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replay of episode 81. Tess Burzynski | Growing Organic Mushrooms | Detroit, Michigan
19th July 2018 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 01:11:00

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This replay was spurred by my talk with MIUFI founder Tyson Gersh this week. Plus I’ve had a lot of listeners ask about mushrooms. Jamie Todek from episode 72 introduced me to Tess Burzynski who is going to talk to us about growing organic mushrooms!

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Tess Burzynski. Im 24 years old, I attend Wayne State University in Downtown Detroit. I will be graduating with a science degree in Environmental Science.

Shiitake mushrooms

I’m definitely a fungi enthusiast. There’s a lot of things  that people don’t know about them.


Tell me about your first gardening experience?

Well, I would have to say my first gardening experience. It was definitely alongside my mother, she was always planting herbs. I remember on the back patio she would grow mint and while she was cooking dinner she would have us go pick her mint!

planting flowers

I have 2 sisters, I’m kinda of the one who stuck to gardening, it really influenced me as a child.

What does organic gardening/earth friendly mean to you?

When I think of organic gardening, I think green, steer clear of other synthetic products, pesticides and other fertilizers! Just to grow from natural design.

In terms of mushroom growing using organic media.

Do you want to explain to listeners what organic media is, and maybe me to? Do you mean like the dirt, or soil you grow it in?

There’s different ways of growing mushrooms, some grow on logs, so you want to make sure aren’t diseased  or they haven’t been used in a natural way. Mushrooms can be grown in sawdust, make sure that where you collect your sawdust from they haven’t put any synthetic products on the wood like that.

Who or what inspired you to start using organic techniques?

The famous quote you are what you eat!

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer about 5 years ago, she’s all good now, I just want to make sure she’s eating healthy, keeping our bodies green and everyone healthy.

Can I ask what made you go into environmental studies, because when I went to college I didn’t even know there was such a thing as environmental studies.

It’s definitely something that has been brought up in the past 15 years or so,  I think, people are becoming more aware of it, because we have to, the way that we mass produce and the wastefulness of humanity, I think it’s something people need to start concentrating on. We have to remember that our planet is here for us, it’s a resource, so we have to make sure we are conscious of what we are using. I’ve always been in tune to the earth since I was a child. It’s a rare field  to go into, not as many people are going into this field or really even think about the wastefulness. What we are even doing when we buy plastic water bottles and throw them into the trash. I want to take of our planet.

Me too, I’m glad you’re hear to share your knowledge with us today and that you’re taking that in college, getting that degree and maybe you’ll inspire some other listeners to think about that if they’re headed to college or know someone who is headed to college that might be wondering what to do. There’s a great environmental science program in Missoula at the University of Montana where I went to school. That was how I first heard about it, I had some friends in the program.

How did you learn how to garden organically or even mushrooms in general?

Basically by my own research, checking out books at the library, watching tutorial videos online. Paul Stamets is renowned mycologist out in Washington State, I learned so much from him. His book Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms has helped me a lot. I owe all of my knowledge basically about mushrooms to Paul Stamets!

Tell us a little more about growing the mushrooms, you talked a little about some grow in logs some grow in sawdust, what type of mushrooms do you grow to begin with? The white ones we generally see in the stores? We have morels, and shaggy mains?

shiitake log

I’ll talk about growing on logs for today. I’m growing Shiitake mushrooms, and oyster, blue and pearl oysters mushrooms.

You want to start off collecting your logs, cut down in the fall season. Moisture is heavy in the trees. If it’s older then 6 months old, it’s probably wont’s be as efficient. You want to get your plug spawn. Is basically like a dual rod, and it’s inoculated with mycelia, that is what will start the mushrooms to grow!

You can get that from organic sources, is Paul Stamets website which I highly recommend. You want to drill 50-holes per log, the log should be about 3-4′.

Does it matter what type of log you use? 

Depends on the type of mushroom you’re growing. Most mushrooms like hardwoods, beech trees, oak trees, maple. I’m growing my mushrooms on Oak. You definitely have to consider that. Softwoods,  are more so turkey tail mushrooms, chicken of the woods. So mainly hardwood.

Get a drill bit, about 5/16’s. Drill holes all the way around the log.

Do you drill the hole all the way through the log or just a little way down?

Drill 1 1/4’ deep do not drill all the way thru. Just drill about an inch or so in. About 50 holes per log, for a good flush.

What’s a flush. Is that like a crop?

That’s the fruiting bodies when the mushrooms start growing. Your harvest or crops. for mushrooms that’s described as a flush.

Then you insert the plug spawn. It’s not necessary, but to keep them sterile, you can get cheese wax and melt it, and with a clean paintbrush, cover the hole so bugs can’t get in there, it will seal it up nice.

It’s good to keep in mind, it takes a good 9-12 months. You won’t receive a flush for like a year from the time that you do it.

Where do yo keep it, do you have to keep it warm or dry?

A damp spot in a wooded forest, if you don’t have access to that in your backyard, you can cover it with some sort of cloth, heavy duty cloth, keep the moisture content right with a sprinkler system or so or misting it.

If you don’t have a forest area, you can leave it close to the ground, probably under a tree or something.

Didn’t you say you’re in Detroit? Are you growing them at home?

On the campus we have a garden, a garden club. It’s right under our library. We have a few trees and some mulch. That’s where we keep them, and it’s not a forest but it’s a shaded area, they’re fine there. We keep it damp and the trees provide shade.

Anything else you want to tell us about the mushrooms?

About cultivation. We covered just about what beginners should know.

Remember to keep the size manageable, so you can move them around, 3-4 feet. Get your plug spawn from a good organic source. You’d be surprised at how easy the process can be.

It’s very interesting and rewarding, as is all gardening.

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

Herbs always do well. tomatoes. My peppers are doing amazing I grow cayenne and jalapeño, that was probably my best crop. Definitely my best crop was my peppers.

The tomatoes, here in Michigan, it took a while for summer to come, it stayed cool for quite a bit. Tomatoes are a tropical plant, they’re just starting, to turn. I made a lot of fried green tomatoes!

When’s your first frost? My husband said we lost our cantaloupes and watermelons the other day, I think froze. We were on the other day of the spectrum! We had a hot dry spring. June was unprecedented with 100 degree days!

Maybe the coolness. I haven’t done much research, I’ve just been excited! I made jalapeño poppers!

Were they hard to make?  I wouldn’t say hard, it’s a process, stuff with cream cheese, then the breading, it’s a long process. but they’re so good!  It makes it worth it!

I’m drying my cayenne pepper to make homemade hot pepper flakes! Crushed red pepper flakes. Pretty much anything I eat is a vehicle to put hot peppers on! I love the hotness!

I was going to ask, what herbs do you have growing?

I have lavender, sage, thyme, lemon balm, basil, my dill I didn’t replant my dill this season.

Our dill usually comes back? Does yours not come back?

I used to grow it for my neighbor for his pickles, we’d trade off.

I don’t think it’s a perennial, I think it just goes to seed and so it scatters and comes up everywhere.

I have Chamomile too.

When you think there’s not any more to know that’s definitely a false statement! I would like to talk about something I had never heard of. My corn, something was eating it. I put a cage around it,  I thought maybe it was a rabbit or something small, as soon as the plant was getting about 3 feet, 2-3 feet, it looked like something had nibbled off the bottom and it was left there, and I read up on this problem and found it was cut worms. That’s probably why the fence didn’t work. so unfortunately It took me a while when I found out about that, it says you can put a toilet paper roll.

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

I think with the mushrooms, I would like to expand on different species, I would like to grow many different times. I the garden club there are wayne state I want to try a mushroom bed. Like growing a mushroom patch. If you want to build a bed above ground and fill it with hard wood chips and sawdust. I’m gonna do a little more research.


Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

The corn! I was so excited for it too! I never had this issue, I don’t know where they come from.

I don’t know where they come from either, but I’ve heard of that.

(I googled organic control of cutworm and decided other then having toads, or  beneficial insects and birds like blackbirds and meadowlarks, I liked this solution the best:  It’s said that if you push a small twig, nail, or toothpick into the earth right next to a seedling, the cutworm cannot wrap around the stem and fell the plant. It’s from a  Mother Earth News post.)

Something that you find is easy to grow and is generally successful every-time.

Herbs. Herbs are great, a lot of them just come back I don’t even have to do anything. It’s a little difficult with Chamomile because it spreads everywhere, I’ll be finding it over by the tomatoes! Spreads like wildfire. It’s amazing all the uses you can do with it, for teas and salves so I don’t mind it too much!

My big one that spread is oregano!

I do have oregano too!

Sometimes I forget what they are and say what’s this one again.

I was gonna ask you do you bring them in in the winter?

I just keep my basil on my window sill, because of our frost, I’ve lost so man plants, so it’s always fresh. but I don’t bring anything else in. My mom talked about bringing Rosemary in, but I don’t bring mine in. I have sage, and some thyme down there, mostly oregano. They just come back down there, and another reason I like herbs is because they generally do well without much watering etc in Montana’s dry climate.

Something you would steer new gardeners away from that you find is typically challenging to grow in your climate.

Pumpkins, I wouldn’t say steer away. Before you plant your pumpkins, find an area, maybe on a hillside, or a ledge or something, pumpkins is a little difficult, do a little research because choosing where to plant them. The vines are huge, they take up a lot of space.


Has anyone talked about rotation?

Very little, if you want to talk about it a bit more that would be great!

I don’t know too much, I just know that it’s good for your soil and for your plants overall, to rotate where you grow them, if you’ve been growing your tomatoes in the same spot and corn in the same spot, and your peppers, it’s good to switch it up! Switch the spot in which you’re growing!

It helps replace the nutrients right? Also they talk about putting nitrogen fixing plants to grow!

So the next year maybe grow in the opposite area.

I’ve heard people say “nitrogen for roots, phosphorus for shoots!” I think that’s what it was!

I worked on a hops farm over in Oregon for a little while, they would have the sheep come in and they would eat the bottom part of the hops essentially trimming it, and leave their droppings as fertilizer cause they’re droppings are high in nitrogen. So it was a good little cycle they had on, was very interesting!

I saw some hops down at the Purple Frog Gardens and she said the local brewery takes care of them and makes a Frog Hop Ale out of them.

MarketGardenerBookIt’s a climber it grows usually on a rope!
Joyce Pinson recommended the Market Gardener on episode  and it had a picture of a holding pond.

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.

I would have to say weeding, it’s kind of meditative to be out there in the dirt. They’ve been popping up so much lately with all the rain we’ve been getting, it’s just like not again, you know!

I can handle only so much weeding. We don’t really get a lot of weeds, between our water shortage and mulch, we just don’t get that many, my husband kind of keeps on them. I was a little worried this year with the sprinklers, but it wasn’t that bad.

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.

Oh, I think as a lot of people would say, the harvesting, watching things grow looking at the life, it reminds you everything is alive and should be taken into consideration. and definitely watching my mushrooms.

I’ll come back and 2 hours later, and they have grown so much! I’m like this is crazy! I’d like to do a time lapse video. They’re so cute mushrooms!

How doe is work? Do you have to wait a whole year after you pick a mushroom?

You can have multiple mushrooms, the log will essentially cultivate all throughout. Mushrooms will pop out! You can have 4 coming out of one little hole in one little area. Sometimes it’s just one in an area. The whole log essentially collinates.

After you harvest your first flush, it takes probably a few weeks for a flush to come back. You can force the log to come fruiting, as well if you soak it for a few hours hat will bring them back faster, it will force the mushrooms if you’re selling them.

at the base of them kind of rotate it with your fingertips it will break off

part of the Michigan Mushroom Hunters Club

We all have a special mushroom knife, so you don’t disturb the mycelium, basically the roots of the mushroom it’s good not to stress out that part of the mushroom.

What’s the mushroom club do you go out an pick like we pick wild morels?

Yeah! yup! we have public and member only forays! Different areas, we actually had a hunt up in the area up in the U.P. Morel season here in the spring time mushroom season is big! You have to look out for those. If you have your own area you kind of keep it for yourself…

It’s so fun! I can still remember the first time I went… and my friends are like … oooh I got one! Oooh I got one! And your’e like what are you looking at? What are you finding them? And then someone will pick one next to you and you’re like oh!

Tell us about the best crop you ever grew. 

Yes, my peppers, even this year, every year they grow so fast, faster then I can use them, so my neighbors I can share with, that’s why I’m drying a lot too, to keep them good, making different things. Im making a hot sauce! I never tried that before. I’ve never made hot sauce. I’ll probably look up a recipe and go from there, it seems pretty simple, vinegar, water, a little garlic powder.

I had no idea where to start, I was thinking like a salsa, mixing some tomatoes in. I make a killer guacamole! Basically just cilantro, lime, avacados, and I put salsa in my guacamole and mix it up in my food processor. 

What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

I would have to say, it’s probably not something people would think of as advice, I can always remember my mother telling me, as I was planting something, always have a peaceful mind and happiness and be joyful while you’re doing it. I really took that to heart, every time I’m out in the garden, I say a good word, maybe a prayer if you think of it that in that way. Just having a peaceful mind. I think that’s really good for plants, just the energy connection.

Have you ever entered a fair? How’d that go?

No, I haven’t but we plan in the garden club at Wayne State, we plan on selling the mushrooms at our Farmer’s Market at school. That will be very fun. And see how that goes


Some people




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