Connecticut Garden Journal: Shiitake Mushrooms

Nov 17, 2016

Gourmet mushrooms have become popular for cooking, and none more so than the shiitake mushroom. 

This mushroom has been grown for more than 6,000 years in Japan and China for its taste and medicinal benefits.

Shiitakes have a rich texture and smoky flavor. They are also reported to fight tumors, cancer, inflammation, reduce cholesterol, and add essential vitamins and minerals to our diets.

But instead of buying shiitakes at up to $40 a pound, why not grow your own?

Shiitake mushrooms traditionally are grown on deciduous tree logs. It's simplest to look for a shiitake mushroom grower in Connecticut and see if you can purchase some logs already inoculated with the plugs or spawn.

Maybe they even offer a workshop on how to do it?

Otherwise, harvest three-to-six-inch diameter logs now, and cut them to about 40 inches long. Oak, sugar maple, and hornbeam are best.

Check online for sources of mushroom plugs that you'll put into your logs, and look for strains adapted to our cold climate.

Within three weeks of cutting your logs, drill 5/16th-inch diameter holes into the logs, one-inch deep, about six inches apart. Gently tap the mushroom plugs into the holes. Seal them with a light coat of beeswax to keep the plugs moist and to keep the insects out.

Stack the logs in a shady area off the ground to avoid contamination from soil fungus. Then just leave them.

Come spring, water the logs a few times a week, or immerse them in water for eight hours every two weeks to keep them moist. By next fall, you'll have shiitake mushrooms sprouting.

Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about leeks. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.