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Growing Lion’s Mane mushrooms is fun, super rewarding and relatively easy (especially if you follow our step-by-step guide!) It’s one of our favorite gourmet mushrooms to grow at home, and the process detailed below could also apply to other wood-loving culinary mushrooms. Plus, Lion’s Mane mushrooms themselves are delicious for cooking—as a meat substitute or the main attraction—and they have incredible health benefits. Learn everything you need to know on how to grow Lion’s Mane at home from scratch—no grow kits required!

What Are Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?

Lion’s Mane is a popular medicinal and culinary mushroom that’s easy to grow at home but hard to find (and rather expensive) in stores. It’s a large white toothy mass that sort of looks like a big pom-pom.

It’s a very unique looking mushroom; the little white “teeth” that stick out of it are actually its gills, and as they grow they flow downward like a head of hair, or like a lion’s mane. These pointy gills are also what release spores, and they can grow several inches long.

Lion’s Mane scientific name is Hericium erinaceus, and it’s related to another similar-looking edible mushroom, the “coral” or “comb” tooth mushroom, Hericium coralloides.

Lion’s Mane and the Coral Tooth mushroom are both wood-lovers, and can be found growing on decaying hardwood trees, like beech, oak, and maple in North America. Lion’s Mane mushrooms extend far beyond our continent though, and also grow around the Northern hemisphere in Asia and Europe. 

In fact, Lion’s Mane has been used in ancient Chinese medicine for thousands of years to aid the spleen and the gut, and historically was even used to combat cancer. Today, Lion’s Mane mushrooms and tinctures are used to support brain function like energy, focus and concentration.

Is Lion’s Mane Easy To Grow?

Yes, Lion’s Mane mushrooms are relatively easy to grow. Below, we’ve outlined the whole process on how to grow Lion’s Mane from scratch, using our liquid culture.

If this is your first time growing mushrooms, we’d also recommend checking out some of our Oyster mushroom varieties, especially Pearl Oyster mushrooms, because they are even more straightforward and forgiving to rookie mistakes. 

But even for first timers, cultivating Lion’s Mane indoors is not super complicated if you follow our simple steps!

How To Grow Lion’s Mane Mushrooms Indoors From Scratch

Lion's Mane mushrooms growing indoors with long gills

Many growing Lion’s Mane tutorials online assume you’re going to be buying a lot of pre-made products, like grain spawn and bulk substrate or even full-on inoculated kits. However, here at InoculateTheWorld, we take a more DIY approach to Lion’s Mane cultivation and have outlined everything you need to know to grow your own mushrooms from scratch! 

This way, you’ll not only learn a ton about gourmet mushroom cultivation, but it’s loads cheaper and you’re less likely to unknowingly buy contaminated products. If you’re interested in our full Quality Control (QC) process, check out our article: How Our Products Are Made.

Step 1: Gather Supplies + Clean Your Space

The first thing you’ll need to do is gather all your materials. 

Supplies:

  • 1 Lion’s Mane Mushroom Liquid Culture Syringe
  • Mushroom Grow Bags (or Mason Jars)
  • Grain Spawn (Rye Grain, Hard Red or White Winter Wheat, Milo, Millet, Barley or Oats—it’s up to you!)
  • Gypsum
  • Hardwood Fuel Pellets 
  • Soybean Hulls
  • Pressure Cooker or Canner
  • Distilled Water
  • Colander
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Spray Bottle
  • Paper Towels
  • Disposable Latex Gloves
  • Impulse Sealer (Only if using bags, not jars)
  • Scale (optional)
  • Flow Hood (optional)

Then you’ll also need to make sure everything is clean and sterilized. We’ll detail how to sterilize your substrate below, but also remember to prep everything else in a clean space with little to no air flow, and to always spray your equipment with isopropyl alcohol and wear gloves to prevent any sneaky bateria from ruining your grow!

Step 2: Make Grain Spawn for Lion’s Mane

Once you’ve collected all of your supplies, it’s time to make your grain spawn in grain bags or mason jars. Grain spawn is the initiate substrate your Lion’s Mane liquid culture will colonize with mycelium, so we need to make sure it’s nutritious and sterile before inoculation. 

For this step you’ll need:

  • Grain Bags with .2 micron filter patch (or Mason Jars)
  • Grain Spawn (Rye Grain, Hard Red or White Winter Wheat, Milo, Millet, Barley or Oats—they’ll all work, it’ll depend on what you can source)
  • Distilled Water
  • Colander
  • Gypsum (optional)
  • Electric Scale (optional, measuring cups could work too)

The first thing you’ll want to do is weigh out your dry grain spawn. How much to use will depend on how many grain bags or mason jars you want to inoculate. If you have no idea, a good place to start is grabbing some 3 lb grain bags and filling them with about 1 kg of dry grain each. If using mason jars, we’d recommend using the Quart sized jars and filling them with about 1 ½ cups of dry grain per jar. 

