This time of year, gardening is all about waiting. While waiting for things to sprout and for the weather to warm up a bit, it's easy to get tired of seedlings and compost. So I spent my Sunday afternoon doing something different, preparing to grow shiitake mushrooms.
Shiitake mushrooms are a delicious addition to almost any dish. Hailing from the Far East, they bring with them a laundry list of health benefits. They're scientifically proven to be anti-viral, immune-boosting, cholesterol-lowering, and cancer-fighting. To top it all off, they're easy to grow in a home garden.
The first thing I needed was fresh wood, as in not from dead or rotting trees. Oak is best, but other hardwoods with thick bark will do. I rounded up four logs, approximately four inches in diameter that were cut into three-foot long sections. Next I needed shiitake spawn. Mine came from MushroomPeople.com
, which is run by the fine folks at The Farm in Tennessee. Their handy starter kit cost me $19, and contained 300 plugs, one pound of wax, and ten aluminum tags. The 300 plugs that came in the kit are enough for ten logs, so I'm sharing with a friend.
Shiitake mushroom spawn on wooden plugs.
Besides the logs and the starter kit, my tools included a backpacking stove, a small pan, a paintbrush, a hammer, and a drill. It took me about an hour to inoculate my logs, which included drilling holes, hammering in the spawn, and painting wax over the plugs.
Plugs must be sealed with wax to keep other fungi out of the logs.
Directions tell me to keep them moist and shaded and that in six to nine months I should get my first harvest. Seems like a long time to wait, but the logs should produce for three or four years. A twenty dollar investment that pays off for years is worth the wait to me.
Drilled, plugged, and waxed, a freshly inoculated shiitake log.