Getting to know the mushroom
One of the most popular mushrooms that we sell here at mushroom mountain is the Shiitake mushroom. This is an amazing mushroom, and extremely easy to grow! We are going to share with you how to grow them on logs, how to boost their vitamin D as well as an awesome recipe for you to enjoy your mushrooms with. You’ll probably be surprised to find that shiitake mushrooms boost your immune system using polysaccharides, so that it can better fight cancers. They have been known to stabilize blood pressure.
Not only are Shiitake mushrooms good for you, they are delicious to eat. You can substitute mushrooms for just about any meat, from Shiitake gravy to spaghetti with sautéed Shiitake, or also as an addition to meat, boosting nutritional content and flavor. This incredibly diverse mushroom has a strong, earthy flavor that can be added into almost anything.
Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most widely cultivated mushrooms around the world surpassed only by the white button mushroom. They have been cultivated and enjoyed all around the globe for over a thousand years! That’s pretty impressive.
We know a lot of you may be slightly intimidated by the thought of growing your own mushrooms, but it seems like it is much more complicated than it really is. As a matter of fact, once you start, it will become a lifelong skill.
Because we know, not all of our fungi loving friends live in the same climate, we offer a variety of different shiitake mushrooms plugs as well as sawdust spawn. Choose which strain will suit your climate best. Use hardwood logs like Alder, Ash, Birch, Bitternut, Cherry, Chestnut, Hophornbeam, Ironwood, Maple, Oak, Pecan, Sweet gum, Sycamore, Tulip poplar, Walnut, Willow and others. They do not grow on conifers.
Check out our Zone fruiting map that will tell you what the fruiting temperatures are, and what wood different strains grow on.
A general rule of thumb is that a bag of 100 plugs will inoculate about 10 linear feet or 3 logs about 3 feet long, and one bag of sawdust spawn can inoculate around a 100 linear feet or 30-40 logs. Keep in mind, there are variables that might change that number, like how far apart you made your holes and how big the logs are.
You will also need the appropriate drillbit for your spawn. If you are using plugs your hole is going to need to be made with a 5/16″ (8.5mm) bit and if you are using sawdust you will need a 1/2″ (12mm) bit. You will also need an inoculation tool or plunger for sawdust spawn. This will take the spawn and inject it into the hole that you have made in the logs. Sawdust spawn is a more economical way to plug logs even with buying the plunger. We recommend using plugs for a small amount of logs, and sawdust for anything over 30 linear feet.
Last but not least you will need wax to seal your holes. You can use any organic unscented wax. We usually use soy or beeswax. This will seal the hole above the spawn and ensure that the spawn doesn’t dry out, allowing it time to colonize the surrounding wood. It also keeps the bugs and birds from removing it.
Let’s get started!
Plug and Sawdust Spawn Care
Store plugs and sawdust spawn for up to 6 months in the refrigerator. Remove them from the refrigerator the day before you plan on using them.
What You Will Need
- Logs – Cut your logs from a living tree and use them within 6 weeks of cutting the tree down. This is going to give the mushrooms you want a better chance of inoculating the log before any environmental mycelium gets to it. Look for trees around 4-8” in diameter and cut them into logs approximately 3-4 feet long. Your log should last one year for every inch in diameter however the larger the log, the longer it will take it to colonize and fruit.If you need help identifying what kind of wood you will need for a specific strain check out our Zone Fruiting map under learn on our website.
- Drill bit – 5/16″ (8.5mm) for plugs, 1/2″ (12mm) for sawdust spawn.
- Inoculation Tool – Inoculation tools are not necessary by any means, but do make life easier if you are doing a large amount of logs. You can also use a wooden dowel and a funnel to get the spawn into the holes, just make sure you get the spawn nice and snug in there.
- Canning wax – Use any wax like bee, soy or cheese wax. You may add a little bit of mineral oil to the wax so that it doesn’t dry and crack, but this is not necessary.
