Garden Chronicle: Shiitake Mushrooms | Rock Candy

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Garden Chronicle: Shiitake Mushrooms

Posted By on Sun, Mar 15, 2009 at 7:48 PM

This time of year, gardening is all about waiting. While waiting for things to sprout and for the weather to warm up a bit, it's easy to get tired of seedlings and compost. So I spent my Sunday afternoon doing something different, preparing to grow shiitake mushrooms.

Shiitake mushrooms are a delicious addition to almost any dish. Hailing from the Far East, they bring with them a laundry list of health benefits. They're scientifically proven to be anti-viral, immune-boosting, cholesterol-lowering, and cancer-fighting. To top it all off, they're easy to grow in a home garden.
The first thing I needed was fresh wood, as in not from dead or rotting trees. Oak is best, but other hardwoods with thick bark will do. I rounded up four logs, approximately four inches in diameter that were cut into three-foot long sections. Next I needed shiitake spawn. Mine came from MushroomPeople.com, which is run by the fine folks at The Farm in Tennessee. Their handy starter kit cost me $19, and contained 300 plugs, one pound of wax, and ten aluminum tags. The 300 plugs that came in the kit are enough for ten logs, so I'm sharing with a friend.

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Shiitake mushroom spawn on wooden plugs.

Besides the logs and the starter kit, my tools included a backpacking stove, a small pan, a paintbrush, a hammer, and a drill. It took me about an hour to inoculate my logs, which included drilling holes, hammering in the spawn, and painting wax over the plugs.

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Plugs must be sealed with wax to keep other fungi out of the logs.

Directions tell me to keep them moist and shaded and that in six to nine months I should get my first harvest. Seems like a long time to wait, but the logs should produce for three or four years. A twenty dollar investment that pays off for years is worth the wait to me.

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Drilled, plugged, and waxed, a
freshly inoculated shiitake log.

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