It’s a Shiit(ake) Show Around Here

It was just another day at home when Andy and I, for some reason that now slips my mind, decided we needed to grow mushrooms on our property for four reasons:

  1. We can
  2. We enjoy tasty food
  3. We enjoy growing tasty food
  4. We enjoy growing tasty food that is easy and we don’t have to weed/constantly tend to

After a brief discussion, and for reasons listed in bullets 1-4 above, we settled on shiitakes. I finally bit the purchase-the-spores-bullet when I was walking around the indoor farmers market at Fort Andross Mill in Brunswick and came across North Spore Mushrooms. It seemed like as good of a time as any other to go ahead and buy some shiitake plugs. Then, they sat in the house for about a month before we finally inoculated the logs this weekend.

The guy at North Spore Mushrooms told me to read the website on how to properly inoculate mushroom logs. So, obviously, I didn’t.

I’m normally on top of this type of stuff but not this time. This time I read the general process and off we went. Here is our process. It is, by all accounts, only partially correct. Our best guess is that we’ll still end up with some shiitakes. We’ll probably end up with some other kind of fungus too if we’re being completely honest. Should this go well we will likely do some more logs in different types of mushrooms because you know, we’re wild and crazy.

Shitake Innoculation (2)

Step 1:

Cut down a fresh oak tree that is crooked and being crowded out, thus giving the bigger trees more nutrients and room to grow that are not longer being taken up by the tiny crooked tree. Don’t take any photos of this process because you’re at Target and have no idea the process has started .Pat yourself on the back in hindsight, even though you had nothing to do with it, for supporting sustainable forest management. 

Step 2:

Cut tree into 2-4 foot log segments. Again, do not take any photos because you are now driving home from Target still completely unaware you are about to walk into a mushroom inoculation activity.

Step 3:

Realize you don’t have any beeswax on hand, but hey you’re a soap maker so you must have something you can use. Candelilla wax is a good substitute. Except that it gets super hard, super fast, and will probably just crack off all together in the cold weather. Regardless, melt a bunch of candelilla wax in a double boiler – also known as a cheap pot and a tin can you were going to recycle.

Shitake Innoculation (3)

Remind yourself to purchase cheese wax so you can go back outside and recover all of the plugs. Promptly forget.

Step 4:

Drill a bunch of holes, completely randomly but at least 3 inches apart or so, into the logs to a specific depth and width that you should probably know, but you don’t. In turn, rely on your iPhone and your husbands handy skills to know how to do it based on the size of the mushroom plug.

Shitake Innoculation (5)

Step 5:

Place a plug in each hole and hammer it in. Make sure the plug is flush with the log or even counter-set just a little bit.

Shitake Innoculation (7)

Step 5:

Go in the house and get your wax. Carefully bring it outside while trying not to tip the tin can over and get melted candelilla wax everywhere. Swear to yourself once again to remember to buy cheese wax. Forget within thirty seconds. After your wax is at the site – where it should have been from the beginning – start trying to put wax that is rapidly hardening onto each plug with a paint brush. Give up with the paint brush and start putting it on with your fingers. Try to find all of the plugs before the wax completely hardens, instead of waxing over as each plug went in so you knew exactly where they were. Plugs blend really well with bark as it turns out.

Shitake Innoculation (8)Shitake Innoculation (9)Shitake Innoculation (1)Step 6:

Crib those logs up. Shitake Innoculation (10)

Step 7:

Wait and see what happens. Remind yourself while writing this to buy cheese wax and go fix the issues. Make a mental note not to forget the mental note, but do not proactively actually write it down.

Now, just wait for science to take over. Thank God for nature and it’s processes, because it clearly has it’s shiit(ake) together way more than I do.

xo,

Heather