we hope that you will have a much better understanding of what beta glucans are and what to look for in your own research.

Before we delve into the details of beta glucans, we must first understand the term polysaccharide.

What are Polysaccharides

Any molecule composed of long chains of carbohydrates strung together is known as a polysaccharide (“poly” = ‘Many’, “Saccharide” = ‘Sugar’). These chains are made of sugars called monosaccharides. The most common examples of monosaccharides are glucose, mannose, fructose, galactose and xylose. Our beloved table sugar is in fact made up of glucose and fructose. Each molecule of sugar (sucrose) consists of one glucose and one fructose molecule. Since there are two monosaccharides in sucrose, it is known as a disaccharide. When the number of monosaccharides exceeds twelve the molecule is known as a polysaccharide. 

Sucrose figure

Fig 2: Sucrose, a disaccharide made of D-Glucose and D-Fructose


Glucose: The building blocks of beta glucans

To understand how polysaccharides are named, we must first look at the molecular structure of a polysaccharide molecule. We start with the humble glucose molecule. Glucose is nature’s preferred fuel source. Almost all living things break down glucose within their cells to generate ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is the energy source for biochemical reactions. 

Structure of a Glucose Molecule

Glucose consists of 6 carbon atoms, 12 hydrogen atoms and 6 oxygen atoms giving it the molecular formula of C6H12O6. The carbon atoms are arranged in a 6-member chain with the oxygen and hydrogen atoms sticking out from the central chain. Every carbon atom is attached to at least one hydrogen atom and either an alcohol (-OH) or ketone (=O) functional group. The distribution of these functional groups determines the name of the monosaccharide. Glucose is specifically the 6- carbon monosaccharide which has an arrangement of atoms as depicted in the figure below.

Fig 3: Structure of a D-glucose molecule in the open-chain format


Many Forms of Glucose

If one were to change the orientation of the -OH and -H molecules on any of the carbon atoms, we would obtain a different monosaccharide. For example, galactose and mannose have the same number of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen molecules as glucose but with different arrangements. Such molecules are known as isomers. Hence, mannose and galactose are isomers of glucose.

Fig 4: Isomers of D-glucose depicted in the open-chain format highlighting the distribution of functional groups across each molecule


The Ring of Power

In reality however, these monosaccharide molecules do not exist as open- chains. The first and fifth carbon atoms in the chain fold over to form a hexagonal structure with the oxygen atom forming a bridge between these carbon atoms. This is the functional form of the D-glucose molecule. 

Fig 5: The folding of an open-chain glucose molecule to a hexagonal glucopyranose unit


What’s in a Name?

Glycosidic Bonding

Now that we have a basic understanding of the structure of the monosaccharides, we can begin to understand how they link together to form polysaccharides. The bonds that link these monosaccharide molecules to one another are called glycosidic linkages or glycosidic bonds. These linkages are traditionally formed between the alcohol (-OH) containing first, third, fourth or sixth carbon atoms. So when a bond is called a 1 → 4 glycosidic bond, it indicates that the first and fourth carbon atoms of adjacent molecules are participating in the bond formation. 

Alpha or Beta?

Another important aspect of the bond is its orientation. The roman letter alpha (𝛼) or beta (𝛽) are used to indicate this orientation. This can be better understood by considering the two disaccharides in the image below. Let us begin by imagining the ring to be a plane with the functional groups sticking out above and below this plane.

Figure 6 a) represents the link formed between adjacent D-glucose molecules in a Maltose molecule. The first and fourth carbon atoms of the adjacent glucose molecules partake in a 1→ 4 glycosidic bond. The (-OH) groups taking place in the bond lie on the same plane below the hexagonal ring structure. Bonds taking place in the same plane are termed 𝛼-glycosidic bonds. Therefore Maltose exhibits an 𝛼 (1→4) glycosidic bond between its two glucose monosaccharides.

In contrast Lactose molecules (Fig 6 b)) are linked through 𝛽 (1→4) glycosidic bonds. The (-OH) molecules from galactose and glucose that take place in this bond formation lie on opposite sides of the hexagonal ring structure. This bond therefore forms across this plane. 

Fig 6: a) The combination of two D-glucose molecules via an 𝛼 (1→4) glycosidic bond results in the formation of a Maltose molecule

b) The combination of D-galactose and D-glucose molecules via a 𝛽 (1→4) glycosidic bond results in the formation of a Lactose molecule

While this terminology can be rather confusing, the important thing to remember is that 𝛼 glycosidic bonds form on the same plane while 𝛽 glycosidic bonds form across two different planes. This difference contributes to very different three-dimensional conformations for the two kinds of bonds. 𝛼 bonds are more linear resulting in tightly packed structures as in the case of amylose (a component of cellulose), while 𝛽 bonds are more flexible and tend to rotate into helical shapes like in the case of chitin. 

Different kinds of beta glucans

The above examples demonstrate the different kinds of bonds that can form between monosaccharide molecules. However, when we talk about bioactive polysaccharides from mushrooms, we are specifically interested in beta glucans. 

Mushroom beta glucans are those polysaccharides that consist of glucose molecules linked together via 𝛽 (1→3) and 𝛽 (1→6) glycosidic bonds. This is an important distinguishing factor since beta glucans are also found in a wide variety of plant foods such as barley and oats.

These plant beta glucans consist primarily of 𝛽 (1→3) and 𝛽 (1→4) glycosidic linkages. The 𝛽 (1→4) linkages result in a more linear and packed structure. As a result, these plant glucans are harder to break down in our digestive tracts. They thus contribute to the beneficial insoluble fibers that nourish our microbiome.

Beta glucan diversity

Beta glucans are found in all fungi, including yeasts. Different fungi have different glucan compositions. Ascomycete fungi such as Cordyceps contain glucans that have varying amounts of glucose, galactose and mannose. Basidiomycete fungi such as oyster mushrooms, Reishi, Turkey tail and Shiitake have predominantly glucose in their glucan molecules with minor contributions from the other monosaccharides.

The ratios in which the different monosaccharides are found in the glucan molecules affect both their structures as well as their bioactivities. The different configurations and branching structures of beta glucans lead to differences in their effects on our health. These effects vary considerably from species to species. It is therefore not surprising that the species of mushrooms that have been used for medicinal purposes for the last two to three thousand years are also the ones which have the highest beta glucan content. 

We always recommend our readers to look for beta glucan content in their mushroom extracts. Polysaccharide content does not imply beta glucans.

Common sources of beta glucans and their health benefits

If you’ve ever consumed a mushroom, you have consumed beta glucans. Many of the health benefits of consuming mushrooms come from the beta glucans. As beta glucans are an essential part of the fungal cell wall (see blog), every cell of the mushroom contains beta glucans. This makes them very easy to incorporate into our diets. All we have to do is consume mushrooms, although some ways of consumption lead to better absorption compared to others.

Oyster mushrooms 

Oyster mushrooms are robust and easy to grow. They are a beginner friendly mushroom to try growing at home. They grow happily on almost any plant based substrate and are ready to burst out fruiting within a few weeks. (if you want to grow your own at home try our mushroom growing kits)

Fig 7: Pleurotus ostreatus (Pearl oyster mushroom) [image illustration]

Pleuran is a beta glucan isolated from Pleurotus ostreatus (Pearl Oyster Mushroom). It has been shown to have an immunomodulatory effect while also being beneficial for skin, gut and respiratory health. It also has antiviral activity.

Fig 8: Molecular structure of Pleuran, a 𝛽 glucan extracted from oyster mushrooms (Source)

Shiitake Mushroom

Shiitake mushrooms are another edible variety that is rich in beta glucans. It has long been consumed by cultures of the far East and is revered both for its culinary and medicinal properties. 

Fig 9: Lentinula edodes (Shiitake mushroom) [image illustration]

Lentinan is a beta glucan isolated from Lentinus edodes (Shiitake Mushroom). It has  potent immunomodulatory effects. This in turn promotes the body’s own anti-cancer, antiviral and antimicrobial abilities. It is one of the most well understood beta glucans. Its widespread use is restricted by the difficulty of extraction of this molecule.

Fig 10: Molecular structure of Lentinan, a 𝛽 glucan extracted from shiitake mushrooms (source)

Maitake Mushroom

The Hen of the woods, also known as Maitake in Japan, is well known for its delicious taste and aroma. However it is also rich in beta glucans that provide immunomodulatory, antidiabetic. antiviral and antitumor properties.

