Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Big Secret Mushroom Project

Some of you may remember our little experiment with mushrooms last fall and winter. The mushrooms in the straw didn't do so well. That period of time is all a blur now - I can't even remember if we got any mushrooms from those! Well, we did get some fungus, but certainly not anything edible. Doing that kind of work in your regular-every-day kitchen and living room isn't that conducive to mushroom growing.

Undaunted nevertheless, Jeremy started looking into the next step up in mushroom growing. Around about March he bought a huge pile of fresh-cut red and white oak logs. They're about 4 feet long and very heavy.

Into each of these logs he had to drill lots of holes, about 100 to 150. This was made much faster with his new high speed drill.

This was his first set-up, but he eventually moved inside the garage. Still, you can see by the ice it was quite cold out!

Then into the holes went some mushroom spawn. Here is our friend Wendy demonstrating pushing the spawn in with this fun plunger tool Jeremy got. It works pretty well.

Then you use this little dauber thing to daub some hot, melted cheese wax onto each hole you've just filled with mushroom spawn. This keeps it in there and supposedly keeps critters out (though not hungry or curious squirrels).

The finished logs piled up. Of course, these all had to be moved over to the new house in April as well!

The logs got stacked in our "wood lot," under the aspens, arbor vitae, and other trees. Jeremy watered them regularly, and then suddenly, about a month ago, mushrooms started appearing!

I'm not sure how normal that is because here is how these mushrooms, shiitakes, are supposed to work: the logs are innoculated, then they sit for around 6 months while the mycelium spreads through the logs, then the logs are soaked in water for 24 hours, then mushrooms are supposed to start growing like crazy.

Well, when we saw those mushrooms popping up, we knew it was time. We started by building a little corral:

digging post holes

using the always handy saws-all to cut the posts down


We bought a big stock tank and started soaking logs. I think about a dozen fit at a time. We used the water from our rain barrels too.

Then the logs were stacked in the corral.

And a week later, mushrooms!

Here is a shot of the whole setup with fruiting logs in the corral and resting logs stacked up in piles. The black stuff is shade cloth to keep direct sunlight off the logs.

Jeremy didn't want me to blog about this from the beginning, just in case it didn't work. But now that it is working quite well, I can blog away!

We weren't sure if we would get a fall harvest, given how long these can take to get to fruiting stage. In fact, Jeremy didn't even fruit all of the logs. But from the ones he did fruit, we've gotten just over 20 1/2 pounds of shiitake mushrooms.

And what does one do with all these mushrooms??

Well, we've had them on pizza, in omelettes and quiche. We've dried them. We've given them to friends and neighbors and family. And Jeremy also gave some to local restaurants who we're hoping to sell mushrooms to starting next spring. One restaurant was so excited about the mushrooms - and really wanted some now - so we sold them several pounds. So exciting!

Of course now Jeremy is trying to figure out how to get hundreds and hundreds more logs here, how to increase production time, if he can renovate the garage into a total mushroom-producing space, if we can find friends close by with shady yards where we can put more logs, and so on and so on. He has become a mushroom maniac.

And why not? The lowly mushroom is an incredible organism that could save the world.

The temperatures around here finally plummeted this last week into the 40s and 50s so the mushroom growing season should be over. But no one told the mushrooms: Jeremy just came in with another 2 pounds!


Mark said...

Oh, I am so glad that "secret project" worked! When I saw how much work Jeremy had done on it when I was there in September, I thought it would be a shame if you didn't get a significant crop out of it.

Mushrooms will save the world, eh? I like it!

Revilo Luap said...

NEVER use mushroom spawn or even have an open container without wearing a MASK. If any gets into your lungs they will grow and you will die!

HumphreyBerryFarm said...

I've just started mine and can't wait for them to fruit. Yours didn't take very long. You did very well on your blog, better than most. I tried to do a lot of research online before I started. Most people left out a lot and didn't show start to finish. Thanks!

Trisha said...

Hi - where do you buy the shiitake mushroom spawn?

Aimee said...

Oops - I see I'm a bit behind on the blog comments. =)

HBF - those ones did fruit quickly! We've had others do the same, and other times they don't fruit quickly. Depends on the weather, humidity, etc. And of course Jeremy's process has changed a lot from this post 4 years ago! He now has a farm a little out of town with something like 2000 logs. And he's doing shiitake, oyster, nameko, and just trying some reishi this year. It keeps growing! Good luck with your mushrooms! Oh - you can check out Jeremy's website (with a bit of a blog) at

Trisha - Jeremy gets his spawn from Field & Forest Products. I believe they're based in Wisconsin. There are other places to get spawn too, but this is the closest to us I believe.

Anonymous said...

Can you tell me where you get your spores? Been trying to get these started and haven't accomplished it yet.

Anonymous said...

So cool!

Anonymous said...

After harvesting first years mushrooms, are those logs set for continuous yield year after year, or do I have to insert the mushroom spores each and every year ?

Anonymous said...

Not true