King Stropharia, The Garden Giant

How to Grow the Wine Cap Mushroom

Stropharia rugoso-annulata

King stropharia, or the wine cap mushroom takes its name from the rich wine like coloring of the cap in its younger button state. As it gets larger, it can lighten in cap color becoming a golden yellowish brown with age. The gills are a pale gray when young, changing to a purplish gray, and later on in life a purplish black. The stipe or stem is whitish when young, and yellows with age. This species is native to north east North America.

King stropharia has a delicious mild potato cooked in a red wine flavor, and the stem has an asparagus-like texture. Garden Giants are extremely low in sodium and calories, as well as fat and cholesterol free. They also contain iron, protein and calcium, making them a healthy addition to your meal.

Benefits of King Stropharia in Your Garden

  • Garden giants break down hardwood chips, and other substrates. By doing this, they enrich and build a rich layer of soil to nurture plants in the garden.
  • They attract earth worms. Earth worms love the smell of the sweet king stropharia mycelium. They will help aerating the soil in that area and deposit worm castings, which are great for your plants.
  • The mycelium will help reduce the damage caused to the root system, when the area is infested with nematodes. Mycelium will capture and destroy the nematodes.

TIP: Word of caution, once the earth worms learn where the mycelium is, they will come for it, so moving the bed each year to another location might be a good idea, if you are looking to eat mushrooms.

King stropharia comes in form of  sawdust spawn, weighing approximately 5lb and it will inoculate a cubic yard of wood chips or 1 square bale of wheat straw. They do prefer to have bright, but indirect sun to partial sun, so make sure that you’re not placing the bed in bright full sun. A good place for these would be at a tree line, tucked behind a garden shed, next to a retainer wall or just about anywhere with the correct light.

Growing  the Garden Giant on Wood Chip 

What You Will Need

  • Fresh (up to two months) hardwood chips – You can either make your own, check craigslist, check with your local arborist, with your power company, or a local mill
  • Spawn – you can get spawn here
  • Cardboard – take off all plastic tape, and or metal
  • Straw or leaves
  • Water


Step 1
Prepare an area by creating a rectangle hardwood log frame for the bed (optional), you can use logs that are inoculated with other strains such as Reishi! Try to use logs that are around 6-8” in diameter. Locate the site in a shady area or between rows of vegetable plants in the spring.

Step 2
Cover the entire floor of the mushroom garden with cardboard from flattened boxes. Water the cardboard until it is saturated. Sprinkle spawn lightly  onto the cardboard over the entire surface. 

Step 3
Add 3” of fresh hardwood chips and sprinkle more spawn on top. Pack the surface to remove any air pockets. Sprinkle lightly with enough water to moisten the chips.

Step 4
Cover with another layer of cardboard. Tear the cardboard, so that the moisture can make it to the bottom layer. You can also use a thin layer of newspaper. Sprinkle another layer of spawn onto the cardboard, covering the entire surface.

Step 5
Add a second 3” layer of fresh hardwood chips or lawn compost and mix it generously with sawdust spawn. Pack the surface to remove any air pockets. Sprinkle lightly with enough water to moisten the chips.

Step 6
Cover with straw or leaves to a depth of 1-2” to help preserve moisture and to shade the chips.

TIP: Do not make your bed deeper than two feet. You don’t want the mycelium to become anaerobic and die.

Step 7
Water everyday for the first week, every other day for the 2nd and 4th week. Water once a month thereafter, unless it receives sufficient rain. After 4-8 months the mushroom mycelium, or filaments of the fungus will spread throughout the chips and penetrate the surrounding soil, distributing nutrients to nearby plants. Check back on your patch often. Mushrooms grow extremely fast once they start fruiting, you don’t want to miss them! Your patch may fruit several times a year.

Growing the Garden Giant on Straw 

What You Will Need

  • Straw from a cereal grain – You can get this locally from a farmer, a feed store, or big stores like Home Depot and Lowes
  • Spawn
  • Cardboard – take off all plastic tape, and or metal
  • Straw or leaves
  • Water


Follow same instructions for the woodchips, but substitute woodchips for presoaked straw in all steps.

