How to Grow Shiitake Mushrooms

Written by john gugie
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Shiitake mushrooms are popular for their rich and smoky flavour and are used in many recipes. The easiest and most productive method of growing shiitake mushrooms is with plug spawn. Wooden "plugs" are inoculated with mushroom spawn and pushed into tree logs. Not only is this method effective but the logs can also beautify gardens. Each time it fruits, the quantity of mushrooms will increase. It will continue to fruit for a few years until the wood cells have been used up.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 25 Wooden plugs inoculated with shiitake mushroom mycelium
  • Freshly-cut tree log
  • 5/16-inch drill bit
  • Rubber mallet
  • Brush or turkey baster
  • Cheese wax
  • Shaded area
  • Water

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  1. 1

    Buy 25 shiitake mushroom plugs (per log). These are wooden dowels that are colonised by shiitake mushroom mycelium. They are usually about ¼-inch wide and 1-inch long. Plugs cost about £9 per 100 or less.

  2. 2

    Find a good, freshly-cut tree log between 4 to 10 inches wide and cut to no more than 4 feet long. Alder tree logs are recommended, but other hardwood trees, such as oak, will work as well.

  3. 3

    Drill holes in the log with a 5/16-inch drill bit. The holes need to be about 2 inches deep and 4 inches apart. A spiral pattern will result in a beautiful appearance once the mushrooms begin to grow.

  4. 4

    Push the plugs into the holes on the log and tap on each with a rubber mallet until they fit snugly. Be careful not to damage the log bark.

  5. 5

    Melt cheese wax to about 62.8 degrees C. Cheese wax costs around $5 for a 10-pound blocks. Seal each plug with melted cheese wax using a brush or turkey baster. This will protect against other fungi and insects.

  6. 6

    Stand the log up in a shaded area. The log can be set against a fence, wall or planted by burying one end of it in the ground. It will look great in a garden among flowers and other plants, especially once the mushrooms begin to sprout.

  7. 7

    Water the log regularly to maintain an internal moisture level of about 35 to 60 per cent. Every 2 weeks will do. Be sure to only use chlorine-free water, such as filtered water, well water or rain water.

  8. 8

    Wait for 6 months to 1 year for mushrooms to appear. A well colonised log will last about 3 to 4 years, until most of the wood cells have been replaced by shiitake mushroom mycelium cells.

  9. 9

    After first fruiting, it can be forced every 2 months by shocking the mushrooms with ice cold water. This can be done by soaking the log in cold water for 24 hours, put into a refrigerator for 12 hours or set outside for a few days in the winter. Freezing will not hurt it. After shocking, remove the log from the water and stand it up again in a room temperature location. The mushrooms will think that winter has just passed and it is now spring, causing them to grow in a few weeks.

  10. 10

    Wait for six months to one year for mushrooms to appear. A well colonised log will last about 3 to 4 years, until most of the wood cells have been replaced.

Tips and warnings

  • The optimum temperature is 16.6 to 25.5 degrees C. The mushrooms will grow in other temperatures, but not as well. The log will go dormant below 4.44 degrees C and above 26.7 degrees C. Freezing for a short while won't hurt and provide a strong shock to force the mushrooms to fruit. It also needs air, normal or high humidity, and a natural day and night cycle, alternating between shade and indirect sunlight or artificial lighting.
  • To harvest the mushrooms, use a knife and cut at the bottom of the stem or twist the stem out.
  • Be sure to only use chlorine-free water to water the log.

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