I started growing shiitake mushrooms in a one bedroom apartment in NYC under my kitchen table in 1995. I bought a small log that came pre- inoculated and a standard 24 inch rectangular plastic planter. I would soak the log with non-chlorinated ice water and then stand it on end in the container under my table (in the shade) and wait a few days for mushrooms to grow. It was weird, and fun and delicious. Over the years I have purchased lots of mushroom kits. You can get them online all over now. Portobellos in a box. White mushrooms in coffee grounds or sawdust. Oyster mushroom kits for kids in toy stores. Mushrooms are tasty and fast growing if you grow them in these boxed kits. And they are a lot of fun to watch.
Now, I choose to grow shiitake mushrooms in logs. Shiitakes are delicious and the home-grown ones are so much more flavorful than the dried or even fresh store-bought ones. It is a long, slow, waiting process that takes a lot of patience. But, once the logs begin fruiting, they will fruit for years to come. First, you must have recently cut fresh wood and logs large enough in diameter that they will not easily dry out. Four to six inches in diameter is a good size. Next,drill holes in the log and stuff the holes with spore material. It comes mixed with sawdust or in the form of plugs. It is possible to purchase different strains of shiitakes. Some will fruit in cooler weather, some in warmer weather. I like a variety so I can extend my growing season. Once the spores are in the log, it is important to keep the birds out and the moisture in. I typically water my logs once a week for the first month or so. Then, I just let nature take its course and wait and wait and wait.
In 6-24 months (depending on the strain, the moisture level, the temperature and the elimination of other competing fungi) the log will start producing mushrooms. Once a log begins fruiting, it will typically fruit a few times a year. A good rain and the right temperature range will often trigger the logs. I typically get more fruiting in wetter weather. The weather here in Chicago has been so mild that my logs are still fruiting. The shiitakes are so good, my 6 year old son will pick them and eat them raw right off the log.
This post was originally published on Mamagrows.wordpress.com.