Everybody loves mushrooms. (Well, almost everybody. I sure do, at least.) Unfortunately, mushrooms fetch a high price in supermarkets, and even worse, they are often subject to pesticides and other harmful chemicals in commercial mushroom factories. What you may not realize is that people have been growing their own mushrooms for hundreds of years, but it’s only recently caught on here in North America. If you don’t have access to land teeming with wild mushrooms, or you are not interested in buying commercial mushrooms, you might consider adding mushrooms to your backyard garden!
Grow Your Own Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are some of the most delicious and highly-prized of the edible fungi, and they are surprisingly easy to grow in your own backyard. There are but a few things you need, including a supply of freshly cut wood, mushroom spawn, and a shady, damp place to store your inoculated mushroom logs.
Mushroom inoculation commonly occurs in the early spring. You will need to find a source of hardwood (such as oak, which is commonly preferred). If you have access to woodland, you can cut your own trees for logs. However you obtain your logs, they should be 40″ long, and approximately 4-6″ in diameter.
Mushroom spawn can be purchased from a variety of suppliers (such as Fungi Perfecti or MushroomPeople) and usually come in the form of dowels or sawdust. Either medium will grant you the same results, but using the sawdust spawn does require the use of a special inoculation tool, which you can also buy from the same suppliers.
After letting the logs rest for three weeks to let the natural fungicides die back, you are ready to inoculate. Drill holes every 6-8″ around the full circumference of the log (and 2″ from either end), and then plug the holes with either your dowels or sawdust spawn. In an old pot, melt some beeswax, and then paint the wax over the holes to protect the spawn. (The beeswax protects the spawn from contaminants as the mycelium runs through the log.)
Finally, stack your logs against a fence, in the fashion of a tipi, or lay them on the ground on a bed of straw. You will want the logs to be in a shady, damp place so that the logs maintain a high moisture level. If the rain is infrequent, you can induce shiitake fruitings by submerging the logs in a body of water or watering them heavily. Either way, expect to see mushrooms in about 6-12 months after the inoculation. Shiitake mushrooms usually appear after a day of rain in the spring, summer, and fall months.
Your shiitake logs will continue to produce fruit for up to eight years, providing you with many harvests of beautiful, delicious, and healthy fungi! Give it a try!