By Roger Krause, Shiitake Mushroom Enthusiast
There are three options if you want a mushroom: drive to the grocery store, search the woods, or stroll to your mushroom yard. I stroll.
I’m a farm boy who’s been in the insurance business for forty-two years. I appreciate dirty hands and predictable outcomes. That’s why I enjoy growing shiitake mushrooms.
Growing mushrooms as a hobby can be rewarding and inexpensive. For example, using logs from your own property not only saves money but also produce a far better tasting shiitake than those that are commercially grown on sawdust blocks. In fact, after 6,000 years of shiitakes in Southeast Asian culture, log-grown varieties fetch 10 times the price.
“Planting” your shiitake mushrooms is really simple and can be summed up in three easy steps.
1) Get a hardwood log
Logs are roughly 3-5” in diameter and 36-48” long. Oak is ideal. In fact, where shiitakes are native in Southeast Asia, these mushrooms naturally grow on a tree in the oak family.
Many tree species will work, but some enthusiasts in Southwest Wisconsin prefer ironwood because there are few other uses for the species that are as good. The log needs to be cut green so there is enough food and moisture to sustain the growth of the fungus.
2) Inoculate the log with mushroom spawn
Shallow holes are drilled all over the log, and each hole is plugged with spawn. Holes are then covered with wax to prevent drying or contamination. The fungus grows throughout the log (called spawn run) over a period of a few months.
3) Induce fruiting
After the spawn run, the log is soaked in water to trigger fruiting. Just days later, the log will be covered with shiitake mushrooms, as if appearing by magic! This same process can be repeated three to four times each year for up to six years, or until the log is depleted of nutrients.
Shiitake mushrooms are very firm and therefore great “keepers.” What’s not eaten right away is easily bagged and frozen for later. For a mushroom guy like myself, the harbinger of spring isn’t the robin’s song, but rather the sweet scent of rotting logs. I can’t wait for my first stroll to the mushroom yard.