Fig 11: Grifola frondosa (Maitake mushroom) [image illustration]


Grifolan is a beta glucan isolated from Grifola frondosa (Hen of the Woods mushroom). It has strong antitumor activity.

Reishi Mushroom

Apart from edible varieties, most medicinal mushrooms are particularly rich in beta glucans. The Reishi mushroom, also known as the herb of immortality in traditional Chinese medicine, has a very high beta glucan content. These beta glucans are in part responsible for the legendary immunomodulatory properties of Reishi mushroom extracts.

Fig 11: Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) [image illustration]

Ganoderan is a beta glucan isolated from Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom). It possesses antitumor, hypoglycemic, antioxidant, probiotic and immunomodulatory properties. 


Table 1: List of mushrooms with their beta glucans and associated health benefits

In this article we delved into the structural details of beta glucans. We took apart the differences between polysaccharides and beta glucans and looked at how the glucose molecule forms the fundamental building block for most beta glucan molecules of fungal origin. Finally, we explored some of the commonly studied beta glucans and the mushrooms they came from. 

Beta glucans are extremely diverse in their structure. No two mushroom species will have the same beta glucan composition. These differences allow the extracts obtained from different mushroom species to have different health effects. In recent years many clinical trials have been initiated to investigate the relevance of beta glucan supplementation. Traditional healers swear by the healing powers of functional mushrooms. Modern medicine is attempting to verify and specify the use cases where these fungi can have maximum impact. 

A major challenge lies in obtaining large quantities of pure beta glucan molecules. Only about 20% of the beta glucans are soluble without significant heating. Beta glucans consumed in the form of whole mushrooms are harder to digest. Extraction is a method of enriching beta glucans and increasing their bioavailability

Many mushroom extracts represent their concentration as ratios or in terms of polysaccharide content. These are misleading terms and do not indicate the effectiveness of the extracts. We always recommend that one checks specifically for beta glucan content when inspecting an extract for potential health benefits. Always remember that polysaccharides do not imply beta glucans.

Modern extraction methods aim to maximize and standardize beta glucan content per dose. In our next blog we will explore the latest extraction technologies and how they can help improve beta glucan yields.


Š. Karácsonyi and Ľ. Kuniak. 1994. “Polysaccharides of Pleurotus ostreatus: Isolation and structure of pleuran, an alkali-insoluble β-d-glucan”. DOI: 10.1016/0144-8617(94)90019-1

Milos Jesenak et. al. 2015. “β-Glucan-based cream (containing pleuran isolated from pleurotus ostreatus) in supportive treatment of mild-to-moderate atopic dermatitis”. DOI: 10.3109/09546634.2015.1117565

Ingrid Urbancikova et. al. 2020. “Efficacy of Pleuran (β-Glucan from Pleurotus ostreatus) in the Management of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Infection”. DOI: 10.1155/2020/8562309

Juraj Majtan. 2013. “Pleuran (β- Glucan from Pleurotus ostreatus): An Effective Nutritional Supplement against Upper Respiratory Tract Infections?”. DOI” 10.1159/000341967

Yangyang Zhang et. al. 2011. “Advances in lentinan: Isolation, structure, chain conformation and bioactivities”. DOI: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2010.02.001

Takuma Sasaki and Nobuo Takasuka. “Further study of the structure of lentinan, an anti-tumor polysaccharide from Lentinus edodes”. DOI: 10.1016/S0008-6215(00)83552-1

Yiran Zhang et. al. 2018. “Lentinan as an immunotherapeutic for treating lung cancer: a review of 12 years clinical studies in China”. DOI: 10.1007/s00432-018-2718-1

Hiroshi Hikino et. al. 1989. “Mechanisms of Hypoglycemic Activity of Ganoderan B: A Glycan of Ganoderma lucidum Fruit Bodies”. DOI: 10.1055/s-2006-962057

Hiroshi Hikino et. al. 1985. “Isolation and Hypoglycemic Activity of Ganoderans A and B, Glycans of Ganoderma lucidum Fruit Bodies”. DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-969507

Masashi Tomoda et. al. 1986. “Glycan structures of ganoderans b and c, hypoglycemic glycans of ganoderma lucidum fruit bodies”. DOI: 10.1016/S0031-9422(00)83748-6

Xue-Song Yang et. al. 2009. “Effects of Ganoderan on the dysbacteria in intestinal tract of mice”. DOI: 10.1096/fasebj.23.1_supplement.980.2

Weifeng Wang et. al. 2019. “Ganoderan (GDN) Regulates The Growth, Motility And Apoptosis Of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Cells Through ERK Signaling Pathway In Vitro And In Vivo”. DOI: 10.2147/OTT.S221161

Yifeng Zhang et. al. 2013. “Schizophyllan: A review on its structure, properties, bioactivities and recent developments”. DOI: 10.1016/j.bcdf.2013.01.002

The Structure and Function of Fungal Cell Walls: An Overview

Just like plant cells and unlike animal cells, fungi possess a cell wall. The cell wall is nothing but a protective layer within which all of the cellular components are housed. It acts as a protective shield that allows a fungal cell to carry out its functions without threat of destruction from external stresses. While it is easy to think of the cell wall as just a hard shell like that of a tortoise or turtle, this could not be farther from the truth. The cell wall is a highly dynamic and responsive organ of the fungal cell. This dynamic organ is both a target of antifungal drugs and enabler of immune evasion. It also contributes to a majority of the functional benefits we obtained by the consumption of mushroom and mushroom based products. It is constantly changing in response to stimuli and is key to the survival of a fungus. In this blog we will get an idea of the composition of the cell wall.


What is the cell wall


The cell wall of a fungus can be distinguished into two layers: an inner rigid layer and an outer fluid layer. The inner layer forms the structural component of the cell wall. It determines the shape and size of the fungal cell and it prevents the cell from bursting by taking in too much water.


The cell wall is located outside the cell membrane. Ninety percent of the cell wall is composed of polysaccharides. Polysaccharides are long chains of carbohydrate molecules known as monosaccharides bonded together to form a polymer. The most common monosaccharide molecule found in fungal polysaccharides is glucose. Galactose and mannose are also found in lesser proportions. Individual monosaccharides are connected to each other through glycosidic linkages. Polysaccharides are named based on their monosaccharide composition and the nature of the glycosidic bonds between the monosaccharides. 


The remaining ten percent of the cell wall may be made up of proteins, lipids and other minor biomolecules. The three major polysaccharide components of the fungal cell wall are: mannoproteins, beta glucans and chitin. Let’s have a look at these three in a bit more detail.

Cell Wall Components

Cell wall


Fig: Cartoon representation of a Candida albicans (yeast) cell wall (Source)


Layer 1: Mannoproteins

Mannoproteins form the outermost layer of the cell wall. This layer consists of polysaccharide chains composed mainly of mannose. A variety of proteins can be found attached to these mannan chains and therefore they are called mannoproteins. This layer is more fluid and porous than the other layers. As the outermost layer, it serves the important function of interacting with the surroundings of the fungal cell. The composition of this layer is highly variable across different fungal species and therefore the least is known about this layer.

Layer 2: Beta GlucansBeta glucan figure

Fig: Representative structure of fungal beta glucans consisting of long 𝛃 (1-3) chains with short branches of 𝛃 (1-6) linked D-Glycopyranosyl units (Source)

The next layer of the cell wall is made up of the famous beta glucans. These form the core structure of the cell wall and form the link between the inner rigid layer and the outer flexible layer. They are composed of long chains of glucose molecules linked to each other via 𝛃 (1→3) glycosidic bonds. These long chains contain short branches also composed of glucose which are linked through 𝛃 (1→6) glycosidic bonds. This results in the formation of a mesh or net-like structure in which other components such as proteins can be embedded.

Layer 3: ChitinChitin structure

Fig: Representative structure of a chitin molecule consisting of 𝛃 (1-4) linked N-acetyl-Glucosamine (Source)


The innermost layer of the cell wall is composed of chitin. This is the most rigid part of the cell wall. Chitin is the most abundant molecule in the cell wall. Chitin and beta glucans are bound together and form the structural part of the cell wall. The chitin molecules form short chains organised into structures known as fibrils. 

These are helical structures that wind around each other (much like a rope). The fibrils of chitin assemble to form tightly packed sheets.  Due to this packing it acts as the protective layer of the cell wall, shielding the cell membrane from the harsh outer environment. The beta glucans are found attached to these chitin sheets.