See blog post on How to Cultivate Shiitake Mushrooms for detailed instructions.
When you inoculate a log, you are putting the mycelium you chose into the tree that you want the mushrooms to grow from. It’s much like planting a seed. The mycelium then colonizes the log. Your log should be dry on the outside, and be free of dirt. Moss and lichens are ok. The plug is ¾” long dowels and you will want to drill your holes 1 ¼ “ into the log to create an air pocket below the plug. Drill the log in a diamond pattern with holes 5-6” apart.
When you notice a white growth on the cut edge of the logs this is the mycelium and it signals the end of the spawn run. You should see this around 6-9 months after you inoculate the logs, longer for larger logs.
Dry or Lightweight Logs
Word of advice: Do not soak your logs before they have fruited the first time. When you cut your logs, they are full of moisture, as this is how trees transport nutrients from roots to leaves and back during their lifetime, so you should not have to soak them before inoculating. If you have let your logs sit for the whole 6 weeks before inoculating, they might be dry.
If you notice that your logs are dry and lightweight, soak them for 12 hours.
You can arrange your logs many different ways.
- A method called log cabin style is where you set two logs on the ground, and then stack another two on top perpendicular (criss cross) to the two below. In our experience, stacking the logs 3 high works the best. Any higher and the logs might topple over. With this method of stacking, the logs will eventually fuse to one another becoming one organism, and the bottom two logs will wick moisture out of the ground, and water the rest of the logs.
- Another method of arranging logs is to lean them against living trees, This works best for logs that are longer than 3 feet. It will not affect living trees, as living trees have immune systems, preventing any outside infections from happening.
- A third way of arranging logs is to run a strong string, preferably metal cable, between two trees, and then you can lean the logs on both sides against this cable. This way the logs will have the ability to wick moisture out of the ground.
After around 6-9 months, or longer for larger logs, your spawn run should be complete and your log will be ready to fruit. Leave your log outside to fruit naturally when the conditions are right. Heavy rainfall or a drop in temperature will cause your log to fruit.
You will notice that the wood around the plugs will become spongy, this is the mycelium eating the wood and taking over the log.
Force fruiting is a method used in large scale cultivation. Let’s say it is Monday and you need mushrooms for the weekend market for sale. You will want to force fruit your logs. How would you do this?
You can force your log to fruit by creating fruiting conditions. Soak your log by fully submerging it in a large bucket or container for 12 hours. Return the logs to their upright position and the log will begin fruiting within a few days.
Take care to not leave them submerged for more than 24 hours because it will drown the mycelium. Submerge the logs completely in cold water and in a large container or bucket for the entire 12 hours. Once you remove the logs from the container, arrange them again using one of the above methods.
Do not force your logs unless they have already fruited once. Wait at least two months if you want to force the logs again.
TIP: Inoculate enough logs where you can stagger your harvest if you are growing for the market or restaurants. Soak a 10% of logs one week, then another 10% the next week, and so on. This way you can have mushrooms continually. A typical 3 foot log should produce 2-3 lbs. of mushrooms every fruiting, or 1 pound per linear foot.
A log is like a battery. After you harvest your mushrooms from the log you are going to want to allow it to rest for 2 months without water. At the end of the 2 months you will soak your logs for 12 hours and arrange to begin the cycle again. Your log will fruit faster during the second and third flush. You can expect around 3-5 flushes per year. The log will last 1 year for every inch in diameter, but it will not last as long if you are using the force fruit method.
Once you get a log to fruit, it will probably be a lot more than you can eat in a day. You can either take a small amount of mushrooms from the log, and pick periodically throughout the week, or you can pick them all at once and store them in a paper bag in the fridge.
If you get a really big flush, you might want to dry some of them on the dehydrator. Drying them in the sun also works, and if you expose the gills to the the sunlight, the Vitamin D will increase tremendously. Then you can store the mushrooms in an airtight container. They reconstitute in warm water really well, and you can them use them like you would fresh mushrooms.
