How To Grow Mushrooms on a Book: Guide + Video

Mushrooms can grow in all sorts of strange and seemingly impossible places.

You’ve probably seen them growing out of trees or in your garden. Maybe even in the corner of your bathroom or basement!

But have you ever seen mushrooms grow on a book before?

In this article, we’ll explain why you might want to try growing mushrooms on a book. Plus we’ll provide a step-by-step guide on how to grow mushrooms on a book for yourself.

Growing Mushrooms on a Book

Can mushrooms grow on paper?

Yes, it’s possible to grow some species of mushrooms on paper and books. 

If you want to try growing mushrooms on a book, oyster mushrooms are the obvious choice. They’re simple to grow and will give you the highest chance of success.

In the wild, oyster mushrooms can decompose trees. They can even break down the incredibly tough fibers like lignin and cellulose that you find in trees.

Since paper is derived from trees, it makes sense that it’s possible to grow mushrooms on paper and books.

In fact, cardboard is a fairly common substrate material that’s used for growing mushrooms. And cardboard comes from trees as well.

Oyster mushrooms growing on a book

Why Would You Want To Grow Mushrooms On a Book? 

It’s mostly just a fun one-off activity to try. 

Growing mushrooms on books won’t provide a massive yield of crops. 

Books don’t pack a bunch of nutrients like other growing substrates, such as coffee grounds or straw.

It’s great as an educational tool for teaching children about fungi as well. It’s also a nice way to recycle an old book.

The end result of growing mushrooms on a book is something stunning that most people have never seen before. So it makes a great conversation starter as well.

Growing Mushrooms on a Book: Step by Step Guide

Below is our step-by-step guide on how to grow mushrooms on a book. We also have a video to walk you through the process instead, if you’d prefer:

Learn more about this fun and educational way to grow mushrooms.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

You will need a book to grow your mushrooms on. Either a hardcover or softcover book will work.

You’ll also need oyster mushroom spawn. You can order it online. (If you’re in the UK, we supply spawn here.) 

An easy way to figure out how much mushroom spawn you’ll need is to weigh your book. Aim to use an amount of mushroom spawn that weighs about 10% of the weight of the book.

Step 2: Pasteurize Your Book

You need to give your mushroom spawn the best chance to colonize the book. To do that, you want to kill off any competing mold or fungi spores that may be floating around in the air.

The simplest way to do this is to boil some water in a kettle and pour it over your book. 

Be sure to use a water-tight container that’s large enough to hold the boiling water as well as the book.

This step is necessary to give your mushroom spawn a good home to start growing.

Pouring boiling water onto a hardcover book to pasteurize it before growing mushrooms

Step 3: Let the Book Cool Off

Open your book and flip through the pages to inspect it. Make sure the water has gotten all the way through and soaked all of the pages. If it hasn’t, add additional hot water to the pages you missed.

Next you need to let your book cool off. 

If you try adding your mushroom spawn too soon, the heat could damage and kill it. So you need to allow it to cool down to room temperature first.

Step 4: Add Your Mushroom Spawn to the Book

If you purchased your mushroom spawn online, it most likely came in one large bag. First you will need to break the spawn up into very small pieces so you can add it into the book.

Then it’s simply a matter of layering the mushroom spawn between as many pages as possible.

For a standard sized book, we recommend adding a spawn layer every 20 pages or so.

Be sure to compress the book slightly between each layer. 

This will make sure the spawn has good contact with the pages. It’ll help ensure the mycelium will be able to feed on nutrients in the pages.

Adding mushroom grain spawn to the wet book for growing mushrooms on a book.

Step 5: Bag up Your Book

Once you’ve filled your book with as many layers of spawn as possible, it’s time to place it in a bag.

We used a standard mushroom grow bag for ours. 

Maybe you don’t want to specially order mushroom grow bags just for this project though. In that case, a standard freezer bag for food will work if it’s large enough.

The bag will help to keep heat and moisture around the book. This will provide an ideal environment for the mycelium to start growing.

It will also help keep out insects and pests, as well as prevent the spawn from spilling out of the book and making a mess on your countertop.