Chitin is the oldest component of the fungal cell wall, surviving through evolution to become the most abundant molecule in the cell wall. Many fungi develop thick chitin layers when the cells are exposed to stress. 

The ratios of the different cell wall components are highly variable based on the fungal species. This species to species variation is sometimes used in their identification. 

Functions of the cell wall

The cell wall performs many functions in the fungal cell. Its most obvious function is protection. It also acts as the main structural backbone of the fungal cell, determines the shape and size of the cell and helps some fungi evade immune responses.

By forming a multilayered barrier around the fungal cell, the cell wall helps the cell withstand stressful conditions. The cell walls respond to different stresses by altering their composition. For instance, research shows that Aspergillus niger cells can increase the chitin composition of their cell walls by 2.5 times when they are starved. This results in the formation of a thick protective layer that allows the fungus to survive till it encounters a new nutrient source.

As fungi often live in highly variable environments, the composition of molecules such as salts and minerals are constantly changing in their surroundings. The change in salt concentrations lead to the formation of diffusion gradients which result in changing water levels within the cell. In conditions of low salt, the fungal cell swells up due to increased water content. As the cell swells, the cell membrane pushes against the cell wall and exerts pressure on it. These internal pressures can reach as high as 10 MPa in certain fungi. This is 20 times the normal atmospheric pressure! Without the cell walls, the cells would burst.

Fungi which form mycelial threads have elongated cells attached end to end and form highways for the transport of nutrients and water from one end to another. This movement of nutrients is essential to the maintenance of soil ecology. 

The fungal cell wall is of immense importance to human health. As it is the interface between the fungus and the external world, it acts as a beacon to our immune system indicating an infection. Most of the major components of the fungal cell wall can be detected by proteins on human immune cells. Upon detection, the immune cells release signaling molecules that inform the immune system of a fungal invasion and trigger an immune response. 

To take advantage of this directed immune response, many pathogenic fungi have evolved mechanisms to avoid their detection by altering their cell wall chemistry. These chemical modifications prevent the detection of the fungal cells by our immune cells and allow the fungi to go unnoticed. Other fungi can secrete molecules that act as decoys and prevent the recognition of the fungal cell walls by masking the proteins of the immune system.


Cell wall images

Fig: Transmission Electron Microscope images of cell walls from three different fungi showing the variability in cell wall structure (Source)


Synthesis of the cell wall

The formation of the fungal cell wall is a complicated process with multiple steps along the way. Most of the molecules that form the cell wall are assembled within the cell in by the activity of enzymes. These enzymes string together molecules one by one to form the chains that make up the polysaccharides of the cell wall. 

Both chitin and glucans are extruded through the plasma membrane of the fungal cell. The basic ingredients for the formation of these molecules are nucleotide diphosphates. In the case of chitin and beta glucans, uridine diphosphate-sugars (UDP) are the carriers that bring together the monosaccharides which form the polysaccharide molecules that are incorporated into the cell wall.

Chitin is synthesised by a family of enzymes known as chitin synthases. These enzymes act on UDP-N-acetylglucosamine. The type of chitin synthase and their relative proportions in the cell determine the structure of the chitin molecules that end up in the cell wall. Similarly, beta glucans are formed the the activity of enzymes belonging to the glucan synthase family. These enzymes string together UDP-glucose molecules.

These enzymes can be found coexisting with each other near the cell wall where they actively extrude these components. Once the polysaccharide molecules are extruded, local enzymes embedded in the cell wall chemically link them to form the complex, multi-layered structure that we observe. The constant change in the number and kinds of proteins in the cell wall affect their structure and help the fungi adapt to various environmental conditions.

Cell wall synthesis diagram

Fig: Cartoon representation of fungal cell wall synthesis. Chitin and 𝛃 glucans are synthesised by chitin synthase and 𝛃-1,3-glucan synthase enzymes respectively. The enzymes are embedded in the plasma membrane and extrude polysaccharide molecules to form the fungal cell wall (Source)



Up until the 20th century, the cell wall was assumed to be a passive structural element of cells. However, recent research has highlighted the constantly changing and highly regulated nature of the cell wall. As this structure forms the interface between the external and internal worlds of the cell, it needs to constantly adapt and mediate the survival of the cell. These structures have evolved to be highly complex and can vary immensely between species. However their two core components, chitin and beta glucans, have stood the test of time and are found in all fungi. As such they are responsible for many of the functional benefits observed when we consume fungi. In the next blog we will take a more detailed look at beta glucans and how they help our immune system.



Jean-Paul Latgé. 2007 “The cell wall: a carbohydrate armour for the fungal cell” DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2007.05872.x

E.P. Feofilova. 2010 “The Fungal Cell Wall: Modern Concepts of Its Composition and Biological Function” Microbiology. DOI: 10.1134/S0026261710060019

K. Vega and M. Kalkum. 2012 “Chitin, Chitinase Responses, and Invasive Fungal Infections” International Journal of Microbiology. DOI: 10.1155/2012/920459

Neil A.R. Gow et. al. 2017 “The Fungal Cell Wall: Structure, Biosynthesis, and Function” Microbiology Spectrum. DOI: 10.1128/microbiolspec.FUNK-0035-2016

Ruiz-Herrera and Ortiz-Castellano. 2019 “Cell wall glucans of fungi. A review” The Cell Surface DOI: 10.1016/j.tcsw.2019.100022

De-Oliva Neto et. al. 2015 “Yeasts as Potential Source for Prebiotic β-Glucan: Role in Human Nutrition and Health” DOI: 10.5772/63647

Guest Blog: Into the Mycoverse – through the lens of an artist

As an artist, I am often asked ‘what are you working on these days?’ When I say fungi I usually get amused and sometimes a bewildered ‘oh’?! Perhaps most people think of them as creepy rotters. But when I tell them about fungi superpowers they are surprised. Simply because there is no other organism on planet earth as mysterious, magical, and as old as fungi. They are a symbol of transformation, death, and rebirth.

Mush god, a symbol of transformation, death & rebirth. Artwork by Ankita Singh, © 2022

So let me take a moment to talk about what makes them awesome and why we need to pay attention. They are one of the first species on planet earth known to have survived some major extinctions. It is estimated there are about 3-5 million species of fungi, and only about 10% is known to us. It’s crazy how little we know about them. This remarkable organism underpins all life on earth, which makes them fit into a wide spectrum. From being climate change allies, to being a meat, leather, and plastic alternative, to making our medicines, being psychotropic for our mental health and so much more. Mushrooms are both a source of inspiration and a symbol of change. 


Hypholoma fasciculare, aka sulphur tuft. Artwork by Ankita Singh, © 2022

I first heard of mycelium a few years ago in a TED talk by Suzzane Simard and I was blown away by her discovery that trees can talk and share, it stayed with me. My interest began to brew further during conversations with friends about mushrooms’ mind-altering properties. But it was only after listening to Paul Stamets podcast with Joe Rogan did it really get my attention. Paul Stamets is a hero of our times. (in the western world). His knowledge, passion, and advocacy for mycology provoked a deep interest. From there on there was no looking back, I went into a rabbit hole. I suppose being a former student of biotechnology and microbiology also formed a base for my inclination. I binged on several documentaries and podcasts of mycophiles like Michael Pollan, the McKenna brothers, and others. The film ‘Fantastic Fungi’ mesmerized me. Louie Schwartzberg has beautifully captured the enigmatic beauty of mushrooms. Reading Merlin Sheldrake’s ‘Entangled Life’ gave me a much deeper understanding and perspective on the fungi kingdom. The more I delved the more I found myself mystified by the myriad of funky fungi. And I realized that I need to explore it from both a spiritual mindset and a scientific eye. They both go hand in hand, especially in the case of fungi. 


Mushroom photographs

I am fascinated with fungal formations in the natural world. How they grow, form partnerships with plants, and the mysterious ways in which they appear for a time and cycle back into the earth. Over the last few months, mushrooms (mycelium) became one of my favorite muse of all time. The more I read & researched, I felt the need of spreading awareness and evoking interest in people about fungi through art, a powerful medium. Through the act of creation, I cultivated a deep understanding of their power and mysticism. My fungi and mushroom art series is an ode to them. The botanical mushroom illustrations are inspired by Beatrix Potter’s vintage-style illustrations. These colorful paintings celebrate the beauty of mushrooms.

