Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) are an excellent source of nutrition and also have medicinal properties. In Asia, they have been cultivated and used as medicinal food for hundreds of years. These mushrooms are characterized by their rich smoky flavor and so are used as an additive in many recipes. Shiitake mushrooms are relatively more expensive than other mushrooms, which makes their cultivation economically viable. They can also be grown without much hassle and expense. Medical research has shown that the shiitake mushrooms have the medicinal property to lower the cholesterol level and anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. It also has many anti- cancer properties, which are being studied now. China and Japan are the largest growers and exporters of shiitake mushrooms. Large-scale shiitake cultivation can involve the utilization of forest resources, like low quality hardwood. Given below are a few steps to show you how you can grow shiitake mushrooms.
Growing Shiitake Mushrooms
- Buy shiitake mushroom spawns from a commercial vendor. The spawns are available in the form of wooden dowels, about an inch thick. The dowels are colonized by the mycelium of the mushrooms. Take about 23 to 25 plugs for a single log.
- Fresh logs of hardwood trees are very good for growing mushrooms. Logs of Oak and Adler are excellent but others like the Poplar and sweet gum can also be used. The logs should be about 4 feet in length and about 10 inches thick and free from decay.
- Before inoculating the logs with mushroom spawn, leave the logs to sit for two to three weeks, so that the natural fungi, in the logs, are dead. The bark of the trees must be kept intact. It is better to cut the logs from the trees in winter, as then the logs would contain carbohydrates, which will help to make the mushrooms grow.
- Using a driller, drill holes into the log. Drill the holes at least one inch deep, with a diameter of 5/16 inch.
- Drill the holes into horizontal rows with a distance of 2 ½ inches between the rows. The holes should be placed alternately at a distance of five inches from each other.
- Inoculate the logs by pushing the plugs into the holes in the logs. Hammer the dowels with a soft object so that the plug fits in snugly. Now cover the holes with melted wax to protect the spawn from insects and other fungi.
- If there, is only one log then lean it against a support. If there are enough logs to form a stack, then it is good to stack the logs, for a couple of months to retain the moisture.
- Place the inoculated logs in a shade to maintain the correct moisture level. The logs should not be too dry or too moist. Watering once every two weeks is necessary to prevent from drying. Take care to have good airflow in the shady area.
- The ideal temperature to maintain the moisture level should be between 22 to 26 degree Celsius.
- Keeping the logs in the shade and moisture will make the mushrooms grow and fruit in about one year. After that harvesting can be done twice a year, for as long as four to five years, until the entire log has been covered with mushroom mycelium.
- Mushrooms can be induced to fruit more quickly by giving it the ‘shock treatment’. Put the log in cold water for 24 hours. Then keep the log in normal temperature. The mushrooms will then grow and fruit faster. Submerging the log in cold water won’t kill the mushrooms.
- Harvest the mushroom by using a knife to cut the stem.