King Stropharia (stropharia rugosoannulata) is a mushroom of many names.  Whether you know it as the Garden Giant, Wine Cap, or Burgundy Mushroom, it’s a fungus that’s much talked about in gardening and permaculture circles, and with good reason.  As one of the easiest and most productive mushrooms to grow outdoors, King Stropharia is a wonderful addition to the home or market garden.

I first started growing this mushroom some five or six years ago, using spawn bags that had sat outside frozen solid all winter.  In early May, my partner Tamara and I cleared the paths between beds in our garden, then put down a base of wet cardboard (most mushrooms’ favorite food) before sprinkling the now-thawed Stropharia spawn and covering it with fresh deciduous wood chips.  

I’m pretty sure that that same patch is still fruiting today.  We lay down extra wood chips periodically, as this mushroom is an aggressive decomposer, but besides that we pretty much just sit back and wait for the mushrooms to roll in.  The Stropharia tend to pop up along the borders of the path, at the intersection with the annual vegetable beds.  There they benefit from regular watering, and the ample shade provided by the type of garden that grows by itself when you’re paying all your attention to the mushroom farm.

Stropharia can grow to an impressive size (hence the “King” or “Giant”), but are best consumed before the cap is fully open, and when the veil on the underside is still intact.  As a relatively soft-fleshed mushroom growing outdoors, they can also attract insects and slugs if left to over-ripen.  They substitute well for button mushrooms or portabella in most recipes, and have a taste once memorably described as like “undercooked potatoes soaked in Burgundy.”  We love them lightly sauteed or grilled, and harvest them regularly from May through September each year.

Preferred growing media:  Stropharia love fresh hardwood chips, but will also tolerate a mix of hardwood and conifer (with the exception of cedar).  Straw is also a popular choice, as are other fibrous agricultural waste products.  The rhizomorphic (thick and ropey, root-like) mycelium grows best when the growing media has a large particle size with abundant air gaps.

Best time to start:  We like to start Stropharia patches in April or May in our interior BC climate.  Expect two to three months until fruiting, and a fruiting season from May through September in subsequent years.  This species is cold tolerant, but will need regular watering in the first month after inoculating. 

Expected yields:  Very good, but somewhat unpredictable.  Expect at least several lbs per year from each 5’x10’ bed.

As with any mushroom growing outdoors, correct identification is critical before consuming.  See our instructions  for details, and when in doubt, send us a message to confirm your ID!

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King Stropharia

Also known as Wine Cap or Garden Giant, this fast-growing perennial is our number one choice for gardeners. Start your patch this Spring!

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