The other series, a black-and-white fungi illustration explores fungi being a medium of liberation and cosmic connectedness. 

Art by our ancestors – Ancient cave paintings, Mushroom man, Algeria.
Art by our ancestors – Stone sculptures, Guatemala
Morchella conica Artwork by Ankita Singh, © 2022
Pleurotus djamor. Artwork by Ankita Singh, © 2022

What we commonly know of fungi is their fruiting body, the mushrooms. Beneath the soil lies the real marvel, mycelium. It is the vegetative part of the fungus. They can grow extremely fast and form a network of fibers known as hyphae, which can go miles and miles long. They are the underground decentralized intelligence network, sharing information via hyphae & produce mushrooms when the conditions are favorable. It is a window to understanding nature. 

The mycelial network, a pen & ink illustration by Ankita Singh, © 2022

These mycelia form a symbiotic relationship with some trees and plants roots to receive sugar and in return they provide them with nutrient rich elements like phosphorus and nitrogen, referred to as mycorrhiza (myco – fungi, rhiza – roots) this relationship acts as the thread of life, forming the wood wide web, a term coined when Suzzane Simard made her findings about the shared mycorrhizal networks. Although there are skeptics in the scientific community, Merlin Sheldrakes says, ‘the idea there is a single kind of wood wide web at all is misleading. Fungi make entangled webs whether or not they link plants together. Ecosystems are riddled with webs of non-mycorrhizal fungal mycelium that stitch organisms into relation. I find this as a more holistic way of looking at it. 


This fascinating system is helping us better understand and model economics, epidemics, mathematics and technologies like the internet, AI & bitcoin. A great example of biomimicry. Their power and potential is unlimited. In the manufacturing, industry mycelium is proving to be a breakthrough sustainable material for footwear, textiles/ fashion, plastic, and packaging. This is a revolution!

Many young entrepreneurs in India have realized the potential and the gap in the market. Brands like Nuvedo are educating, growing & supplying gourmet and medicinal mushrooms like reishi, lion’s mane, shiitake, etc to the Indian ecosystem Thanks to a Mushroom Identification Masterclass: Certification Course I did with Nuvedo & Hari Krishnan (@Indiantoadstool), I was inspired to go for a few self-driven mushroom foraging trips. I was thrilled to witness their beauty firsthand, these clandestine organisms are everywhere hiding in plain sight.
Spotting & identifying them was a different kind of a high!

Freshly foraged mushrooms

This journey led to an exciting collaboration with Nuvedo Labs. Our mutual love for art & mycology culminated in launching a beautiful and practical product –  mushroom calendar & planner 2023, Into the mycoverse. Celebrating each month with a new mushroom art.

Table calendar planner featuring set of mushroom illustrations
Into the Mycoverse, Table calendar & planner 2023

What also interests me are their mind-altering properties and their ability to expand our consciousness. A few months back I had a vision that showed me the reality of universal love and how we are all interconnected. It was a powerful, profound experience. Many people have had similar experiences, isn’t this interesting and mysterious? A question arises.

Do fungi (psilocybin) wear our minds? Late ethnobotanist Terrence Mckenna, a great advocate of this view, said ‘Fungi have no hands with which to manipulate the world but within psilocybin as a chemical messenger, they could borrow a human body and use its brain and senses to think and speak through. I strongly believe these little mischievous beings can heal us, make our lives more meaningful, and bring harmony to the world. It may not be for everyone but creating the right ecosystem, with the right knowledge is more important rather than propaganda surrounding its use. 

Rise of the mushrooms, a pen & ink illustration by Ankita Singh, © 2022

I am not surprised the Mayans and Aztecs called it the flesh of god. But let’s not go that far, let’s talk about something closer to home – Soma, The drink of the gods, mentioned in the Rigveda some 5000 years ago. I did some digging and found an amazing article on a Russian excavation in Mongolia. The Russian archaeologists found compelling evidence of the Indo – Iranian culture of that time, where mushrooms were a part of ritualistic use. All this was deduced through a 2000-year-old textile! Although one can’t say for sure if mushrooms were those sacred elements of the drink, it has to be a hallucinogenic plant. The finding is riveting. This is the text from Rigveda, one can decipher the meaning for themselves. “We drank Soma, we became immortal, we came to the light, we found gods.” 

Excavated textile from mongolia

Much of my inspiration as an artist comes from nature, I am forever its student. The way it works has enamored me and puzzled me. Phenomenons that intrigue me the most are the interconnectedness, and how there are uncanny similarities in the natural world and beyond. The design of our neural pathways, thunder lights, the roots of a tree, veins of a leaf, mycelium, and the cosmos. Is this the common design that connects us all? A visual metaphor to show us the mysterious ways in which we are all connected? Are the mushrooms trying to show us what we have forgotten? And what does it mean for our future? They are magical in more than just the psychedelic way.

They play a crucial role in the future of technology, our species, and our planet.

We are living in the era of fungi.

The era of fungi

If you found this journey interesting, please do check out my calendar here.

King Tuber Oyster Mushroom: 3 Diseases it can protect you from: (PART 2/3)

In Part 1 of this 3 Part Series we discussed the ways in which scientific studies have shown Pleurotus tuber-regium to aid and help with cancer.

Part 2 will take a deep dive into one of the most prolific diseases of our current generation. 

Diabetes is a disorder that renders the body incapable of dealing with its own glucose load. While there are many ways in which a person can reach the point of being diabetic, one thing is common among them all – diabetes is not fun! Diabetes leads to impaired wound healing, improper weight maintenance, the need to supplement with medication on a daily basis, and an overall decreased quality of life. India is currently the diabetes capital of the world with over 70 million diabetics in the country as of 2019. An increase in packaged and processed foods along with sedentary lifestyles and carbohydrate-laden Indian diets have been heavy contributors to this rise. 

India diabetes prevalence

Part 2: Diabetes

Pleurotus tuber-regium for diabetes

Many laboratories around the world have been looking towards mushrooms as a potential tool to reduce the rates of diabetes occurrence.
Mushrooms contain a wide variety of bioactive molecules that can contribute towards a healthier physiology

In 2012 researchers from Taipei investigated the effects of Pleurotus tuber-regium polysaccharide extracts on rats that were made diabetic. The rats were injected with a drug called streptozotocin. This compound is particularly toxic to pancreatic beta cells which are responsible for the production and secretion of insulin in a normal body. The loss of insulin-producing cells pushed the mice toward diabetes. The mice were also fed a high-fat diet which further enhanced their diabetes. 

Polysaccharides were extracted from P. tuber-regium with hot water and precipitated with ethanol. The purified polysaccharides were administered to the diabetic rats every day for 8 weeks and The rats were monitored for weight gain and other common clinical signs of diabetes such as oral glucose tolerance, Hba1c levels, and serum insulin. To their surprise, the polysaccharide-treated rats gained less weight on high-fat diets when compared to untreated mice. Furthermore, the polysaccharide-treated rats also had higher insulin levels, lower Hba1c, and better glucose tolerance. The polysaccharide-treated rats it seemed were less diabetic.

Pleurotus tuber-regium versus fat

With some positive indications, the investigators delved deeper into the body weight mystery. They measured common health markers such as serum triglycerides and cholesterol levels. These circulating fats are bad for cardiovascular health when they stay abnormally high for many years together. Surprisingly the researchers found that the polysaccharide treatments also resulted in lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels indicating that the polysaccharides were possibly affecting fat distribution in the body as well. This could explain the lower weight gains observed in the polysaccharide-treated rats.

In an extension to the above study, the scientific team looked at how the liver was affected by the polysaccharide treatment. The liver is at the center of many metabolic pathways, including cholesterol and triglyceride metabolism. Since the polysaccharides were affecting the serum cholesterol and triglycerides, the liver was an obvious place to take a deeper look. They discovered that a protein named PPAR-⍺ was more prevalent in the livers of the polysaccharide-treated rats. PPAR-⍺ increases the expression of genes responsible for fat metabolism. The polysaccharides were able to stimulate the metabolism of fats in the liver thus resulting in lower triglyceride levels. 

Combo, that works!

The high fiber content in P. tuber-regium extracts and whole mushrooms should not be ignored when considering these effects. Soluble dietary fiber is known to reduce fat and cholesterol absorption in the intestine. The lower absorption of fats combined with the increased metabolic activity of the liver together could have reduced the metabolic burden on the diabetic rats. The extracts are also rich in flavonoids which have strong antioxidant properties. These antioxidants can reduce damage to cells and in particular may have aided in the survival of the pancreatic beta cells. 

