Cordyceps Cultivation Methods: A Step-by-Step Process For Growers
Are you interested in cordyceps cultivation methods because you want to produce your own at home or commercially? You can learn about one method in this post
Cordyceps is a mushroom that is EXPLODING in popularity in the United States for both cultivation and consumption. Cordyceps cultivation methods are diverse, in this post we walk through one method of cordyceps cultivation. More and more cordyceps can be found as a supplement in coops and other grocery stores. Social media is filled with people trying to figure out how to cultivate cordyceps. So the team at Fungi Ally decided to take a look and see if we could contribute to the research and information coming out around cordyceps cultivation methods. Over the last year we have looked at how to effectively grow cordyceps on a commercial scale, what the subjective impacts are when we consume cordyceps, and what is behind this explosion of popularity. What we found is summarized below. You can also read more about it in our cordyceps cultivation guide.
- Developing standard Cordyceps cultivation methods is still in its infancy in the United States. With the high cost of labor and current labor intensive methods, cordyceps cannot be commercially cultivated as shiitake or oyster are. Cordyceps can certainly be cultivated by a home grower and some commercial growers that have access to a high value market.
- Regardless of the Cordyceps cultivation methods it is a tasty mushroom that makes a great broth. The broth tastes a lot like chicken bone broth. Completely subjectively, an increase in energy and a brightness in colors after consuming cordyceps was noticed!
- The excitement around this mushroom is driven by a variety of factors. None of the factors are supported by western scientific research. This doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have validity, but should be approached with the understanding that people are formulating opinions based on their own experiences and interests. So, what factors are increasing the consumption and cultivation of this mushroom? As always, money is a player. Cultivation is increasing because of the potential of cordyceps to be a high-value crop. It is extensively used in supplements, which are all currently coming from China or derived from the mycelium instead of the fruiting body. Wild cordyceps is priced similarly to gold, so the availability of cultivated cordyceps for a relatively affordable price has many people consuming this mushroom. The assumption here is that cordyceps militaris and cordyceps sinensis contain similar compounds and have similar effects in the body. Another factor is the growing popularity of specialty mushrooms in general. More consumers are consuming specialty mushrooms as supplements and looking at them as a source of medicine. Cordyceps has a history of being used and revered for its impacts on the body. Cordyceps is a new mushroom which makes the consumption and cultivation of it exciting. Both growers and consumers that want to be on the cutting edge are exploring this mushroom to become an early adopter.
During the cordyceps cultivation methods trails at Fungi Ally, five different strains of cordyceps were cultivated. These five strains were: WPB, 2NB1, RUP, Shanghai, 003. Of these, two did the best, both from commercial strains which came from outside of the United States. Many of the U.S.-based strains are wild clones and have not yet been developed or thoroughly tested to produce high yields. Strains grown in Thailand, China, and India have typically been bred to be fast-growing, high-yielding strains. The strain which fruited most abundantly was a clone from Shanghai. The next highest fruiter was from India. These strains also had the most consistent fruiting with all jars from the Shanghai strain fruiting and all but two of the jars from the RUP strain fruiting. Of 33 jars, the WPB strain had 17 that did not fruit but were well colonized, and strain 2NB1 had 11 jars out of 28 that fully colonized but did not fruit. Calculating the average yield without jars that did not fruit had little to no impact on yield averages. The average yield per jar from the Shanghai strain was 11.6 grams
Cordyceps cultivation methods: step by step process.A) Strain selection. B) Media Preparation. Picking a good media recipe is a crucial step to any cordyceps cultivation methods. During all trials we used the formula below, recommended by William Padilla-Brown.
- 1 gallon water
- 1/2 cup starch
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp azomite
- 5 scoops baby food
This makes 72 pint jars. 2 TBSP rice was placed in wide-mouth pint jars. Next, all other ingredients were mixed in a large mixing bowl until they were dissolved. Finally, a ¼ cup of the liquid was poured into each Mason jar. The lid with a polyfill filter is placed on top of the jar and screwed on. The jar is then sterilized.
C) Inoculation. Currently, cordyceps spawn is not available through the internet or typical spawn providers. To inoculate, we used wedges from fully grown petri plates. After the jars were cooled overnight, they were moved in front of a flow hood in a positive pressure lab. The flow hood filters all airborne contaminants out so the sterilized media can be safely open and inoculated. Petri plates were cut into 8 pie slices and one slice was placed into each jar. Once the wedge was placed into the jar the top was closed and the jar was moved to incubation.
D) Incubation for cordyceps cultivation methods. Spawn run is very straightforward for cordyceps. The cordyceps mycelium will grow vigorously in the dark at temperatures between 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit. If grain spawn was able to be developed, this incubation time could be minimized, increasing the commercial viability of this crop. Spawn run typically took about 21 days for most strains. Several of the lower-yielding strains took longer but on average, it was a 21 day process until full colonization was complete.
E) Pinning and fruiting regardless of the cordyceps cultivation methods. Fruiting is initiated primarily by changing the light cycles. Temperature can play a factor as well, depending on what the incubation temperature was. A 16 hour on and 8 hour off light cycle is ideal for fruiting cordyceps, they are extremely phototropic and will grow towards any source of light. If fruiting on shelving, it is helpful to have lights on each layer. In our trials, regular fluorescent shop lights were used. Temperature should not rise above 80 degrees Fahrenheit as this will fry and kill the fruiting bodies. Ideally, temperatures during fruiting should stay between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. The jar is left as is, so oxygen levels and humidity do not need to be monitored or maintained during cordyceps fruiting. This makes cordyceps fruiting especially appealing because a lot of energy is utilized fruiting other specialty mushrooms with exchanging air and maintaining proper humidity levels.
F) Harvest for all Cordyceps cultivation methods. Fruiting can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks, a very long fruiting cycle for a fleshy mushroom. Luckily, very little maintenance is needed during this time period. Fruiting bodies will continue to grow until they reach the top of jar, but sometimes mushrooms don’t get that high. Harvesting should occur when the mushrooms are done growing or reach maximum height in the container. Both the grain medium and fruiting bodies can be harvested and utilized. The grain medium is what most US based medicinal mushroom companies use now. This can be made into a tempeh dish or extracted for any health benefits that can be found in the mycelium/substrate combination. The fruiting bodies can be used fresh for culinary purposes, for example to make delicious broths, or they can be extracted with hot water and alcohol. Cordyceps is not typically fruited for a second time. With the Shanghai strain, jars averaged about 12 grams of fruiting bodies. The average weight of substrate and cordyceps mycelium was 51 grams. If these products were sold for similar prices to the ones cited above or mixed together and sold as some companies do, cordyceps production would be economical on a commercial scale.