Shitaki mushrooms have become popular because of their smoky and distinct flavor. The mushrooms have been used for over 6,000 years in China where they have been a symbol of longevity because of their healing benefits. Shitaki mushrooms contain Lentinan, which may help fight cancer and the antioxidant L-ergothioneine. Spores can be grown at home in the spring through fall and indoors in the winter.
Gather your log to inoculate when trees are still dormant in the early spring. This will provide the most nutrients and moisture for your spores.
Use a hand saw to cut a log from a tree that is 3 to 6 inches in diameter. The wood should be freshly cut from the tree rather than taken from the ground. The wood should also be healthy and free of disease or blemishes.
Set aside your wood log for three to five days after cutting it from a tree. Toxins are released that will kill fungi spores, so time is needed to let these dissipate before inoculation.
Drill a hole about ½ to 1 inch from the edge of one side of the log. Use a 5/16-inch bit and drill the hole 1 inch deep.
Continue to drill a row of holes along the length of the log. Space each hole 6 to 10 inches apart.
Add a second row about 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches from the other so that the holes alternate with the last row. Continue to add rows of holes around the log at a distance of 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches apart, and alternate each row.
Continue to add rows of holes around the log at a distance of 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches apart, and alternate each row.
Press a spore plug into each hole and hammer it into the hole until the top of the plug is even with the surface of the log.
Use a 2-foot-long log for sawdust inoculation. Cut a ½-inch thick wafer out of each end of the log.
Use your hands to put a layer of your sawdust into the sections you cut from each end of the log.
Place the wafer back into the hole, and hammer a nail into each side to hold each piece in place.
Keep your logs in a place where the temperature remains between 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure there is plenty of air circulation around each log you inoculate.
Stack your logs if you are inoculating several outside. Stack them so that they make an X pattern to allow air flow. Put a layer of gravel beneath your stack to prevent slugs from getting into the wood and damaging your mushrooms.
Soak each log once a week in water for 24 to 36 hours if a heavy rainfall hasn't occurred. Re-stack your logs after they have been soaked.
Monitor moisture with a wood moisture meter daily to make sure it ranges between 35 to 45 percent.
Stop soaking logs when fruiting begins. Nodes will appear on your logs right before mushrooms begin to form after six to 18 months from inoculation.
Harvest your mushrooms each afternoon to encourage more fruiting. Use scissors to cut mushrooms at the base.
About this Author
Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Robin Coe has reported on a variety of subjects for over 15 years. Coe is the former publisher of the politics and art magazine Flesh from Ashes. She has worked to protect water and air quality. Coe holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism with a double-major in international politics from Bowling Green State University.