At this point, simply seal your bag off and leave it to incubate.

It will take approximately four weeks for the mycelium to fully colonize the book.

Sealing the book in a bag for incubation

Step 6: Fruit Your Mushroom Book

After it looks like your entire book has become coated in fluffy white mycelium, it’s time to put it into a fruiting chamber.

This is where your hard work will pay off and the mushrooms will finally grow.

See our article How to Build a Mushroom Fruiting Chamber: 7 Steps for instructions on how to build one.

For a single book, a basic monotub or shotgun fruiting chamber will provide all of the space that you need.

A shotgun fruiting chamber to provide fruiting conditions for your book

Can You Eat Mushrooms Grown on Books?

Mushrooms grown on books should probably not be eaten. 

Each book publisher uses different types of dyes, glues and other materials to create their books. So it’s hard to know exactly what is in them.

Since it’s hard to say for sure, we recommend against it.

So it’s best to play it safe and not eat mushrooms that have been grown on books. 

Just keep your book of mushrooms as an interesting object to look at for a while. Then discard it or compost it when you’re done.

Are Mushrooms Worth Growing?

In our opinion, the answer is a definite yes. Mushrooms are certainly worth growing.

Growing mushrooms at home is probably easier than you’d think.

Mushrooms don’t need light to grow, or to be watered regularly like plants. So even if you haven’t got a green thumb, it’s worth trying to grow them.

Edible mushrooms are packed with nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and more.

Be sure to read Health and Nutritional Benefits Of Mushrooms for a full overview.

You can’t beat the freshness of growing your own mushrooms at home. You can pick your mushrooms just minutes before adding them to your cooking.

However, if you want to grow mushrooms to eat at home, you’ll need to use a different method than growing on books. 

Oyster mushrooms growing on a substrate of cardboard

What Is Required To Grow Mushrooms?

The easiest way to start growing mushrooms is to start with a kit.

We usually recommend that beginners start off with our GroCycle Mushroom Kit

With a kit, all you need to do is open the box to get started. Then spray your kit with water each day and watch your mushrooms grow. In just 14 days your mushrooms will be ready to eat.

When you’re ready to grow mushrooms “from scratch,” we recommend checking out our guide to growing oyster mushrooms or signing up for a course

When you’re ready to try growing mushrooms on your own, you’ll need a few things: 

  • Mushroom spawn 
  • Substrate (the growing medium) 
  • Grow bags or buckets 
  • A thermometer 
  • A water spray bottle

For larger mushroom growing operations, there are some optional extras you might want. These include shelving, temperature and humidity controllers, air exchange fans and more.

See our article Mushroom Growing Supplies List: Everything You Need for a full list of supplies. 

GroCycle mushroom growing kit on a kitchen windowsill

Is It Profitable To Grow and Sell Mushrooms?

Growing and selling mushrooms can absolutely be profitable. We’ve been cultivating mushrooms at GroCycle since 2009.

With the right setup and production systems, you can run a profitable commercial mushroom farm and bring the highest quality fresh mushrooms to your area in the process.

As an example, oyster mushrooms regularly sell for between $5 to $15 per pound (£8 to £24 per kilogram).

See our article Top 12 Most Expensive Mushrooms in the World to learn just how profitable mushrooms can be!

The best part is that a mushroom growing business is highly scalable. You can create a side hustle by growing mushrooms in a spare bedroom and selling them to local chefs.

Over time, you can expand your operation and start supplying grocery stores and wholesalers.

With a setup cost of $100,000 (approximately £75,000), you can build a commercial mushroom farm capable of producing 15,000lbs (6,800kg) of mushrooms per month. And you can run it with a team of just four people!

The market for gourmet mushrooms is booming.

A selection of edible gourmet mushrooms

Final Thoughts

Growing mushrooms on a book is a fun activity to try at home.

It won’t provide a huge yield. In fact we wouldn’t recommend eating mushrooms that have been grown on books anyway.

But it can be a fun project to do with kids, or just as a way to recycle an old book.

If you want an easy way to grow mushrooms at home to eat, we recommend one of our GroCycle Mushroom Kits.