Quantcast
Food

How to Grow Shiitake Mushrooms

By Laura Sorkin

Shiitake mushrooms require faith in the unseen. The fungi flourish under the cover of bark for nine to twelve months preceding the first harvest, during which eternity you can do little more than cross your fingers. Once established, though, the crop will produce fruit for approximately seven years. Plus, these umami bombs fetch as much as $20 per pound at farmers markets. Up for the challenge? You'll want to get started now, harvesting the logs that will serve as your growing medium before trees bud out and release the nutrients stored in their sapwood.


Not just any old logs will do. They should be 3 to 6 inches in diameter and about 3.5 feet long—cut from deciduous hardwoods. Oak, maple, ironwood and beech all make good candidates. Avoid pine and fruit trees, as well as wood covered in lichen.

Winter is also the ideal time to shop for spawn, live culture akin to seed. Serious growers prefer sawdust spawn and invest in the spring-loaded inoculation tool necessary to insert the sawdust into logs. Hobbyists tend toward shortcuts such as pre-inoculated wooden dowels, called plug spawn, or even pre-inoculated logs. (Fieldforest.net sells a wide variety of tools and spawn, including the beginner-friendly WR46; williams-sonoma.com carries pre-inoculated logs.)

Inoculation

In spring, once all danger of frost has passed, inoculate the logs using a power drill or a more efficient high-speed angle grinder with a drill-bit attachment. The size of the bit will depend on the type of spawn: The inoculation tool associated with sawdust spawn typically calls for a 12-mm bit; plug spawn, an 8.5-mm one. (Confirm the bit size with your supplier when purchasing spawn and/or an inoculation tool.) Working outside near a power source and wearing protective eye and ear gear, drill 1 inch-deep holes every 6 inches down the length of the log. Rotate the log a few inches and drill another row, adjusting the placement of the holes so that the overall pattern will resemble polka dots. Continue turning and drilling until you come back around to the first row.

If your spawn is in plug form, simply insert the dowels into the drilled holes and hammer until flush with the log. For sawdust spawn, place a wad of the spawn in a cup, plunge the inoculating tool into the cup to fill, then hold the tool up to the hole and push the button with your thumb to release. In either case, seal each hole with food-grade cheese wax. (I rely on a cheap deep fryer to melt the wax and a reusable dauber to apply it.) Arrange the logs as shown (see "Stacking the Logs," below) in a shady, humid location; they should be close to the ground but ideally not lying on it, with as much surface area exposed to rain as possible. Any time it doesn't rain for a week or two, give the logs a thorough watering.

Stacking the Logs: Place an ordinary log on the ground. Then arrange the inoculated ones atop it as depicted above. Illustration by Susan Huyser

Harvest

The following spring, once temperatures rise above 60°F, fruit the logs by submerging them in cold, clean water overnight (in a feed tank or a nearby creek). The next day, move the logs to a shady area and lean them against a tree or fence, with a tarp spread underneath. (Keep slugs at bay with an organic deterrent like Sluggo or set out beer traps.) Cover with a fruiting blanket or other permeable cloth, and wait five to seven days for the mushrooms to emerge.

Once the caps are open but not quite flat, cut the fruit from the log with a knife or twist it off by hand. Refrigerate the mushrooms in a paper—not plastic—bag for up to 10 days. By re-stacking the same logs in the original formation (see "Stacking the Logs," above), you can re-fruit them every eight weeks until nighttime temperatures begin dipping below 40°F (at which point the mushrooms go dormant for winter). Should a log fail to fruit in the first place, peel back a bit of bark. If you see a white film, the inoculation was probably successful but needs more time to fruit. Re-stack and check again in six weeks.

The Bottom Line for Shiitake Mushrooms

The following estimates assume mushroom cultivation on 100 free logs and don't factor in labor costs. Allow roughly three days for drilling and inoculating, as well as three hours per fruiting, spread over a week.

  • Initial investment: Angle grinder with adapter and dedicated drill bit ($160); spring-loaded inoculator ($35); deep fryer ($20); four 2.5-pound bags cheese wax ($35); four wax daubers ($1); four 5.5-pound bags sawdust inoculant ($100); tarp ($5); fruiting blanket ($25) = $381.
  • Harvest yield (from year two): Approximately 1/4 to 1/3 pound per log per fruiting, with two to three fruitings annually, depending on climate = 50 to 100 pounds.
  • Retail price per pound: $10 to $20.
  • Annual revenue (from year two): $500 to $2,000.
  • Effective life of crop: Approximately seven years.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
Some of the young plaintiffs in landmark climate case Juliana v. United States. Our Children's Trust

Supreme Court Puts Historic Youth Climate Lawsuit on Hold

The U.S. Supreme Court put a landmark climate case on pause Friday while it considers a last-ditch attempt by the Trump administration to stop it from proceeding to trial, Climate Liability News reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Annette Bernhardt / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

3 Things You Can Do to Help Avoid Climate Disaster

By Stephanie Feldstein

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a dire warning last week: We need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and we need to do it fast to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Jess Lundgren / CC BY 2.0

The Trump Administration’s ‘Dishonest’ Attack on Fuel-Economy Standards

By John R. Platt

The Trump administration's plan to freeze fuel-economy standards is "the most spectacular regulatory flip-flop in history," said a retired EPA engineer who helped to develop new the standards under the Obama administration.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Lizzie Carr traveling down the Hudson River on her stand-up paddleboard. Max Guliani / The Hudson Project

Her Stand-Up Paddleboard Is a Platform for Campaigning Against Plastic Pollution

By Patrick Rogers

Lizzie Carr was navigating a stretch of the Hudson River north of Yonkers, New York, recently when she spotted it—a hunk of plastic so large and out of place that she was momentarily at a loss to describe it.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Science
The Ross Ice Shelf at the Bay of Whales. Michael Van Woert, NOAA

Scientists Study Ice Shelf by Listening to Its Changing Sounds

By Marlene Cimons

Researchers monitoring vibrations from Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf were flabbergasted not long ago to hear something unexpected—the ice was "singing" to them. "We were stunned by a rich variety of time-varying tones that make up this newly described sort of signal," said Rick Aster, professor of geosciences at Colorado State University, one of the scientists involved in the study.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
DSLRVideo.com / Flicker / CC BY-SA 2.0

'Go Out and Vote' Patagonia Endorses Candidates for First Time in Its History

Outdoor brand Patagonia is endorsing candidates for the first time in its history in an effort to protect the country's at-risk public lands and waters.

The civic-minded retailer is backing two Democrats in two crucial Senate races: the re-election of Sen. Jon Tester of Montana; and Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is trying to unseat Republican Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals
Desert Bighorn Sheep in Joshua Tree National Park. Kjaergaard / CC BY 3.0

Leaked Trump Administration Memo: Keep Public in Dark About How Endangered Species Decisions Are Made

In a Trump administration memorandum leaked to the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is directing its staff to withhold, or delay releasing, certain public records about how the Endangered Species Act is carried out. That includes records where the advice of career wildlife scientists may be overridden by political appointees in the Trump administration.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Disposable diapers add staggering amounts of waste to landfills. Pxhere

Dirty Diapers Could Be Recycled Into Fabrics, Furniture Under P&G Joint Venture

Disposal diapers can take an estimated 500 years to decompose. That means if Henry VIII wore disposables, they'd probably still be around today.

Although throwaway nappies are undoubtedly convenient, these mostly-synthetic items cause never-ending steams of waste that will take centuries to disappear.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!