So what does this mean?

So how is this information really relevant to us?

There is no evidence that states that the use of such extracts in diabetic patients will have similar effects. However consuming foods rich in antioxidants and fibers have been shown to aid in healthy aging. Diabetes in most cases is a result of metabolism going bad. When we are young and relatively active, our body is more capable of dealing with the stresses of daily life. As time progresses, the accumulating stress overcomes the natural defenses the body has and pushes it towards a disease state. By aiding the body’s fight against the disease state, health span increases even if lifespan does not. In fact, it has been shown that chronic high-fat diets lead to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes. Tackling the issue from the onset can help offset this pathway and may even prevent it. 

Low serum triglycerides and cholesterol are important indicators of good cardiovascular health. It is most often cholesterol and triglycerides that end up being deposited in the small arterioles and venules of our bodies. The deposits eventually block these capillaries and can lead to what is commonly known as heart attacks, thromboses, or strokes depending on where they occur. By reducing fat absorption, high-fiber diets help support cardiovascular health. By preventing the build-up of sludge, flavonoids keep our capillaries healthy. 

Biochemical analysis of P tuber regium fruiting bodies showed that they are rich in proteins, fibers, and carbohydrates and low in fats. Carbohydrates in this case do not equate to glucose since the carbohydrates here refer more to complex carbohydrates and will not contribute to the glucose load as much as starch prevalent in many other vegetables. These mushrooms also contain all of the essential amino acids making them a complete source of protein. Obese and diabetic rats fed with dried and powdered P. tuber-regium had similar serum lipid profiles to rats treated with the antidiabetic drug Glibenclamide. 

  1. tuber-regium is a unique mushroom that has been used by traditional communities for hundreds of years to help treat various ailments. Are they truly medicinal, we can’t say for sure. They sure are delicious though!

Stay tuned for the final part of this series!


Ikewuchi, Catherine Chidinma et. al. 2017. “Restoration of plasma markers of liver and kidney functions/integrity in alloxan-induced diabetic rabbits by aqueous extract of Pleurotus tuberregium sclerotia”. Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy.  DOI:10.1016/j.biopha.2017.09.075

Huang, Hui-Yu et. al. 2012. “Pleurotus tuber-regium Polysaccharides Attenuate Hyperglycemia and Oxidative Stress in Experimental Diabetic Rats”. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. DOI:10.1155/2012/856381

Huang, Hui-Yu et. al. 2014 “Effect of Pleurotus tuber-regium Polysaccharides Supplementation on the Progression of Diabetes Complications in Obese-Diabetic Rats”. Chinese Journal of Physiology. DOI:10.4077/CJP.2014.BAC245

Onuekwuzu, Ifeanacho et. al. M 2019. “Anti-Diabetic Effect of a Flavonoid and Sitosterol – Rich Aqueous Extract of Pleurotus tuberregium Sclerotia in Alloxan-Induced Diabetic Rabbits”. Endocrine, Metabolic and Immune Disorders – Drug Targets. DOI:10.2174/1871530319666190206213843

Lin, Shaoling et. al. 2021. “Research on a Specialty Mushroom (Pleurotus tuber-regium) as a Functional Food: Chemical Composition and Biological Activities”. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. DOI:10.1021/acs.jafc.0c03502

Adeyi, Akindele Oluwatosin et. al. 2021. “Pleurotus tuber-regium inclusion in diet ameliorates dyslipidaemia in obese-type 2 diabetic rats”. Clinical Phytoscience. DOI:10.1186/s40816-021-00321-0

 Tyagi, Sandeep et. al.  2011. “The peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor: A family of nuclear receptors role in various diseases”. Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology and Research. DOI:10.4103/2231-4040.90879

Lattimer, James M. and Haub, Mark D. 2010. “Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health”. Nutrients. DOI:10.3390/nu2121266

10 Things you need to know to have a profitable mushroom business in India

When we were starting our journey, we were completely new to the mushroom space and hardly knew anything about cultivating them. We took up mushroom cultivation because it seemed like something that could meet our goals- sustainable, profitable and scalable. If you want to know more about us and why we do what we do, please check out our About us page.

Our journey into the Indian mushroom cultivation space was far from smooth and had a lot of ups and downs. The important thing is that we made it this far and have figured out a lot of interesting things on the way which would have saved us a lot of time, effort and money if we knew it earlier.

This blog post is our way of passing on some important bits and pieces of information that we have acquired in our journey so that beginners don’t have to go through all the trouble we did.


  1.     Choose your mushroom well

Each mushroom comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, some are easy to grow and grow really fast, others can fetch you a lot more money but they might be quite challenging and expensive to cultivate. You have to ask yourself a few questions which will help you find the mushrooms best suited to your requirements. Here are some questions that you can think about: 

  • How much time and money am I willing to invest in this business? 
  • How long can I wait before each harvest? 
  • Which mushrooms are best suited for the climate around me? 
  • Do I want to grow mushrooms seasonally or throughout the year? 
  • Can I find the raw materials required to grow the mushrooms around me in an economical way?  

Mushrooms are not just what you see in the supermarket, they are also ingredients in various different industries such as food and beverage industry, nutraceuticals and functional foods, personal care, retail etc and are consumed in different forms – whole dry mushrooms, dry mushroom powder, fresh mushrooms, mushroom extract etc. When choosing your mushroom, you also need an understanding of where all it can be used and in what all forms.

Flushes of oyster mushrooms

Most trainers and courses will recommend Oyster mushrooms as a good mushroom to start with. They are not wrong but they aren’t completely right either. Yes, Oyster mushrooms are really easy to grow and they are quite forgiving of our mistakes. If you dig deeper, you will find that they have a really short shelf-life of 2-3 days from harvest. To make matters worse you will also realize that there is hardly any demand for them in the Hotels/Restaurants/Café sector because of their unpopularity among Indians. All the above factors make oyster mushrooms a not-so-good candidate for large-scale farms. You might be tempted to grow Button mushrooms because the demand for them is high but you cannot cultivate them without a climate-controlled setup (unless your local weather conditions are suitable) since they need temperatures between 16-19 degrees Celsius for it to fruit. So, please consider all angles before you choose which mushrooms to grow. Don’t just follow trends, take time to understand what has demand in your area and what can be grown easily.

  1.     Understand the market

Once you have chosen which mushroom to cultivate, you have to study the local market for the same in-depth. You will have to find out before-hand which are the industries and channels that are currently using your mushroom and at what volumes and at what price. Try and talk to others in the same business if possible, to understand challenges that they might have faced. Make sure that you factor in things like ease of transportation and cost of packaging while you choose which channels to focus on. Understanding the market also means understanding the pain-points of the existing market so that you are better equipped at dealing with them. This step is very critical to ensure you succeed because without understanding the market you will not know how to position yourself or how to market your finished product.

  1.     Develop your own market

After you have done an in-depth study of the market, you have all your facts and figures ready. Some questions to ponder at this stage are: 

  • Which segments of the market can you realistically satisfy?
  • What can you do to make your product stand out from the local competition?
  • Some retailers require you to give them a fixed quantity on a daily basis, can your production meet those demands? 
  • What resources do you need to satisfy the capacity you have settled on? 

Remember, you can always start small and scale up. For example: to get a feel of the fresh mushroom market start by selling to close friends and family or to your neighbors, to create your own loyal client base. You could even drop off samples at restaurants nearby and ask the chefs to give your mushrooms a try. Figure out what matters most to them (The freshness? Value for money? Packaging? Aesthetics?) and in the process learn how to best satisfy your customer. The easiest strategy would be to work with a few customers in such a way that you have forward orders for your harvest. You are ensuring that you have a ready market for your produce so that you can put all your energy and attention into cultivating high quality mushrooms in a way that your customers love them.

  1.     Get the right training

This step is extremely crucial and the step which we here at Nuvedo had a hard time with. When we were starting out, we could hardly find any courses (both online and offline) which seemed legitimate. The courses were either too basic and lacked scientific explanation behind the processes involved or promised far too much to seem realistic – like lifetime support on cultivation and timely updates on technical advancements in cultivation for a fee of INR 750? I don’t think so! 

