If you enjoy mushrooms and prefer to keep a fresh supply in your kitchen, try growing your own. Mushrooms like white button, maitake, oyster and shiitake are commonly grown at home with success. Although homegrown mushrooms are relatively difficult to cultivate and require several attempts, with patience and room for trial and error, you will harvest a healthy crop of shiitake mushrooms at the end.
Measure and cut a 4-foot long, 2- to 3-month old hardwood log. Make sure it is 6 to 7 inches wide. Immerse it in a tub of water for two hours.
Wear earplugs and protective eye goggles and drill 25 to 30 holes in the log with a hand-held drill. Space the holes 4 to 5 inches apart. Ensure each hole is 1 1/2 inches deep and 5/16 inches wide.
Fill each hole with a shiitake spawn plug in midfall, so your harvest is ready the next year. Push each spawn gently by hand or tap it with a hammer until it reaches 1/4 inch deep in the hole.
Seal each hole with cheese or molten wax to prevent the spawn plug from drying out and eventually dying. This serves as a nutrient base. Make sure you cover each hole thoroughly using a sterile spoon. An alternative is to manually insert a sawdust plug spawn into predrilled holes in Styrofoam. No wax is required to cover the Styrofoam holes as it acts as a natural barrier.
Place the log under natural shade (tree, bush) or artificial shade (porch, terrace) to provide ideal condition needed for cultivation so the mycelium spreads over and covers it completely. Mycelium resembles a thread-like substance and is the vegetative part of the fungus that takes at least six months to a year to develop.
Stand the log up and against a length of wire between two trees or posts once the mycelium develops. Spray the mycelium with water from a garden hose to induce the reproductive cycle in the log.
Harvest mushrooms when the cap is fully open and separated from the stem. This takes three to four weeks.