Shiitake mushrooms are known for their distinct flavor and typically is cultivated by being grown on hardwood logs, preferably oak. It is the third most widely produced mushroom in the world today. Mushrooms are commonly used as a substitute for meat in many vegetarian dishes. Many growers report that the best way to sell mushrooms is through direct, local marketing.
Numerous cultures not only value shiitake mushrooms for its culinary benefits, but also for its medicinal benefits. The shiitake mushroom has been proven to have some antiviral, anti-fungal and tumor fighting effects. Eating it regularly has also shown signs of being able to lower blood cholesterol and blood pressure in laboratory tests. Shiitake mushrooms contain all eight amino acids in better quantity than soy, meat, dairy or eggs. It contains vitamins A, B, B12, C, D and Niacin.
Outdoors is the preferred way to grow your own shiitake mushrooms. You should use the best quality hardwood logs you can find. If you are a new grower, oak will help ensure success until you gain some experience. When selecting and ordering your spawn for inoculation the first time, you should order several types of spawn to test the results and see what works best for your growing conditions.
Find the best strains for your climate. Some types of shiitake do better in cooler conditions while others thrive where it’s warm. Try out several suppliers too if your able. If you unsure of doing all this, you can always look to a mushroom growing kit.
Inoculation is the process where you drill holes or make cuts in your logs to place the spawn in so that it can grow. If you choose to drill holes in the logs, be sure to gently water the spawn and then seal the hole with wax to protect the spores and seal in the moisture.
Spawn generally is purchased as a plug that you place in your holes or packed in sawdust that must be injected into the holes with an injection tool. Other techniques include using a chainsaw to cut wafers or wedges out of the log and place the spawn into the cut. After you have applied the spores to the log cuts, you would place the cut out pieces back into place and seal it with paraffin wax.
Your logs should always be kept shaded from direct sunlight and moistened regularly. Spawn will begin fruiting anywhere from 6 months to a year or more. Typically, the shiitake mushroom will fruit twice a year in the spring and fall months. When your mushrooms have opened up ¾ of the way, you should begin to harvest them. It is best to pick them in the afternoon when they are driest, twisting or cutting them from their base.
When harvesting your crop, place them in cardboard boxes and keep them refrigerated at all times. You should bring them to market in under a week or dry them to be sold. Dried mushrooms often bring in less money per pound than fresh will, but are a better alternative than losing an entire crop to spoilage. You could also compost excess mushroom crops to use or sell as organic fertilizer.