In our experience, we found that a lot of trainers were ex-mushroom cultivators themselves but turned away from cultivation and towards training because it was more lucrative. I don’t think that this is a good sign. If you’re getting trained make sure that it is under someone who either has a successful mushroom cultivation up and running or from a reputed consultant with a proven track record. We here at Nuvedo offer multiple avenues for different experience levels and requirements- starting from our DIY Mushroom growing kit for beginners to advance hands-on courses for specific mushrooms. Check out our Workshops section to stay up to date with our latest in-person workshops..

  1.     Have a trusted vendor for spawn and raw materials

Once you have had some basic training and experience growing your first batch of mushrooms, you need to figure out how to get quality inputs for cultivation. The most critical input in ensuring you get a profitable yield is having good and reliable spawn. Without good spawn, you are bound to fail. You have two options: either 1) make your own spawn, which is time consuming and involves considerable effort or 2) buy it from a vendor, which might be a bit risky. When looking for vendors, make sure you find vendors who give you at least generation 2 spawn and have a hygienic and standardized setup with documented results. In India, getting high quality spawn can be a challenge because of lack of regulations or standards in the industry. If you want to ensure that what you’re paying for is of the quality that they promise, you can go through our in-depth blog on spawn. We here at Nuvedo have our own super spawn- NuvoSpawn, which is manufactured in our lab using the latest technology and best quality ingredients. We have documented the conditions in which our spawn performs best, so that you can get best yields each and every time. To know more about what spawn is and how it is used please visit our Spawn FAQ.

Apart from spawn, ensure that you have a steady source of substrate material that is available locally and at a cost that makes sense for your profitability goals. Different substrates can have varying effects on yield and quality of the mushrooms that you grow. If you want to know more about the effect that different substrates and techniques can have on your yield and quality, do check out our DIY Mushroom Growing Kit. As part of the kit, we provide an information pamphlet with various different substrate recipes along with a table to track your progress. The pamphlet contains basic definitions and even some formulas to calculate biological efficiency, hydration etc. 

  1.     Prepare yourself for failure

Making one grow bag of Oyster mushrooms during training doesn’t prepare you well enough for the challenges that you will face while handling a bigger operation. Most people fail in the beginning when they try cultivating mushrooms at a commercial scale because there are too many variables involved and it is extremely hard to standardize the whole process. So, make sure that you are mentally prepared to accept failure. Your strategy should be- fail small and fail fast, so that you learn from your mistakes quickly and they don’t cost you so much money. You have to ensure that you document every single step so that you have evidence of what worked and what did not. This will allow you to finetune your entire process and develop standard operating procedures for each step. Standardizing your process and steps involved is critical to ensure that you can reproduce your results every time.

  1.     Start Small and scale up

Your trainers or consultants might tempt you to go for a 100 Ton setup and you might be tempted to do so after your successful oyster grow but always start small. Start at a capacity where you are confident that you have a ready market for whatever it is that you produce. Once you have mastered the art of cultivating at a small or intermediate capacity then you can confidently invest money in the right places to increase your capacity and scale up production. Remember, selling mushrooms can be harder than growing them, so ensure that you have a ready market before you decide to scale up production. Starting small will allow you to make changes to your layout or process flow without incurring large losses. 

  1.     Build a larger ecosystem of cultivators in your area

Like any other business, mushroom cultivation can fall prey to a lot of issues which can affect your turnover. Drastic changes in weather, contaminated spawn, equipment failure, labor shortage etc. can negatively impact your business. This is why it is important for you to ensure that you have a network of mushroom cultivators in your locality who can help you in case of emergencies like equipment failure or loss of cultures due to contamination etc. We at Nuvedo take pride in saying that we work closely with all our community members in ensuring that they succeed. Nuvedo gives its network of cultivators access to documented cultivation techniques, new advancements in cultivation technologies and also a list of our trusted vendors across the mushroom cultivation ecosystem. Nuvedo also has a group of highly trained and experienced professionals who help our customers troubleshoot and get the best possible output from their cultivation unit. We cannot thank our community members enough for all the support they’ve provided us on our journey so far. 

  1.     Think about other streams of revenue

Apart from just cultivating and selling fresh mushrooms it helps to have other streams of indirect revenue coming in. For example, dehydrating and maintaining an inventory of dried mushrooms, making value added products from your mushroom such as pickles, soup powders, cookies etc. These additional sources of income ensure that you can protect yourself from market disruptions and other influences beyond your control. In the hypothetical case that the price or demand for fresh mushrooms drops in your locality, you now have the option of drying them and using them in your value-added products. With India still reeling in the aftermath of the pandemic, it is critical now more than ever to diversify your business into multiple streams of revenue so that you can keep your business safe from external challenges.

  1.   Keep learning and share your knowledge

Mushroom cultivation is a fairly new space and there are lots of technological advancements being discovered on a daily basis. It is important to keep updating our knowledge on the latest developments in the field of fungiculture so that we can continuously improve the quality and output of our cultivation unit. It is equally important to share whatever knowledge we have with others in the mushroom ecosystem so that the whole community can develop and better serve the market. In today’s day and age the most successful companies keep much of their information open source as they know the importance that sharing the right knowledge can have on the larger business ecosystem. Investing time and resources in keeping yourself up to date and in innovation has a very large payoff in the long run. We here at Nuvedo, live by the philosophy “A thousand candles can be lit from the flame of one candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened” . So go on and spread the spores of knowledge far and wide so that at least some of them can fruit when the conditions are right. 


King Tuber Oyster Mushroom: 3 Diseases it can protect you from: (PART 1/3)

Pleurotus tuber regium. The King Tuber Oyster Mushroom. This warm-weather mushroom has long been revered for its medicinal properties in parts of Western Africa, China and North East India. As the only sclerotium-forming member of the Pleurotus genus, it is unique in its ability to store nutrients for a rainy day. Here is a 3 part series taking a look at 3 diseases that this wonderful mushroom can protect you from.


In Part 1, we will refrain from fixating on the evolutionary wonders of the sclerotia but instead, look to them as sources of medicinal compounds. In particular, we will investigate some existing evidence relating the sclerotial extracts to antitumor or anticancer properties.

Part 1: Cancer

Beta-glucans as active molecules

Our journey begins at the Chinese University of Hong Kong where Peter Cheung and colleagues made use of hot alkaline water to extract polysaccharides from the sclerotia of P. tuber-regium. Polysaccharides are long chains of sugar molecules such as glucose that are connected to each other through chemical bonds. These polysaccharides are important structural components of every fungal cell. In their study, the researchers chose to focus primarily on the long and branched polysaccharide molecules known as beta-glucans.

Representative structure of a beta glucan with (1->3) and (1->6) glycosidic linkages

The researchers used two commonly used cancer cell lines to test the effects of their beta-glucan extracts. HL-60 cells are derived from a patient suffering from acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a form of blood and bone marrow cancer that is also the most common form of such cancer in adults. When they treated the cells with their beta-glucan extracts, they noticed that the outer membranes of the cells became more porous. A blue dye called Trypan blue which is normally kept out of the cancer cells by the cell membrane was able to enter the cells and stain them blue. This indicated that the extracts were able to disrupt the integrity of the cell membrane of the leukemia cells. 

HL-60 Cell Line picture
HL-60 Cell Line

To verify whether the extracts could work on other forms of cancer, the researchers used another cancer cell line called HepG2 cells. HepG2 cells are derived from hepatocellular carcinoma (a form of liver cancer) and are commonly used to screen drugs for toxicity and study liver cancer. When these cells were treated with the P. tuber regium beta glucan extracts their metabolic activity decreased. A decrease in metabolic activity indicates stressed, dying, or non-functional cells. This indicated that the P. tuber regium beta-glucan extracts had a negative effect on the HepG2 cells as well.

Hep G2 - Wikipedia
Hep G2 cell

At this point, an obvious question that the researchers had to answer was whether the adverse effects seen by the extracts were only on cancer cells. The extracts could have similarly deleterious effects on normal and healthy cells too, which would make them hazardous for consumption. To check if this was true, they tested the extracts on kidney cells obtained from an African green monkey (Vero cells) and found that the effects that they had observed on the cancer cells could not be seen here. This was an indication that the extracts were more harmful to cancer cells than to normal cells.