Then it’s time to hydrate your grain. There’s a number of ways you can do this, but the general rule of thumb is to hydrate your grains using half as much water as grain (So, for 1000g of dry grain, go for 500 mL of water). You can do this either in grain bags or a clean bucket or other type of container, it’s up to you. 

At this time you’re also going to want to stir in a little gypsum if you have it. 1-2 tablespoons can give your grain spawn a little extra nutrient boost to speed up mycelia growth, plus help prevent clumping, but you can get away with skipping this step if need be.

Once you’ve added water and stirred it around a bit, you want to drain your grain. This can be done in a big colander. Then you’ll want to leave those overnight to dry.

Step 3: Sterilize your Grain Spawn

For this step you’ll need:

  • Pressure Cooker or Canner
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Spray Bottle
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Tyvek (or other water & bacteria resistant adhesive if using mason jars)
  • Electric scale (optional)

The next morning when your grain spawn is starting to dry out, it’s time to sterilize it. You’ll want to grab your electric scale again and scoop in an even amount of damp grain into each of your bags or jars. If you’re using the measurements from above, that would be 1300 grams per 3lb bag, or 450 grams per Quart mason jar.

Then fold your bags close with filter patches on the outside. If using mason jars for this step, you’ll have to modify the lids by poking or drilling four 3/16” holes into it, one in each corner so your holes form a square. Then, after filling your jar with hydrated grain, you’ll want to seal those holes with a piece of Tyvek, or stuff with polyfill. Synthetic filter discs are also available to purchase online. The point is to cover those holes with something resistant to water and bacteria.

Now it’s time to sterilize your grains by putting either your bags or jars into a pressure cooker or canner. There are a few little tips to correctly using a pressure canner, but the most important ones are:

  1. Make sure your bags aren’t touching the water at the bottom of the pressure cooker by using an elevated trivet (a couple rows of mason jar lids also work, just make sure whatever you use is heat resistant).
  2. Fill the pressure cooker with enough water to sterilize for 2.5 hours (there are often lines on the inside of the device to indicate how much that should be).
  3. Place another trivet on top of your bags or jars to hold them down (a ceramic plate could also work, again something heat resistant).

Once you’ve loaded your grain bags or jars into your pressure cooker, you want to sterilize them at 15 psi. We’d recommend at least 90 minutes for jars and around 2.5 hours for bags.

Step 4: Inoculate Grain Spawn with Lion’s Mane Liquid Culture

For this step you’ll need:

Once your bags or jars are done sterilizing in the pressure cooker, you need to let them cool down before inoculation. We’d recommend letting them rest overnight to ensure temps aren’t too high.

For this step, it’s also important to sanitize your area, so that means cleaning the surface you’ll be working on with rubbing alcohol and wearing gloves (that you also spray with alcohol after you put them on).

For more advanced mycologists, you may want to work in front of a flow hood to best prevent contamination. If that’s not in your budget, just ensure you’re in a space with little to no air flow (this can be aided by closing windows and turning off fans and air conditioning units during this step).

Then when your bags are cooled down and ready, you can simply place an adhesive injection port on them. First, wipe that area of your grow bags down with a little rubbing alcohol and paper towel, then while wearing gloves, place the adhesive injection port on the bag near the grain spawn.

For jars, temporarily remove your tyvek or other water resistant adhesive for this step. 

Now it’s time to get out your Lion’s Mane liquid culture syringe and inject your grain bags or jars! Remember, one syringe can go a long way, and you’ll only want to use a little liquid culture per jar or bag. We’d recommend about 4 cc per 3 lb grow bag, or 2 ccs per Quart mason jar. (Basically about 2-4 cc per 450g of grain spawn).

Once your grain spawn is inoculated, it’s time to put your bags away in a dark place with 80-95% relative humidity and ideally at temps between 65-75°F (18-24°C), for about 7-10 days. During this time, you’re allowing Lion’s Mane mycelium to grow and take over your grain spawn! 

Because Lion’s Mane mycelium is very “tomentose” (aka fluffy), you may want to shake up your bag once after the first few days to evenly distribute it to all the grain spawn. However, we would recommend doing this only one time as it can stress out your young mycelium.

Pro tip: Darkness is important while the mycelium is growing because Lion’s Mane likes to fruit prematurely and light will trigger that effect.

Step 5: Make “Masters Mix” Bulk Substrate

For this step you’ll need:

  • Hardwood Fuel Pellets 
  • Soybean Hulls
  • 5lb Mushroom Grow Bags
  • Distilled Water
  • Scale (optional)

After a couple of weeks, if your Lion’s Mane mycelium has colonized your grain spawn, it’s time to make your bulk substrate, aka what the fruiting bodies will grow from! For Lion’s Mane and other gourmet mushrooms like our varieties of Oyster mushrooms, you’re going to want to make: Master’s Mix.

What Is “Master’s Mix” For Growing Lion’s Mane? 

