This review originally appeared in the January/February 2015 issue of Northern Gardener

The Essential Guide to Cultivating Mushrooms (Storey Publishing, 2014)

By Stephen Russell

hot off pressAre you looking for a way to broaden your gardening portfolio? Are you happiest when meticulously following instructions and then using the experience you gain to develop shortcuts or personal specialties? Would you enjoy an indoor activity that could produce delicious and lucrative results?

If you answered yes to those questions, Stephen Russell can help. In The Essential Guide to Cultivating Mushrooms, he provides clear and specific instructions for the spectrum of mushroom growers, covering everything from how to buy and use a kit to how to create your own agar (growing medium) and clone mushrooms.

After the preface, in which the author describes his evolution from mycological neophyte to founder of the Hoosier Mushroom Society and owner of mushroomfarm.com, the book is divided into Basics for Beginners, Intermediate Methods and Advanced Methods. He touches on the sensational (Zombie mushrooms! Hallucinogenics! Killer mushrooms!) but doesn’t waste any time on frivolity. He wants you to succeed in growing mushrooms in your own home and, maybe, even make some money selling them.

Although his tone is straightforward and encouraging, he makes clear that cultivating mushrooms requires you pay attention to the details, maintain a clean environment and invest money and space.

His no-nonsense approach is far from boring. In addition to step-by-step instructions, most accompanied by clear, color photos, he offers some eye-catching anecdotes from his own experiences that prove one can be both a role model and a memorable cautionary tale.

—Julie Jensen

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