Rising Shiitake Mushrooms At Residence: The Information

It's wonderful to walk through a wooded forest after the rain and find a mushroom jumping out of a log or between fallen trees! However, most of these mushrooms are not edible. However, it is possible to grow shiitake mushrooms in your own garden or greenhouse and pick them when they pop out of the wood and invite to devour.

Growing mushrooms is a little different from growing herbs or other vegetables in your garden. But it's a fun process and a great way to get new gardeners into growing their own foods. Once you understand a little about the steps, you will find that growing shiitake mushrooms is actually quite simple!

Years ago, people in East Asian forests could only grow shiitake mushrooms. However, we have come a long way and can now grow them all over the world. In fact, they have become so popular that an estimated 25% of annual mushroom production is shiitake mushrooms.

This little mushroom has a taste similar to wild mushrooms and is full of that deep umami flavor. It's worth the wait. Slightly larger than mushrooms and full of vitamins, it is said to strengthen the immune system.

Shiitake mushrooms are fundamentally different in their growing habits from everything else in your garden. They are fungal spores that rest until they find the right conditions to grow. To make life easier for these little guys, you need to create a home for the fungal spores to grow and multiply in. This planting medium is usually a freshly cut log or sawdust substrate. With the growth of online retailers selling all kinds of inoculated plug spawns, growing shiitake at home has never been easier!

About shiitake mushrooms

Growing shiitake mushroomsYou can experiment growing shiitake mushrooms at home! Source: jpmatth

Shiitake mushrooms are a delicious edible mushroom native to East Asia that is ubiquitous in Japanese and Chinese cuisines. People all over the world can now grow these mushrooms in their own homes, yards, and even bathrooms!

Growing shiitake mushrooms, like all types of mushrooms, can seem a bit strange to the veteran gardener if you've never grown them before. However, it is worth learning how. These little capped mushrooms are well worth the effort as they are grown in either grow bags or tree trunks, which greatly reduces their cost.

The Lentinula edodes is a brown mushroom with a cap 2 to 4 inches in diameter and a light brown, somewhat spindle-shaped stem. The mushroom's cap can sometimes look a bit like a little pancake! There are small white spots on the edge of the cap. Under the cap there are gills or something that looks like tightly folded tissue and creates a beautiful pattern.

Like all mushrooms, the Lentinula edodes is a mushroom. The common name Shiitake literally means Castanopsis mushrooms after the Castanopsis cuspidata tree (also known as the Shii tree) native to Japan. While this mushroom thrives naturally in much of East Asia, it does not compete well with mushrooms that grow elsewhere in the world. This is why it is so important to sterilize the strains or substrate that you use as a host to grow shiitake mushrooms.

There are two main types of shiitake mushrooms: the donko, a larger mushroom that is highly sought after, and the koshin (ko means small in Japanese), a small mushroom with thinner flesh and an open cap.

While gardeners find that wild mushrooms seem to show up in their own backyards overnight (especially after reapplication of compost), they may be surprised that growing shiitake mushrooms can be a fairly long process. When mushrooms grow in a sawdust substrate, it takes a few months from inoculation to harvest. If you grow in wood you can expect a harvest in up to 2 years, yes you read that right, 2 years!

Shiitake mushroom substrates

In its natural environment in East Asia, shiitake mushrooms grow on decaying trunks (especially Shii tree trunks). These areas are generally shaded by the forest canopy and are very humid. To emulate nature there are two methods commonly used to grow mushrooms. You can add mushroom plugs to a log of a hardwood tree and harvest for 6-7 years, or you can grow in a grow bag and inoculate a mixture of sawdust and bran to get a harvest much earlier.

Hardwood logs

Growing mushrooms in logs is a great option for gardeners who have access to wooded areas or who grow mushrooms to sell. Freshly cut trees like an oak in late winter are good choices. You may find that starting vaccination in the spring gives the best results for these delicious mushrooms too.

Growers must start with a recently felled tree trunk. As strange as it may seem, this is a crucial step. It is important to use a freshly cut log or branch 3 to 6 inches in diameter and not a log that has been sitting for more than two weeks. The reason for this is that the mycelium needs to have a head start in colonizing its new home. Since shiitake can't compete well with wild mushrooms outside of their home environment, they need a blank board – which is what a fresh tree trunk provides.

If you take the time to grow in logs (called studs), the logs should be about 3 to 4 feet in length. The length of a log should equal the length of all of your logs.

The native Castanopsis cuspidata is best suited for the wood selection. If it is not available, you can also choose oak, beech, maple, ironwood, alder or poplar. Be sure to use a hardwood like oak as a mycelium fight in softwood, especially fruit trees and pines.