Master’s Mix is a common bulk substrate that generally consists of:

  • 20% hardwood fuel pellets
  • 20% soybean hulls
  • 60% water

There’s a bunch of varieties of Master’s Mix, but hardwood pellets and soy hulls work great for Lion’s Mane because it grows on hardwood in nature. Plus, the soy hulls are a great source of nitrogen and protein for the developing mushroom!

Similar to steps 2 and 3 above when we made grain spawn, making Master’s Mix is going to entail weighing out your materials, hydrating them, and then sterilizing them in a pressure cooker or canner.

To start, weigh out an even amount of hardwood pellets and soy hulls. If you used our recommendations above for grain spawn, then go for about 450g of each hardwood fuel pellets and soybean hulls to 1.4L of clean water per grow bag, but this time, use 5lb grow bags. 

Once you’ve mixed your hardwood fuel pellets and soybean hulls, it’s time to hydrate your mix by adding 60% clean, distilled water. Remember, you can ensure your water is clean by bringing it to a boil and then letting it cool down before using. Let your mixture soak for at least 5-10 minutes before draining in a large colander.

Step 6: Sterilize Master’s Mix

For this step you’ll need:

  • Pressure Cooker or Canner
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Spray Bottle
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Scale (optional)

Once your hardwood pellet soy hull mixture is hydrated and drained, it’s time to whip out the pressure cooker again for sterilization. Weigh out your hydrated Master’s Mix evenly into some new mushroom grow bags, then fold the bags up and place them in your pressure cooker.

Again, you’re going to want to keep these bags in the pressure cooker for at least 2 hours at 15PSi, then let them cool in a clean environment, preferably overnight.

Step 7: Mix Grain Spawn & Master’s Mix

For this step you’ll need:

  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Spray Bottle
  • Paper Towels
  • Disposable Latex Gloves
  • Impulse Sealer (if using bags)
  • Scale (optional)
  • Flow Hood (optional)

Once your Master’s Mix bags are fully cooled down, it’s time to mix it with your colonized grain spawn. 

However, first, you’re going to want to clean your working area again to ensure there’s no germs or bacteria that could infect all your hard work. So be sure to wipe down the area, thoroughly clean your hands, and wear gloves for this step. You may also want to work in front of a flow hood, or even create your own DIY still air box.

Once everything’s clean and ready, grab your colonized grain spawn bags (wearing gloves) and break up the mycelium a little bit so you can evenly distribute it. Then, you’re simply going to evenly mix those grain spawn bags into your Master’s Mix bags. You can do this using a sanitized shovel or measuring cup. If using jars, shake them up a bit before pouring an entire quart jar into each of your 5lb Master’s Mix bags.

Then if using grow bags, you’re going to want to seal them using an impulse sealer

Pro tip: You’ll want to do this step quickly to avoid exposure time and potential for infection of outside bacteria or spores.

Step 8: Incubation + Fruiting Chamber

Lion’s Mane fruiting conditions:

  • 65-75°F / 18-24°C 
  • 80-95% relative humidity

Congratulations! If you made it this far, you’ve done most of the work! Now, it’s incubation time, and honestly, time for those Lion’s Mane to start pulling their weight! 

The last thing you have to do before those Lion’s Mane can start popping off, is prepping the 5lb grow bags by cutting holes in them.

What we like to do is wait until the bulk substrate starts to knot, that’s when we know it’s ready to cut a slit at the top of the bag. Then, we have a little technique where we deflate the bag, wrap its  excess plastic under itself and cut a couple slits toward the top of the block for the first flush to pop through.

Then it’s time to leave those mushrooms to grow! At this point, you’re going to want to put those fruiting blocks in an area with 80-95% relative humidity with temps around 65-75°F with ambient light and some fresh airflow, but minimum chance of exposure to other spores or bacteria—so no constant drafts. 

If you don’t have a space like that in your home, don’t worry, not many people do. That’s why more advanced hobby mycologists buy or build a “fruiting chamber” like mushroom growing tent or a modified monotub, which control for temperature, humidity and airflow.

Step 9: Harvest

Lion's Mane mushroom growing out of a bag indoors

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for! After about two weeks in the right conditions, your Lion’s Mane mushrooms should be ready to harvest! We’d recommend cutting them off the block or simply twisting them off with your hands right before their spines start to elongate and drop down for the best tasting mushrooms. Leaving them too long can allow the taste to get bitter, but picking them when they’re still in “pom-pom” form will provide lovely, almost seafood flavored mushrooms.

But remember, that doesn’t mean you’re totally done! You could get another 2-4 flushes from those fruiting bags if you rehydrate them in between each harvest. In fact, they can keep producing for 2-3 months!

Your fresh Lion’s Mane mushrooms, on the other hand, are best kept in the fridge and will stay good for about a week. If you produce more than you can consume, you can always save them for later by drying them in a food dehydrator, and even using those dehydrated mushrooms to make your own Lion’s Mane capsules.

And that’s it! Let us know in a comment below if there’s any little tricks of the trade we may have missed, and please share photos of your own Lion’s Mane cultivation!

Photos courtesy of Papa G’s Organic.