© Eddie Rhoades
Cobb County Master Gardener
A couple of meetings back of the Cobb County Master Gardeners Mary Woehrel gave a program on mushrooms. She showed us all types of mushrooms and gave lots of information on which were edible and where they’re usually found. She did not address how they were grown or their culinary use. Inspired by this meeting I went home and got on the Internet and began researching mushrooms.
I learned that Shiitake is a favorite variety and can be grown two ways: on an inoculated log or in a bed of fresh sawdust. Lots of little details came up like the fact that Shiitake logs need to be oak or similar hardwoods. They will not grow in fragrant wood like pine, fir and other evergreens or conifers. For pine you would use mushroom spawn by the common name of Chicken Of The Woods. When you cut your hardwood logs they can be from four inches to eight inches in diameter and three to four feet long. Then you must wait at least two weeks before you inoculate them. The reason is, just as we have agents in our bodies that fight infection so too do fresh logs have things that will inhibit the mushroom culture.
I had narrowed my three sources down to www.FungiPerfecti.com. I ordered the minimum amount of mushroom spawn plugs plus the wax used to seal the plugs. They take a 5/16 diameter wooden dowel and put a spiral groove from one end to the other. This groove is then wiped and filled with the spawn then the dowel is cut in lengths of about three quarters of an inch then bagged 100 to a bag. Dr. Deborah Hill of University of Kentucky highly recommends the closer located MushroomPeople. Dr. Hill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holes are drilled around the log in a diamond pattern of sorts with the holes being deeper than the plugs. Next the plugs are hammered in then sealed off with the melted cheese wax. This wax is white when in block form but when melted is as clear as water. These logs should now be soaked in any water that does not contain chlorine. after soaking for several hours they are placed vertically in the ground approximately 8 to 10 inches deep like a really short fence post and it doesn’t matter which end is up. Dr. Hill advises just the opposite, that no part of the log should come in contact with the ground so please do further research on which technique to use.
They should be in a mottled shade spot. It takes anywhere from six months to a year and a half of incubation for the mycellum to permeate the log. You will know when this is done by the end of the log turning white. At this point lift the log and again soak it in water with no chlorine for 12 to 24 hours then return it to its original spot. This will trigger the fruiting of the mushrooms.
After the initial batch is harvested it will put on another flush, and another, and another, until the season ends. Next year it will do the same thing producing even more mushrooms. Sometimes this repeats for three years.
Shiitake can be grown in sawdust but those grown on logs are meatier, tastier and healthier. Oriental people recognize the difference and are willing to pay for log-grown Shiitake.
I have been creating these mushroom logs and they have been going like hot cakes even though this is all very experimental. I have faith that everything will work out just like it says on the Internet. My 5 year old grandson is my primary assistant and works unbelievably hard. He doesn’t particularly like the drilling part but thinks hammering the plugs in and sealing them with wax is great fun. I think the purpose of the sealing is to prevent any other fungi from invading the log. NOTE – Always wash hands after handling plugs.
I read that Shiitake has from 4 to 10 times more flavor than the white button mushrooms plus they have a meaty texture. The flavor is intensified by drying and they can be stored indefinitely then reconstituted by soaking.
Keep in mind that this is a new experiment for me. I think as some of us learn this art of growing our own mushrooms, and some of us learn how and why to graft our own trees, and others learn about beekeeping we will be taking a step forward as Master Gardeners and stewards of the earth and be a better example for other gardeners.
PS – Anybody have any extra hardwood logs?
Editor’s Note: A pictorial source of information on making Shiitake logs is found on the University of Kentucky web site: