Cultivating Cordyceps - The Caterpillar Mushrooms
This page will focus on the various cultivation aspects of the two medicinal Caterpillar Mushrooms. Its true that Cordyceps are different than most other mushrooms we cultivate, but if you follow the instructions below, you'll be an adept Cordyceps cultivator, in no time. It is important that you follow the tutorial very closely, as many people fail by deviating from the instructions, even slightly. There are no short cuts and no substitutions. Cordyceps militaris and Cordyceps sinensis are very powerful natural medicines. Both of these Cordyceps species are very expensive medicinal mushrooms and are only becoming more popular, every year. This is especially true for C.sinensis, which can exceed $20,000.00 per kg! Cordyceps militaris has become more popular in recent years, as the techniques and efficiency for producing the mushrooms, has evolved dramatically. Even to the extent where people with little--no experience, can grow their own at home. C.militaris is very comparable to the wild C.sinensis in potency, but it's much, much cheaper. Even though Cordyceps sinensis will not produce a fruiting body in captivity, you can grow out the mycelium on rice, cereal grains, and my personal favourite: Quinoa.
Able to produce a fruiting body(Stroma)
**Able to cultivate the mycelium, only
For The Health Benefits of Both Cordyceps, Visit the Cordyceps Page Below
Cultivation of Cordyceps sinensis Mycelium(CS4)
The CS-4 strain is an isolate of Cordyceps sinensis that will not produce a fruiting body. However, the mycelium of this particular strain is considered very medicinal and is commercially grown in North America. It is a very aggressive culture and will fully consume whatever substrate you use, in less than 3 weeks. The vast majority of Cordyceps products that you can find in health food stores or online, are made from this mycelium, which is dried out and ground into powder. Its not as potent as Cordyceps militaris, but it does have a couple beneficial compounds that are not present in the militaris fruiting body. For this reason, combining both the CS-4 mycelium and C.militaris fruiting body in your diet, is a great way to feel the full spectrum of Cordyceps benefits.
Step 1: Making A Liquid Culture of CS4 Mycelium
Step 2: Sterilization & Inoculation of The Substrate
Below: You Can Use Mixed Millet
Below: Flax Seed Works Well
Quinoa Is My Personal Favourite
Although quinoa is my favourite substrate for cultivating Cordyceps sinensis, you can use nearly any cereal grain and some seeds. Buckwheat, flax, rice, wheat berries, millet, etc etc.
You only want to fill the jars with around 30 grams of dry grain or seed, as Cordyceps sinensis has difficulty colonizing thick substrates. I dont recommend rice as a substrate, but it works as well.
You can either soak a bucket of grains overnight/ for 10 hours, or you can add 30 dry grams of whatever grains you're going to use; to a jar. If you decide to go the latter route, add 35ml of water to each jar containing 30 grams. Then you're ready to sterilize. ** You must sterilize in a pressure cooker that can maintain 15psi, for 40-45 mins. Once the jars have cooled, you can place in your glovebox or in front of your flowhood for inoculation. Use 2-3ml to each jar and try to spread it around the grains. A focus blast of lc works fine, but the mycelium will colonize much quicker if its dispersed around the substrate. CS4 is a very rapid growing mycelium, you'll notice the first signs of growth within 48 hours.
Step 3: The Colonizing & Consolidation Phase
The entire colonizing phase should be complete within 30 days if you do everything correctly. If you notice some of the grains turning brown and greasy, it means you have a bacteria or yeast contaminant growing in the jar as well. I would toss any jars that do not grow 100% clean white mycelium.
The biggest issue here, is that people often rush this step and end up with a weaker final product. It is essential that you allow the mycelium time, to break down and convert all the quinoa(most of it), into myceliated biomass. An extra week of consolidation can double the potency. If you do harvest early, you will be getting more grain than mycelium. The goal is to get as much mycelium as possible, because this is where the medicinal compounds are found.
Step 4: Harvesting and Drying Your Final Product
So, now you have a jar of beautiful white mycelium!
Congratulations! You have successfully grown your own Cordyceps sinensis. When you're ready to harvest, stick a fork or knife into the jar and pull the whole chunk out. Place onto a dehydrator for 10-12 hours, or until bone dry. Once its dry, it will crumble. Take the dried mycelium and powder it with a coffee grinder. You can then use this powder in cooking, in teas, or encapsulate it. Encapsulating the powder is my preferred method of preparation.
Now that you have dry powdered mycelium, you can use it in cooking, teas, or choose to encapsulate it. I prefer to encapsulate it! I also mix my Cordyceps sinensis mycelium with Cordyceps militaris mushrooms, in order to feel the full spectrum of benefits.
Cultivating Cordyceps militaris Mushrooms
Producing a Cordyceps militaris mushroom is a lot more difficult than growing out a culture, pay close attention to detail and don't deviate from the plan. The fruiting process is the most difficult part, inoculating the jars is very easy. In fact, its the same process as inoculating Cordyceps sinensis. The only difference, is that Cordyceps militaris will produce actual mushrooms. At least, if you have a quality isolate. Many Cordyceps militaris cultures bought online, will not fruit, so make sure you have a proven fruit bearing strain. Cordyceps militaris mushrooms are a lot more potent than the mycelium of C. sinensis, so ideally, you want to be cultivating C.militaris.
Step 1: Choosing A Substrate For Producing C. militaris
Once you have a syringe of C.militaris liquid culture, you're almost ready to inoculate. C.militaris needs a more complex substrate than C.sinensis. A base substrate(rice), soaked in a specialized, liquid micronutrient solution(Available on the products page). I have tried more than a dozen different base substrates such as: popcorn, wheat berries, flax seed, quinoa, wild rice, buckwheat, bran, whole oats, poppy seeds, etc etc; and none of them produced like simple, short grain, Japanese sushi rice. Supplemented rice of any kind, produces very healthy mycelium and yields 30-50% higher than supplemented grain substrates. The rice is easily broken down by the mycelium and within a month, your Cordyceps primordia will begin to form. Grain substrates are slower to colonize and the mycelium is not as robust. You can successfully produce a few small mushrooms(big maybe), if you only grow on unsupplemented rice, but the yields are so low, it's not really worth trying on your first couple attempts.
Once you've decided on a carbohydrate base, you'll have to acquire a special mix of micro nutrients and amino acids. Some of these micro nutrients are very expensive and I am not willing to give up my own unique recipe, because it took several years and a lot of work to develop. I will however sell you the perfect blend of nutrients, in powder form. You can also research to find your own nutrient recipe, some of the nutrients include: Magnesium, Peptones, Vitamins, etc etc