Maui Food and Dining

Fungus DIY at Slow Foods

May 31, 2012, 3:58 PM HST
* Updated June 29, 10:18 AM
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By Susan Halas

richard cruse ball jar

“If you get interested in mushrooms you’re going to use a lot of Ball jars,” said Richard Cruse holding up the half gallon size he favors. Susan Halas photo.

The subject was mushrooms Wednesday night.

Or if you want to be more general: fungus, yeasts, molds and their families.

The audience was rapt.

Mushroom fanciers are always an avid crowd; they turned out  in force for Richard Cruse, a sustainability consultant from Ecological Edible in Haiku.


The occasion was his talk at the monthly Maui Slow Foods “Taste Education” series. The event was hosted by Slow Foods Maui,  UH- Maui College’s culinary program and Whole Foods Market.


You Have to Be a Bit of a Fanatic

In the words of the speaker, “People who grow mushrooms have a lot of patience. They are also a bit fanatic.”

The first half of Cruse’s talk was on the medicinal, nutritional and gardening aspects. He also touched on the life cycle, propagation, types and and the kinds you might (or might not) find on Maui.


Do-It-Yourself Mushroom Growing

The second half was a demonstration of a homegrown oyster mushroom kit that was guaranteed to produce at least two flushes and perhaps many more.

He showed a syringe for injection, custom bags,  pressure cookers and portable heat sources. He stressed the need to keep things clean and uncontaminated.

The audience watched him stuff straw into a bag in stages, then lace it with starter and seal it up. When completed punch a hole in the side, wait about two weeks and the first crop will grow out of the hole.

Cruse showed pictures. He gave testimonials and he brought a very good salad for a post-talk munchies.

Maui Now learned that mushroom-speak is different brand of garden talk.

It is laced with lots of biological terminology in Latin. It also comes with all kinds of nutritional tables and medical applications.

On the “get your hands dirty” side we learned it’s good to start fungus in your unwanted guava stumps, as eventually it will decompose them biologically and (for the fungal world) pretty fast. (Like a couple of years.)

In the process of decomposing the stumps it will also enrich the soil at the same time.

The audience looked looked at teas and tinctures. We passed around jars and bags. We sniffed – mushrooms have a distinctive scent.

If this was your first time in mushroom land maybe you caught a word here or there as the lingo whizzed by. But, clearly most of the people in the room were already inoculated, and couldn’t wait to grow mushrooms in a bag at home.

Some Detailed Reading Recommended

As soon as Cruse finished they stormed the table and began pressing him with questions and looking through the books he recommended.

These titles included Growing Gourmet and Medicinal MushroomsMushrooms of Hawaii Identification Guide and Sugars That Heal.

He was clearly flattered and a little taken aback at the warmth of the response. Find him on Facebook as Ecological Edibles or email him at  [email protected]

Maui Now checked around and confirmed that there is clearly a market for locally grown mushrooms, and some fast calls to hobbyists confirmed (in the words of  our source): “There’s nothing more fun than fungus.”


passing the bag

Emory Blair of Haiku opens the bag to sniff it. Mushrooms have definite scents. Susan Halas photo.

mushroom life cycle

The life cycle has many stages. Susan Halas photo

sterilizing set up

Mushrooms like clean; here Cruse showed a simple sterilizing set-up to prep the growing sub-strata. Susan Halas photo.


The audience leaned forward to hear it all. Susan Halas photo.

sugars that heal

Cruse recommended reading Sugars That Heal. Susan Halas photo.

mushroom books

He also recommended Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms and Mushrooms of Hawaii Identification Guide. Susan Halas photo.

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