Hardwood sawdust

For growers who want a smaller or faster harvest, it is best to grow in blocks of sawdust. These densely packed mushroom bricks produce 5-6 crops in a year and can be managed by growers of all skill levels. However, after a year you need to start with a fresh substrate.

If you don't want to mix in the spores yourself, you can even order one online and skip straight to the fruiting phase. This is a great option for people who want to try it out before committing to the full life cycle process. Kits provide an easy start option for the new mushroom grower.

Growing in these blocks is a great option because while mushrooms don't need logs, they do need the cellulose that is common in logs. This cellulose is also found in sawdust. As with logs, hardwood sawdust is also highly preferred. In addition, many people find that mixing rice bran, oat bran, or straw gives them bigger, tastier harvests.

Some common recipes are: 95% sawdust, 3% rice bran, 1% wheat bran and 1% chalk, or 75% sawdust, 24% straw and 1% chalk. Percentages are approximate.

Before inoculating, you'll need to pasteurize your mixture and anything you add to your sawdust recipe. A pressure cooker is often used to achieve the correct temperature. Alternatively, your mixture can be boiled for an hour for similar results. Pasteurization is achieved between 160 and 180 degrees (temperatures similar to cooking meat until it's done). This will remove most, but not all, of the living microorganisms in your substrate. Let your substrate cool evenly to room temperature (around 70 degrees) before adding an inoculant. If you add your vaccine while it's too hot, there's a good chance you'll accidentally kill it.

Inoculating your shiitake mushrooms

Shiitake on logsAfter the mushroom colonization, mushrooms begin to appear. Source: dominik18s

In order for the shiitake mycelium to spread into its new home and colonize it thoroughly to then produce mushrooms, you need to inoculate your growth medium. By inoculating you are introducing shiitake spores into the new home and doing so in such a way that a blind wild spore is not accidentally added.

There are two main methods of inoculating your growth medium. With cut logs, small holes are usually drilled in the side of the wood and a small inoculated plug is inserted and sealed with wax. These shiitake logs are then stacked on top of each other as they grow. When the inoculant grows in sawdust, it is usually broken into small pieces and mixed evenly into the substrate.

When you've decided on a vaccine, get it. You can keep your substrate or spawn in the refrigerator while you wait for optimal conditions to inoculate your substrate. Plan ahead as adding fungal spores to your growing medium is more important if your growing medium is sterile. You can safely keep the spores in your refrigerator for a week while waiting to start the process in the spring.

Inoculate logs

After you've acquired your freshly cut logs (4 feet long, preferably!), You can begin preparing them for inoculation. Using a good drill press with a special drill bit that removes the wood chips as you drill, drill holes 1 inch deep and about 2 to 3 inches apart in a row. Make sure your drill is sterilized to keep pathogens out of your fungal logs. Start a second row of holes offset between the original holes. You will get holes in a diamond pattern, which will maximize space. Continue drilling holes all over the tree trunk.

Once you've drilled your holes, it's time to add your shiitake mushroom plug spawn or sawdust spawn. If you're using plugs, just slide each plug into a hole and seal it with wax. If you are using inoculated sawdust, use an inoculating tool to insert the sawdust into the holes. A mushroom inoculation tool is relatively easy to find online. On average, cut logs can use 30-40 plugs for each 4 foot long log. After you inoculate the logs, seal them with beeswax, paraffin, or cheese wax.

Once the cheese wax or other wax is sealed in the plug spawn, the mycelium has a better chance of colonizing entire trunks, and the trunks are better able to retain their moisture content. If possible, use a soft wax, as this will make it easier for young mushrooms to push through.

Using pre-made plugs is often the easiest method for a new mushroom grower. These plugs are pre-set to suit spawning your desired shiitakes, and a few taps of your finger will ensure your plugs go right where they need to be. If there is any excess plug, you can use an angle grinder to cut it off neatly before covering it with wax.

Inoculate sawdust

Another method open to growers is to use sawdust instead of logs. Inoculating this substrate is also a little easier if you use the right tools. Once you have your pasteurized substrate, it needs to be mixed evenly with inoculated sawdust spawn. Before mixing, make sure that the container it will be mixed into is sterilized along with the tools you will be using. Gloves or very well washed hands are essential at this point.

Once your substrate has cooled after pasteurization, mix in your sawdust spawn thoroughly. It is important that you break up your spawn into as small pieces as possible so that it blends more evenly into your substrate. Mix well and place the substrate in a sterile bag for colonization. Even distribution of the spawn leads to faster colonization.

Alternatively, you can use mushroom spawn in the form of stoppers to inoculate the grow bags. However, since the pieces are larger, it takes longer to colonize the pouches because the spawn is not evenly distributed in the substrate.