The importance of solubility

Now that they had some evidence that the beta-glucan extracts from P. tuber regium had some anti-cancer effects, the scientists wanted to improve the solubility of the extracts to make them more easily consumed. To do this, they modified the beta-glucan molecules by adding water-loving or hydrophilic chemical groups to them through a process known as carboxymethylation. This made the molecules easily soluble in water and therefore more bioavailable. They then added different doses of this modified beta-glucans to a human breast cancer cell line (MCF 7 cells). They observed a dose-dependent decrease in the metabolic activity of these cells. By monitoring the change in the number of DNA molecules in the treated and untreated cells they showed that the treated cells were multiplying much slower than the untreated ones. Further investigation showed that the treated cells were more prone to death as well. This highlighted the anti-cancer abilities of these extracts against breast cancer cells.

Size matters

The evidence provided by the studies so far sheds some light on the ability of P tuber regium sclerotial extracts to prevent or reduce the growth of cancer cells. However, a cell in a dish in the lab does not replicate the dynamic environment within the body. Another group of scientists from China’s Wuhan University decided to dissect this very aspect. They chose to work with Sarcoma 180 cells, a highly malignant mouse cancer cell line widely used in the field of cancer biology. They extracted water-soluble compounds from the sclerotia of P. tuber regium and further separated the molecules based on their sizes and biochemical properties. Once again the beta-glucans proved to be the molecules of interest. Moreover, the size of the beta-glucans had an impact on their effectiveness. Longer beta-glucan chains were more active when compared to the shorter ones. When it came to beta-glucans and their anti-cancer activities, size did matter it seemed.

In vivo effects

To replicate a more likely pre-clinical scenario, the Sarcoma 180 cells were transplanted under the skin of mice and allowed to form an active tumour. These mice were then injected with either 5-fluorouracil (an anticancer drug) or the beta-glucan extracts from P. tuber regium every day for eight days. On the ninth day, the tumours were dissected and weighed. Two of the extracts tested outperformed 5-fluorouracil and showed a greater reduction in tumour weight. This indicated that the extracts were not only able to prevent cancer cell growth in a dish, but also do so when injected into live animals. 


Taking a look at the evidence so far points to the ability of the polysaccharide extracts from Pleurotus tuber regium to inhibit the growth of cancer or tumor cells. However, it is important to keep in mind that all of these studies have been performed under highly controlled laboratory settings using well-established, immortal cell lines and do not necessarily recapitulate the true behavior of the disease. The in vivo mouse study by Zhang et. al. does indicate that the injected molecules are able to find the tumor and affect its growth negatively. However, the mode of injection, the location of the tumor, and the dosing protocol did not perfectly reflect an actual clinical scenario in a human patient. No successful clinical trials have been conducted to date that conclusively shows the efficacy of such extracts in the treatment of cancers or tumors. Keeping this in mind, we must evaluate the evidence that continues to grow day by day. Can these mushrooms help in the treatment of cancer?

Only time can tell. But they sure are delicious!

Read Part 2 on Diabetes of the blog King Tuber Oyster Mushroom: 3 Diseases it can protect you from: (PART 2/3)


Cheung, Peter C. 2001. “Chemical structure and chain conformation of the water-insoluble glucan isolated from Pleurotus tuber-regium.” Biopolymers.

Zhang, L. 2001. “Evaluation of mushroom dietary fiber (nonstarch polysaccharides) from sclerotia of Pleurotus tuber-regium (Fries) singer as a potential antitumor agent.” J Agric Food Chem.

Zhang, Lina. 2008. “Characterization of polysaccharide-protein complexes by size-exclusion chromatography combined with three detectors.” Carbohydrates Research. 

Zhang, Lina. 2009. “Chemical modification and antitumor activities of two polysaccharide-protein complexes from Pleurotus tuber-regium.” Int J Bio Macromol.

Zhang, Mei. 2003. “Molecular mass and chain conformation of carboxymethylated derivatives of beta-glucan from sclerotia of Pleurotus tuber-regium.” Biopolymers.

Zhang, Mei. 2004. “Carboxymethylated β-glucans from mushroom sclerotium of Pleurotus tuber-regium as novel water-soluble anti-tumor agent.” Carbohydrate Polymers.


Mushroom Spawn 101: Your Ultimate Guide

Before you start exploring this blog about mushroom spawn, It will be really helpful if you are familiar with the basics of what mushrooms are and how they are cultivated. If you’re new to mushroom cultivation, please check out these blogs to know more about how mushrooms grow and the jargon used in mushroom cultivation:

Mushroom spawn is very critical if not the most important input in the mushroom cultivation process. We try to clarify the most commonly asked questions about mushroom spawn in this blog, in order to equip you with the right knowledge. Here is a look at the different questions that we will be addressing:

  • What is mushroom spawn?
  • Why can’t we cultivate from spores?
  • How is spawn made?
  • What is the difference between grain spawn and sawdust spawn?
  • What are the qualities of good spawn?
  • How do we store spawn properly?
  • How do we know if the spawn we have is good?

What is mushroom spawn?

Mushroom spawn is basically mycelium, the living fungal culture, grown onto a substrate. It is the most critical input in mushroom farming and is used by mushroom growers similar to how farmers and gardeners use seeds. Mushroom spawn, unlike seeds, is grown from selected genetics and cloned so that it is possible to consistently produce a particular cultivar (cultivated variety) of mushroom which exhibits desired traits. This is similar to how people grow fruit trees via grafting as opposed to planting their seeds. Grafting is done to make sure that the fruit tree consistently produces delicious fruits because of a particular set of genetics that are chosen. Spores (and seeds for that matter!) are a genetic lucky dip dependent on two individual sets of genetic material, whereas spawn is a single, unique genetic culture that can be indefinitely propagated from the same ‘mother’ culture. Our ‘mother’ cultures are kept in the laboratory on agar petri dishes and maintained at the optimal temperature. Please note that ” mushroom spawning “, ” spawning in mushroom ” are all technically incorrect statements.  We often get asked about spawning in mushroom production, the term “spawning” is actually a synonym for “inoculation” which is the process of adding spawn to substrate. If you use ” spawning in mushroom ”  as a way to describe mushroom spawn production then I would urge you to correct yourself and say ” spawn production ” instead!


Spawn production in laboratory

Spawn bags being prepped under sterile conditions in the lab



Why can’t we cultivate mushrooms from spores?

In the wild, mushrooms produce tens of thousands of spores (some even billions!) and get scattered across the forest by wind, rain, insects and other agents. They are on a quest to find the most suitable growing conditions but sadly the vast majority of spores will never grow into a mushroom fruit-body. As a cultivator this is not a risk that you can take, you want to ensure that you get consistent, reliable and repeatable results every time.

Another factor to consider is that spores are not sterile and growing using spores directly might lead to an increase in contamination rates which will affect your productivity drastically.

At Nuvedo we select productive strains of edible and medicinal fungi to make spawn which have been proven to give consistent results in the Indian setting, so that our cultivators can maximize their success.

How is spawn made?

Spawn production in mushroom cultivation is one of the most critical and challenging steps. All spawn start out their journey on a petri-plate as a pure fungal culture of mycelium. Once the mycelium has fully colonized the surface of the agar, a tiny piece of the mycelium is transferred to boiled grain. This mycelium is then allow to grow on the surface of the boiled grain for 3-4 weeks until it colonizes all of the grain. This myceliated grain is what is called grain spawn.


Infographic about myceliated agar plate

Step 1


Infographic about grain spawn

Step 2

Apart from different grains such as wheat, jowar (sorghum), millet, rice, etc. some spawn producers even use sawdust and wooden dowels as a substrate for making spawn. The substrate used to make spawn serves three functions-

  • Act as a surface for the mycelium to grow and spread on
  • Provide the mycelium with macro and micronutrients so that it stays alive and healthy till it is inoculated on the final substrate material
  • Act as multiple points for the mycelium to grow from and colonize the final substrate material at a faster rate from different parts of the substrate

We produce all of our spawn at our state-of-the-art facility in Bengaluru. NuvoSpawn is produced on sorghum grain in sterile lab conditions. We start by taking mushroom cultures from our culture bank and then growing them out on sterilized grain in a controlled environment, using our own standardized process and media, to ensure that our customers get the best quality time and again!

To ensure consistent results we grow our own mushrooms at regular intervals and keep track of the cultivation parameters of each and every strain. We do not sell spawn of any mushroom that we ourselves have not grown. If you’re buying spawn for the first time, make it a point to ensure that your spawn vendor grows their own mushrooms to ensure the variety is still performing consistently.