Do not freeze your mushrooms fresh, they will suffer cellular damage and will become mush.
Q:What is the difference between a log and a round?
A: A log is a smaller round, a log would be considered anything up to 8 inches in diameter.
Q: How long after a tree has fallen or cut down, do you have to inoculate a log?
A: The window for inoculation is between 1-6 weeks after the tree is cut.
Q: Should I seal the end of my logs with wax?
A: No, in our opinion it is a waste of time and wax. Sealing the ends prevents water from coming in and out of the log.
Q: Should they be stored on bricks or laid directly on the ground?
A: If you stack them on the bricks, there is less chance of contamination, but you will have to water them more often, so they don’t dry out.
Q: How much sun is ok?
A: Bright indirect sun and shade is preferable. Do not store your logs in direct sunlight.
Q: How often should I water the logs while they are colonizing?
A: Water them once a week and then once every two weeks after a few months. After 6 months you can lay them on the ground and they will wick water from the earth.
Q: Should I bury my logs?
A: You can bury your logs 1/3 into the ground totem style if they are large. Do this after the inoculation period.
Q: If I inoculate a stump will it damage any trees that are near it?
A: Your surrounding trees will not be affected unless they are sick. If they are sick, once the mushrooms fruit and produce spores, there might be a chance those trees will at some point grow the same types of mushrooms.
Q: How do I know what strain of shiitake to get for my area?
A: People in warm climates should focus on getting all warm and wide range strains, cold climates should stick with cold and wide range strains, and temperate climates can get a mix of them all.
Q: Can I mix different strains in same logs?
A: No, the strains will compete in the log, and one will win. You want to plant different strains in different logs, and separate the logs from each other.
Q: When should I cut trees?
A: The best time time cut logs is when the sap is down, this means when there are no leaves on the trees. This will ensure more sugars (food) for the mushrooms. However, this rule does not make much of a difference if you are not growing commercially.
Q: What if the mushrooms freeze on the logs.
A: This is OK, as long as they are attached to the logs, they will defrost just fine, without any cellular damage.
Shiitake Spaetzle with roasted Jerusalem artichokes and shiitake gravy
- 1 ½ cups AP flour
- ½ cup shiitake flour or you can use 2 cups AP flour
- 4 eggs beaten
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup milk
- In a large saucepan over high heat bring salted water to a boil
- In a large bowl, stir the flour, eggs, milk and salt until smooth. your dough will be sticky
- Place you colander or spaetzle maker coated with cooking spray over the boiling water.
- Working quickly press the dough through the colander with a wooden spoon or pastry spatula, giving it a shake as needed. You are looking for small pieces to fall into the water.
- Cook for about 3 minutes until the dumplings are floating. Remove with slotted spoon and toss with butter and freshly chopped parsley.
Roasted Jerusalem artichokes
- ½-1 lb of Jerusalem artichokes aka sunchokes
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh herbs-I used thyme and parsley
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Scrub the sunchokes especially in between the knots- slice into bite size pieces
- Toss the sunchokes and olive oil in a bowl with salt pepper and fresh herbs- I used thyme and parsley
- Spread out onto baking sheet and roast for about 30-45 minutes until tender and caramelized.
- 3 oz dried shiitake
- 2 garlic cloves-minced
- 1 onion cut in half and sliced
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1/3 cup wine- you can use red or white (I used red for mine today)
- 2 cups stock-I was feeling beef stock today
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh herbs-I used fresh rosemary
- Soak shiitake in water for 30 minutes and drain excess water
- Slice your mushrooms into strips
- Heat your cast iron on medium-high and when hot, add your oil coating the bottom. Add the mushrooms, onions and rosemary until they are browned and onions are beginning to soften. I remove the shiitakes at this time
- Turn heat down to medium and add your garlic, add 2 tbsp of olive oil
- Add in the flour and whisk. Let cook while whisking for a few minutes and then add in your wine and stock-once your gravy has thickened add your mushrooms back in and season to taste.