The wet spring was tough on vine crops but good for at least one crop: mushrooms. Not that I am an expert à la Greg Marley or David Spahr, Mainers whose books I highly recommend. But I did get “The Garden Giant Mushroom Patch” kit from Fungi Perfecti ( in Olympia, Wash., for Christmas last winter, and now we are reaping the benefits — in omelets, on pizza, over rice, with organic hamburgers.

The Garden Giant Mushroom Patch comes as a block of hardwood chips impregnated with mycelium of the fungus Stropharia rugoso annulata (recently renamed Psilocybe rugoso annulata, but without the psychoactive compounds of some other members of the Psilocybe genus). Mycelium consists of the fine white filaments, or hyphae, of a fungus; they’re the vegetative part of the organism that gives rise to the reproductive part, the mushroom.

Because it arrived in winter, I placed the plastic-wrapped cube in our crawl space, where the mycelium was out of direct sun, kept cool but not frozen, and where the mycelium continued to grow throughout the chips.

In April, I spread a couple of inches of hardwood chips, which had been sitting for two years, under some willow shrubs, over an area about 3 feet wide by 5 feet long. Then I spread the inoculated chips from Fungi Perfecti over the wood chips, covered them with 2 more inches of wood chips from our pile, and mixed the layers together with a 4-tine hoe. I had what Fungi Perfecti calls a “mushroom mound.”

I kept the mound moist, not a difficult task this spring! And in mid-June, voilà: several mushrooms popped up seemingly overnight. I harvested these and have had a few more harvests since. Regular watering during dry periods should ensure continued harvest for four to 12 months, says Fungi Perfecti — or throughout the summer and fall here. (I wonder how long they’d produce under low hoops covered with plastic?)

The only problem I’ve had with growing these mushrooms is slugs. By watering in the morning, checking the patch frequently and picking the young mushrooms soon after they appear, I have generally been able to get my harvest before the slugs get theirs.

In his book “Mycelium Running,” Paul Stamets (founder of Fungi Perfecti) says he has harvested garden giant mushrooms weighing 5 pounds each and measuring almost 2 feet in diameter, hence their name. But the directions for growing them say to harvest “almost as soon as the veil — the ring of material that covers the underside of the cap, protecting the gills — opens.” So, having followed directions, I have not had a 2-footer yet.

Apparently this mushroom can be grown between corn rows, with the corn providing the needed shade. In fact, Stamets says, “In central Europe, S. rugoso annulata has naturalized in cornfields where years earlier it was first introduced as a mulching species. We have had garden giant colonies in our garden [in Washington state] for many years.”

Directions that come with the kit say to add more wood chips into and around the mound each year, unless competing molds or fungi have appeared. “The introduction of new spawn on a yearly basis will help to fortify and reinvigorate” the patch, says Fungi Perfecti.

Given that I have already harvested at least $25 worth of mushrooms (the cost of the kit), growing the Garden Giant seems worthwhile. And it’s fun. And tasty.