Shiitake colonization

Shiitakes on sawdust substrateSawdust substrate can also host a shiitake colony. Source: Edsel L.

After inoculation, the fungi must spread or pass through their new host before they can bear fruit. This process takes time. With logs it can take up to a year, with sawdust the waiting time is slightly shorter after 8 to 12 weeks. In the meantime, the mushroom stem or mushroom substrate must be kept evenly moist. At all costs, avoid letting your logs or substrate get dry.

Stack mushroom stems on the ground in a forest, greenhouse, or other shaded area about 6 inches above the ground. If you keep the logs near the ground for months, they will automatically be exposed to more moisture from the soil. Wait for colonization to take place. You will know it happens when white spots appear around the edges of the log. This growth usually starts in the center and grows outward. As soon as they have a year of colonization behind them, they can be placed in a “crib pile” – two by two in a box form.

Make sure your logs are not covered with plastic or any other impermeable cloth. You need air and moisture flow. Burlap or something similar to keep them out of the sun is acceptable. Also, keep them away from strong winds or too much sunlight, as this will also dry out the stem and prevent fruiting. If during this time you find that your log is drying out, either throw the log into a source of water such as a stream or pond, or spray it down several times within a few hours. It is important to keep the wood evenly moist.

For logs, this period is called the "spawn run" as the spawns network or run through the log, slowly but surely making it their home. This can take 8 months to two years, but it's worth the wait.

For people who want to produce mushrooms in bags of sawdust, the spawning run takes much less time. It should only take about 8-12 weeks for the block to take on a light brown color signaling success. Once it reaches this stage, it is ready to bear fruit.

Introduce fruits

Mushrooms on tree trunkShiitake mushrooms on a maple trunk. Source: nationalagroforestrycenter

Fully colonized shiitake trunks or sacks of sawdust are waiting for the rain to arrive to send out mushrooms. Because growers have access to running water, this process can be faked to make the shiitake mushrooms faster and produce earlier. This step is known as "shocking". The shiitake signs up early to bear fruit.

For breeders using shiitake strains, it is best to soak the strains in cold water for 24 hours once they are fully colonized. This can be done in a lake, a bathtub, or even a water trough. Make sure the water is cool enough that it doesn't kill the spawn – room temperature to cold is best. This should result in the shiitake logs bearing fruit within 7 to 14 days. At this stage, watch out for snails, which can be the greatest threat to your shiitake mushroom harvest.

A similar process is required for mushrooms grown in a substrate. Put your mushroom bag in cold water using a bucket or large basin and let it sit for 2-3 hours. However, it is important that the water not be chlorinated as this can kill the spores. Use either filtered water or water that has been sitting outside for 24 hours (to allow the chlorine gas to leave the water) to soak your shiitake mushroom bag in. Once the surface of the substrate starts to develop bumps, it is almost time for the mushrooms to start growing. The next step is to completely remove the substrate from the bag to increase the airflow. It should be kept along with the colonization of the substrate while your shiitakes pop out.


Shiitake drops sporesShiitakes reproduce through fine fungal spores that fall out of their gills. Source: Wendell Smith

Once you've shocked your shiitake mushrooms, watch out for their growth. At this stage they develop quickly. Once the mushroom appears and gills develop on the underside of the mushroom cap, it's time to harvest. Use a clean and sharp knife to cut it from the trunk or substrate, being careful not to damage the growing medium in any way. This is because shiitake mushrooms can be harvested multiple times. Shiitakes grown on logs will continue to bear fruit for 6-7 years, and shiitakes grown on a substrate will bear fruit 5-6 times per fresh bag of sawdust.

Once the shiitakes are picked, either use them right away or keep them in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator. They need to be kept cool and dry and can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week.

Alternatively, shiitakes can be frozen or dried to preserve them for longer periods of time.

What to do with used substrate

Spent shiitake strains or substrates still have a lot of life in them, but mushrooms may no longer be grown. Gardeners recognize used mushroom substrate as a wonderful compost to add to their gardens. There are few flowering bushes – gardenias, camellias and hydrangeas, which do not like mushroom compost. Apart from that, the used shiitake mushroom substrate is garden gold !!

Large amounts of substrate should be "weathered" outdoors in hills for a few months so that the salts can be dissolved out before they are used on fruit and vegetable plants. Smaller amounts can be mixed evenly into new garden beds or placed in worm baskets. You can even accidentally grow shiitake mushrooms right in your worm container!

Additionally, substrate can be added to newly sown lawns as the sterile but nutritious substance retains moisture and feeds a new lawn.

Try burying logs that can survive the 6-7 fruiting years and are still intact in new garden beds or where you want to grow in the ground. They will break down the soil for years to come and provide it with the nutrients it needs.

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