Spawn making in lab under sterile conditions

Nonabsorbent cotton plugs being inserted into the neck of the spawn bag inside a Laminar Air Flow


Spawn making in lab under sterile conditions

Inoculation of sterilized sorghum with a myceliated agar wedge



Spawn production in lab under sterile conditions

Final packing of spawn bag after inoculation under aseptic conditions


What is the difference between sawdust spawn and grain spawn?

Grain contains a lot more nutrition as compared to sawdust. This can lead to contamination or increased chances of attack by pests if used to make outdoor beds or logs. When the cultivator wants to grow in an outdoor environment where there could be pests or where the chances of contamination are higher, sawdust spawn is a much better option. Using sawdust spawn for conventional cultivation can lead to lower yields and slower colonization as compared to grain spawn.

What are the qualities of good spawn?

The most critical parameters for good spawn from a cultivator’s point of view is:

  • It should be free from contamination

    1. The spawn has to be made under aseptic conditions preferably under a Laminar Air Flow to ensure the best results
    2. All materials used must be of the highest quality. Using low-quality or broken grain can lead to increased chances of contamination post inoculation.
    3. Grain used has to be boiled to the right consistency to ensure that it doesn’t break or get squished post inoculation. This is really important in ensuring low contamination rates.
    4. Grains/sawdust needs to be sterilized in an autoclave at 121 degrees Celsius and 15 PSI pressure to make sure that no microbial life persists
  • It should be fast colonizing

    1. Genetics that are old or not maintained well undergo “senescence” or deterioration, leading to slow growth and poor yields
  • It should give good yields

    1. Strains are one of the most critical factors which determine yield so spawn manufacturers should use commercial cultures which give high yields
    2. If cultures are not maintained well, the fungus can lose its virility over time leading to poor yields
  • It should be free from toxic chemicals, antibiotics, and pesticides

    1. Some spawn manufacturers have been seen using hazardous chemicals such as formaldehyde to fumigate their labs and some even add antibiotics such as gentamycin to their media to keep it free from microbial contamination
    2. Over time, exposure to these chemicals can cause detrimental health issues to the cultivator who handles these materials
    3. Fungi can bioaccumulate complex molecules and the resulting mushrooms may contain trace amounts of these chemicals which will eventually affect the health and wellbeing of the consumer.
  • It should give consistent results every time

    1. Some genetics are prone to mutation more than others and this can lead to variation in cultivation parameters such as speed of colonization, physical characteristics of the mushroom itself, and even yields.


Qualities of good spawn infographic

Qualities of Good Spawn

We take pride in saying that NuvoSpawn is not just another bag of spawn. It is a technically superior product guaranteed to maximize your success by giving you consistent results time and again. We document the optimal growing conditions of our cultures to ensure that our customers can make the best use of our product.


  • Is enriched with first-quality grain which ensures vigorous colonization and healthy growth.
  • Is completely dry, pure fungus without wet patches to eliminate chances of bacterial contamination.
  • Has been proven to give higher yields due to greater bio-efficiency because of our genetics and unique media.
  • Is manufactured in a sterile environment which leads to a healthier growth of fungus.
  • Uses disinfected nonabsorbent cotton to reduce chances of contamination.


How do we store spawn properly?

Your mushroom spawn is alive!! Yes, it is a living, breathing organism. In order to keep it healthy, happy, and strong we need to make sure that it is stored properly. A question we keep hearing is “how long can I store my spawn?” How long you can store your spawn depends on 3 things mainly:

  • Cultivated variety or cultivar
  • Storage Temperature
  • Storage Conditions


Let’s take a look at the factors one at a time:

  • Cultivated variety:

It has been observed that varieties in which the mycelia grow slowly tend to have the longest shelf-life. To put it simply, the slower the growth of the variety the longer you can store it.

There are some basic signs to look for to understand if your mycelia are undergoing senescence or biological aging. The following are signs of the aging process of mycelia, in their order of appearance:

  • The mycelia become more compacted
  • The appearance of hard-looking crusts or lumps
  • Formation of foul-smelling, colored liquid
  • Self-digestion or autolysis of mycelium and degradation of mushroom spawn


4 Stages of Spawn Ageing Infographic

4 Stages of Spawn Ageing


The mycelium is perfectly healthy and usable in stages 1 & 2 through the spawn might not feel as crumbly as it does when it is fresh. Self-digestion or autolysis starts happening at the end of stage 3, hence it is strongly recommended that you use your mushroom spawn before it happens. The mycelium has reached the end of its life in stage 4 and therefore the spawn should be discarded at this stage.


  • Storage Temperature:

The ideal temperature for the storage of spawn is 0 to 4 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, spawn can be stored for anywhere from 2 months to 4 months. However, there are a few exceptions to this, for example, Pink Oyster mushroom spawn or Milky mushroom spawn tend to degrade if refrigerated since they are both tropical varieties.


  • Storage Conditions:

If you have ordered boxes of NuvoSpawn, make sure that you place the boxes on shelves or stack them in an alternative manner like bricks, always making sure that you leave around 10 cm space between the boxes for airflow. If spawn for mushrooms like oysters has to be stored for extended periods, then take out each bag from the box and put them separately on the shelves inside the refrigeration unit. The refrigeration unit will have to be opened on a daily basis to ensure there is enough circulation of fresh air for spawn survival.

We strongly recommend you not to order or store your spawn months before the actual date of use. Whatever money you may save on shipping will be compensated by an increased yield and lower chances of contamination losses using fresh spawn.

At Nuvedo we do not keep any spawn that has aged more than 3 weeks to ensure that our customers get the best results, so it becomes really difficult to entertain last-minute requests as we are almost always booked out. The best-case scenario for us would be if you let us know 14-21 days before you need your spawn so that we can ensure the availability of fresh spawn. We will ship it out to you exactly in time for your inoculation!


How do we know if the spawn we have is good?

So, you’re waiting on your first batch of NuvoSpawn from Nuvedo or have a batch of mushroom spawn that you’ve been storing for a while now?
Without testing, you might have to inoculate your substrate and then wait a few weeks to come to the realization that the spawn you used was too old or not strong enough. To save yourself all that trouble you now want a quick and easy method to see if you can proceed with inoculation without worrying if the spawn you used was good enough. Well, you’ve come to the right place, all you need to do is follow the instructions mentioned below!

There are 2 ways of doing this, the hard way (which gives you more reliable results) or the easy way (which is cheaper and requires a lot less effort)

Let’s start with the easy way:

  1. Take a sample of a few grams of spawn from each bag you wish to test.
  2. Take a clean plastic container and put a small pile of wet paper (tissue paper, toilet paper, cardboard) on it.
  3. Place the spawn on top of the paper.
  4. Place the container in a clean, cool place away from direct sunlight.

The mycelium should be growing visibly on the paper in less than a week. This method is not foolproof and can give you false results so we would recommend you to follow the technique mentioned below.

The hard but reliable way:

  1. Take a petri dish that has been prepared with PDA or MEA mixture.
  2. Open the dish under sterile conditions, preferably under a laminar airflow, to avoid contamination. (Contamination can give your false results)
  3. Using a sterile tool, such as a spoon sterilized under a naked flame, place a few kernels of mushroom spawn around the petri dish.
  4. Under the laminar air flow, roll the kernels around under the petri dish. Close and label the petri dish.
  5. Let the petri dish mature for 5 days to a week at a temperature beneficial for mycelium. We recommend around 20 Degrees for Oyster mushroom spawn or Shiitake mushroom spawn.

In a week you should observe mycelium growth from the place where the kernels were rolled over the agar medium and from the kernels themselves

The result: The strength of the spawn is indicated by the amount of mycelium growth present after a week. If the growth is fast and intense, your spawn is still very active. Old spawn also has a capacity to colonize the substrate like fresh spawn but the rate of growth will be much slower. So, the same applies to the kernels on your petri dish/paper towel. If you don’t see any growth in 5 days or so then that means that your spawn is too old and needs to be discarded. It is not that old spawn will not be active, it grows so slowly that contaminants get the upper hand and might take over your substrate. So, better safe than sorry.

Now that you have checked your spawn quality, you can confidently proceed with the next steps of mushroom cultivation if your test results came out well or order a fresh batch of NuvoSpawn in case your spawn is too old.

This brings us to the end of this blog, if you have any further questions or need any clarifications about spawn, feel free to reach out to us. We are more than happy to answer your queries.