One of the first things sustainable-living folks do is start growing their own food, right? As much as possible in the space available, from a tomato pot on the balcony of a one-bedroom apartment to an acre of shared garden at a friend’s house, we’ve got our hands in whatever dirt is around. And we LIKE it.
So, we have quite a lot of trees around our house, so not much sun shines on our wee gardens here at home. Oh, we don’t let that stop us. We grow mushrooms.
Shiitake mushrooms, to be exact, though we’ve dabbled in other kinds.
Here’s a quick run-down of how to grow shiitakes: Cut white or red oak down in the spring just after maple syrup season, piece the trees out into four-foot lengths, buy a bag or two of spore from the internet, get your brother-in-law to kindly drill seemingly thousands of holes in the logs, shoot some spore into each hole and cap with wax. Then wait.
Two years later, you can expect something gorgeous like this to appear:
Well, it doesn’t exactly “appear,” because you have other work to do after waiting.
When the weather warms in the spring so it’s consistently 50 degrees at night, you need to soak the logs to force the mushroom flush.
First, put the logs into a fairly large stock tank and fill it to the brim with water. The logs float, so you need to weigh them down with concrete blocks. Soak the logs for 24 hours, remove from the tank and prop against sawhorses. Each one weighs between 20 and 40 pounds when they’re dry (depending on diameter) and soaking adds at least 10 pounds, so you’re getting a decent workout when you’re moving 40 logs twice. You do the math; I’m tired just thinking about it.
Then you wait again. For a few days this time. If you’ve got good logs and perfect weather (less than 80 degrees for high temps), you’ll see something like this:
And they pop out all around the logs, because of the part where you got your brother-in-law to drill all those holes:
When the caps are flared out, we cut them off the logs and sell them fresh or dried. Our most recent harvest on Monday yielded 22-3/4 pounds. Yes, pounds. Here’s what that looks like:
That’s our dining room table, which comfortably seats 8 people. The harvest is spread from end to end of that table. And now you know what 22-3/4 pounds of fresh shiitake mushrooms looks like!
Aren’t they pretty? And healthy, and worth some money for folks who buy them by the pound from our lovely cousin. We’ll be drying a number of these and selling them over the winter, too. And eating and eating and eating and loving life.
Well worth the waiting and working, my friends. I recommend that if you have a shady yard, you grow yourself some shiitake mushrooms.
If you want me to share some recipes in a future post, leave a comment below and I’ll let you know my favorite ways to cook these spectacular shrooms!