Want to grow your own shiitake mushrooms? Or another delectable variety? Two members of my local Master Naturalist group have had years of practice in growing their own shiitake, portobello, blue oyster, and other varieties of mushrooms. They guided the rest of us through six simple steps:
1. During the winter season, cut 3’ sections of a healthy hardwood tree 4 to 6” in diameter. We used freshly cut White Oak and Maple. Shiitake translates to “Oak mushroom” and grows best on Oak, but our guides have used other hardwoods.
2. Using a 5/16” bit, drill 10 to 15 holes on the upper half of your log, approximately 4” apart. We purchased inexpensive 1” shiitake plugs, which are spiral-cut wooden dowels infused with mycelium. Be sure to use a variety of mushroom that will not become contaminated with local, possibly toxic spores. Check with your supplier.
3. Drill 1/4” deeper than your plug, using a nail with a line inscribed to test the depth. For example, our holes were drilled to 1-1/4” for 1” plugs.
4. Insert the inoculated plugs into the drilled holes, counter sinking them into the log, leaving ¼” to be filled with the melted wax.
5. Melt unused red cheese wax (the type that covers Gouda wheels), which is softer than paraffin. Stir constantly as it only takes a minute or two to melt. Using a small paint brush, paint over the plugs completely to seal in the spores.
6. The finished product! Place in shady spot, slightly off the ground. A pine forest is ideal, out of direct sunlight. If there has not been any rainfall for up two weeks, soak your log in a bucket of water overnight – don’t let it dry out! It may take a year or so to produce your first harvest, then you may get a 2nd harvest each year for the next few years.
Think: Have you ever prepared your own mushroom logs?
Say: Share your experience in the comment section.
Do: Compare the price, quality and satisfaction with making your own logs vs. store-bought. For approximately $12, our group purchased enough shiitake plugs and cheese wax to make 20 logs with 10 plugs apiece. Several logs can be prepared and stacked cross wise on a pallet or other support for a mass harvest. Enjoy!