Shiitake Mushrooms

One event I went to last spring was a Shiitake mushroom workshop. A local farmer needed help inoculating hundreds of logs with Shiitake, Oyster and some other spore which I don’t remember. I found out about it through MeetUp, which is basically a social media app that connects people with the same interests together. It is virtual in scheduling, but the socialization is all in person! Yay for that!

The reward or payment for our work was one inoculated log per hour of work. I was all in, and I even brought my son. Overall, I think there were about 20-30 people there, so it was a good turnout!

Processing was divided into stations. Station one used a few high-speed drills to make holes precisely 1 inch deep about 6 inches a part, all down the log. Then the log was turned, and another row was drilled down the length of the log. Overall, there were maybe 20-30 holes per log. The drill had some sort of special adapter that allowed quick drilling while stopping the drill at 1 inch. Below is a picture with only a few holes pointed out.

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The next station inoculated the logs. We used a long pipet “thingy”, jamming the tip with saw dust inoculated with the mushroom spores, and then jammed them into the holes.

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The last station sealed the holes with food grade wax as a “bandage”.

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As it turns out, they were really good people and I had a lot of fun out there. Someone brought their kids too, so after a few hours of really good work from them, they went off and played for the rest of the time. The farmer is a USDA certified veterinarian, and travels a bit to address the bird flu in different locations. Naturally, she also sells chickens for eggs and meat, so the kids got to go feed the chickens as well as a few ducks. It was a great day and we closed with the sun setting.

Below are the four logs I chose. We work more than four hours, but I felt greedy taking more than this. I positioned them on the side of my house that is essentially always in the shade (except in winter).

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I was told it is very easy to do – just make sure they get soaked a few days a month and wait. To get the logs to produce mushrooms I was told this: after a cold night in September, go beat on the logs with a bat. It will disturb the creature and stress it out, and then it will fruit as a result. The fruit is, of course, the mushroom! I was really a bit perplexed by that term “creature” and I still am, but we started our first kombucha brew this weekend and so I will not pretend to understand some things. I am a biochemist and am perplexed by this. LOL!

I waited all summer, watching them. September came with no cold nights. On what I “thought” might be cold enough, I went out and beat on them. A week later, nothing. Two weeks nothing. This is my first time… maybe I did something wrong, or there might be a certain failure rate.

But then, mid-October, I looked out the window and saw them!

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Below you can see some of the holes with wax, and the mushrooms growing along that line. A question was asked me: how do I know they are safe to eat? Answer: the mushrooms are growing out of the holes we inoculated. Plus, they look like shiitakes.

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Most of them are really big! I did not get mushrooms out of every hole, and I chose one Oyster mushroom log that did not fruit. I might need to do some research to see if there is a better practice for me to get more mushrooms.

Below is a cross-section of one of the mushrooms. It is thick and meaty!

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I decided to just saute one and a half in butter and garlic. I am not used to cooking mushrooms, and they soaked up all the butter so quickly I had to add a lot more (not a bad thing, in moderation). They were really delicious, and my wife liked them too, which I was not sure about. I thought I would get them all to myself… but I am willing to share.

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So, the logs last about 5 years, or whenever the “creature” completely consumes the log. Hopefully this farmer will have this workshop every year, so I can volunteer and keep adding to my collection!

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