TIP: This method will fruit much faster, because straw is not as dense as woodchips.

Growing the Garden Giant in a Container 

This is a great method for those who want to evade earth worms, or don’t have enough space to grow outdoors.

What You Will Need

  • Presoaked straw or woodchips, or both. it is OK to mix these two substrates
  • Container: any type of plastic container (will need drainage holes in the bottom), a carboard box lined with a trashbag (will need drainage holes in the bottom), black nursery pots (already has holes :))
  • Spawn
  • Water
  • Potting soil, and a handful of your native soil


Step 1
Presoak the substrate the day before.

Step 2
Drain the substrate.

Step 3
Mix the spawn with the substrate really well.

Step 4
Fill your container with the spawned substrate. Pack it well. Leave two inches at the top for potting soil layer.

Step 5
Water gently so you are not washing the spawn down to the bottom of the container. Water everyday for the first week, every other day for the 2nd and 4th week. Water once a week after that. 

Step 6
After a few weeks, the whole container should be colonized. You will see stringy, filamentous mycelium growing all through out the container. Try not do disturb it much. At this point, you will case it.

Why do we need this casing? Without it, the mushrooms will not fruit. This is why you don’t see king stropharia growing on logs. They are terrestrial mushrooms. Add the handful of your native soil to the casing (just in case the potting soil was sterile, not containing microbes),  and wet it down really well. Add 1-2 inches of the potting soil to cover the surface.

Step 7
Water. You don’t want this layer drying out. To keep it humid, you may even cover the whole area with a humidity tent, which is a fancy word for a see-through plastic bag with holes in it.

Step 8 (Optional)
Seed your whole container with some wheatgrass, to create a functional, and pretty microclimate and habitat for mushroom formation. Planting wheatgrass will elevate oxygen, and provide a dewy hideout for the baby mushrooms.

Interplanting King Stropharia in an Existing Garden

You can also interplant the Garden Giant with your existing plants. You would mostly use the same process that you would if you were building a bed exclusively for the wine caps except you would do it around your plants. We use this method around our blue berries each year. Instead of weed eating around them, we just cover the area with cardboard, and build a mushroom bed on top of it. You are getting rid of the grass, growing mushrooms, and bringing in extra nutrition for the blueberry bushes. Win win situation all around.

Fruiting, Picking and Storing

Mist the mushrooms as they appear to prevent drying. It is critical that the baby mushrooms never dry out. As the mushrooms enlarge, you need to mist occasionally, but not all the time. Excessive watering can attract bacteria that rot and decay the mushrooms.

Mushrooms generally double in size every day. Pick just as the mushrooms start to slow or stop doubling in size, and do not water before picking. Pick the mushrooms in a button stage. This way you will beat the maggots to them, and the stems will not be wormy. The deeper you make your bed, the bigger those buttons will be.

What’s Next

When your King stropharia bed is established, you can add a new layer of wood chips to it once a year in the fall, after it fruits, to feed the mycelium and keep the bed fruiting. You can also take some of the colonized wood chips from your established bed, and use it to inoculate a new bed.

And now for the recipe.

King Stropharia Cous Cous Salad with Ginger and Orange

By our fabulous Cat Baker, Director of Operations, and Chef Extraordinaire
We prefer cooking these the same day you pick them, as they don’t last very long, even under refrigeration. If you must store them, put them in a paper bag, and into the fridge. This recipe is a quick and easy spring/summer salad.


  • 2 cups cooked and cooled cous cous – I had pearl, so I used that
  • Fresh herbs – I used parsley and some basil
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger minced – you can add more if you love ginger
  • 2-3 oranges – supremed
  • 1lb king stropharia – stems removed and sliced
  • Olive oil


  • Get your saute pan nice and hot.  Add your oil and sliced mushrooms. I usually throw in some thyme with them.
  • Turn you heat down to medium and season with salt and pepper and cook well and set aside to cool.
  • Before you supreme the oranges, zest one of them into the cous cous.
  • To supreme an orange, you will cut off both ends, then cut the rest of the rind off making sure that you remove all of it. Once you have removed the rind you will cut your segments in between the white membranes.
  • Mix together all your ingredients. Toss with olive oil, and season to taste.

