How to grow shiitake mushrooms in three easy ways that can be done at home and include log cultivation, the use of totems, and shiitake growing kits
Shiitake mushrooms are the rising star of culinary mushrooms. For the last 20 years, the global production of shiitakes has soared, especially in China and the United States. Now there are an increasing number of small scale shiitake growers throughout the United States, making this delicious, high-quality mushroom more accessible. Are you wondering how to grow shiitake mushrooms in your backyard? Here are three easy ways to cultivate shiitake's for your own personal supply
1) Shiitake Log Cultivation
Shiitake mushrooms have been grown on logs since 1100. Grown extensively in Japan for almost 1000 years now, the name shii (an evergreen oak tree) take (meaning mushroom) is the Japanese name for this mushroom. The first step to mushroom cultivation on logs is cutting and selecting logs to grow on. Logs are best cut between November and March. In trials done by Field and Forest logs that were cut in October and allowed to sit until April for inoculation had much faster spawn run than logs cut later in the winter. In some cases logs were fruiting in the same year as inoculation. It is okay to cut at any time of year but yields and colonization time are affected.
A Cornell study showed yields were highest from logs cut in winter and inoculated in spring. Cornell did not look at cutting in the late fall and inoculating in the spring. The best results are achieved when logs are sourced in the fall when 30% of leaves have changed color. Log cultivation is best done on hardwood logs like oak, sugar maple, and beech. Other logs will work but will not produce as high of yields.
It is best to select logs that are between 3-8 inches for this method of cultivation. 1 inch deep holes are drilled every 6 inches and shiitake plug spawn is tapped into the holes with a hammer. The log is rotated 2 inches and holes are again drilled every 6 inches. It is best to off set the holes so in the end the drilling makes a diamond pattern. Every hole is filled with shiitake plug spawn and then waxed over. The wax ensures the mycelium will not dry out, and that no other fungi will get into the log. This is the most common answer to the question of how to grow shiitake mushrooms at home.
2) Shiitake Totems
Shiitake totems are best made with large diameter logs. Typically oak, beech or sugar maple logs with a diameter greater than 8 inches can be used for this method. It is best to use shiitake sawdust spawn to spread onto the totems. Starting with a 3 foot log, cut one part about 1.5 ft long, the second 1.3 ft long, and a third section about 2 inches long. Find a suitable place for cultivation, ideally somewhere that is shaded year round by conifer trees. The North side of houses and sheds can work as well. Place a handful of shiitake sawdust spawn on the ground. Place the first 1.5 ft length of your log on top of the sawdust spawn. Then place another handful of shiitake sawdust spawn and put the second 1.3 ft log on top, securing it with 2-3 nails. Place another handful of sawdust spawn on top of the log and attach the 2 inch disk with 2-3 nails onto the log below. You have now made a mycelium sandwich! The mycelium grows up and down through the log sections and one year later begins to fruit. With the large diameter size it takes the mushroom awhile to eat through a totem so they can continue to fruit for over 10 years!
3) Shiitake Mushroom Growing Kit
The third way to grow shiitake mushrooms is by purchasing a shiitake mushroom grow kit. Grow kits are easy to use and are very fast to fruit. The first two methods usually take at least 1 year before they start fruiting but will continue to fruit for 3-10+ years once established. A grow kit only takes 10 days to fruit but will be spent in about 3 months. The kits Fungi Ally offers are easy to use and affordable. The sawdust block is soaked in water for 4-5 hours and then placed outside in the shade or inside with indirect light. The block needs to be sprayed with a hose or misted 2-3 times a day, and the shiitake mushrooms will become ready to harvest within 10 days. You will know the shiitakes are ready to harvest once the cap is still slightly curled in, or just as the partial veil breaks away.
These are three easy ways of how to grow shiitake mushrooms. For more information, take a look at the other information we have about growing mushrooms throughout our website. This includes the cultivation guides we have. We also carry a variety of mushroom spawn, like sawdust spawn, grain spawn, and plug spawn.