Always be sure to correctly identify your mushrooms before consuming!



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24 thoughts on “King Stropharia, The Garden Giant”

  1. Can I use wood pellets instead of chips, for King Stropharia, The Garden Giant”?
    Do you sale wood chips or know of a source I can use. I have a truck & can pick up chips.

    • Hey Joel! You can try using wood pellets, I am not sure it will work though, cause when you soak them, they will probably turn into sawdust. Do you have access to wheat straw? That would work. Also if you know of a local mill, they usually have hard wood chips. Also power companies always look for places to dump woodchips when they cut around power lines. What about local arborists? They usually have woodchips as well. 🙂 Hope this helps.

  2. If I ordered these as Christmas presents here in Pennsylvania, would the spawn last until spring? Or can the plant the plot in winter?

  3. I would like to use Stropharia to benefit my berry and fruit tree orchards, fruiting is secondary for me. I estimate I need about 400 pounds total spawn. i have the following resources; Barley and wheat straw, fresh (mostly poplar and cottonwood ) chips, composted horse manure and many five gallon pails. My thought was some mixed ratio of the straw, wood and compost and start with your spawn (10-15 pounds of spawn.?) into X pails, then expand that into 20 pails for around 400 pounds spawn. Insight and possible ratios are appreciated. I’d like to get the first generation going soon so this can be spread in early April. I’m in Colorado, but not mountains.

  4. Note for above about the orchards. All the fruit and berry plants have “lasagna” layers of compost and wood chips already, and have permeable weed barriers over the chips and compost for moisture control.

  5. Hi there, I have a question regarding the color variations of the wine cap mushroom.
    And could the climate and region were the are grown have a bearing on the color?
    I have grown the wine cap with spawn given to me and some of them have a brown cap with lilac gills giving a dark purple almost black spore print and some have a light brown cap with white gills, which give a light lilac spore print after 2 days.The caps turn white as the grow.
    The smell seems to be the same, very pleasant earthy and mushroomy.The pigeons have discovered them and are eating both color variations.
    I have grown them on cardboard and straw.Not wood chips.
    Both variations have the same features, gills and distintive ring around the white stem.I have eaten the purple gilled mushroom but not the white one.I am located in South africa Capetown Bellville.
    Thank you

    • Hi Ingrid. The color variations could have something to do with either their substrate or the amount of light they receive. Ususally the ones I find out in the sun, can have much lighter caps 🙂 Hope this helps.

  6. Ingrid,

    What was your source of King Stropharia spawn in South Africa?
    I would love to have a go at them in SA but am not sure where to find spawn.

  7. Had my lasagne bed of card board and straw and chips. Mycelium was established but been battling a drought in my area. I see now that my white mycelium is gone. My top layers dry moving to quite wet star and chips. I think I likely over watered and my substrate was saturated. So I mixed up the bed to get more airflow and mixed in a bunch of new straw and chips. Will my mycelium come back in time?

    • Is all the mycelium gone? if you dig a little deeper, see if you can see stringy white strands, and let me know. If you don’t you will likely have to redo your bed. Maybe in another area too. FYI, earth worms are very attracted to the king stropharia mycelium, they could be decimating your bed as well.

  8. Hi,

    I inoculated my bed of hardwood chips, cardboards with leaves on top, under an elderberry tree last May, I’ve followed the watering instructions, but no King Stropharia mushrooms showing up this Fall, is the spawn not working? Is it possible that fruiting might happen next Spring? Would appreciate your inputs. Thanks.

    • Hi Kathy! Do you have any photos of your mushroom bed? I would like to take a look at it to try and help with troubleshooting. A few things come to mind though. If you have a large population of earth worms, they could have munched on the mycelium. Another thing I was thinking of is do you know what kind of woodchips you used? Sometimes when I get woodchips from a power company, it comes mixed with pine, and sometimes it is way more pine than hardwood, and king stropharia prefers hardwood. Thanks, Olga

  9. Am making my first king stropharia bed. Would like to use cardboard, alder chips & straw. Is using chips that include its bark a problem or fine to use?


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