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Shiitake Growing Kit
The Shiitake growing kit includes 300 Shiitake plugs inoculated on hardwood dowels and complete instructions. All you need are 10 to 15 fresh-cut four-foot oak logs, 4 to 8 inches in diameter, an electric drill with a 5/16 inch wood bit, one lb. box of canning wax and something to melt it in. Shii-take translates as 'Oak-mushroom' which it's optimum wood to grow on, but any hardwood will work.
Shiitake Mushrooms are delicious and healthful mushrooms. Shiitake Mushrooms grow wild throughout the Far East where it is found on decaying trees. Cultivation of Shfitake on oak logs has been practiced for centuries in Japan.
The Japanese believe in eating 'Shiitake each day' much like Americans who believe in 'eating an apple a day'. Studies have shown that eating Shiitake lowers blood serum cholesterol in people. Other studies have credited Shiitake with tumor regression, and helping the body produce interferon, a natural substance which fights cancer cells and stimulates the immune system. Dried Shiitake contains 20% protein by weight, and are high in trace minerals and B vitamins. All in all, Shiitake is an excellent mushroom to add to your diet, and now you can grow your own in your back yard.
Where to grow
This mushroom prospers in a shady outdoor location, 60-80% shade is ideal, not darkness. A water source close by is needed, when rain is not adequate. Ventilation is important also, to dry the bark between waterings. A pine forest is good, as it will provide shade summer and winter. Your Shiitake growing yard should be close by, so you can check on your mushrooms often.
Oak logs are best to use, Shii (OAK)- take (MUSHROOM). Many other hardwood species will do'. Select healthy, young living trees in stands that need to be thinned. Avoid damaging the bark. Logs with diameters. between 4" to 8" cut to 4 foot length. Do not use deadfalls or logs of unknown age.
The ideal time of year to fell your logs is winter, however any time of year is okay except for-the heat of summer. Trees felled in summer tend to be too dry, and willdry out too fast. for a good spawn run. Trees felled in winter can be held for a few weeks before inoculation.- but trees cut any other time of year should be, inoculated immediately.
Clean the surface of your cut logs with a wire brush, this will remove dirt and mosses, lichen, etc. that might become competition for the Shiitake. Do not brush so hard as to damage the bark.
This kit contains spawn in dowel form, the mushroom spawn is alive and growing in the hardwood dowel. With a 5/16" drill bit, drill holes in your cleaned logs in the pattern shown below all around the log. The holes should be deep enough that the dowel will be flush with the bark when you tap them in, but not so deep as to have a large air pocket at the bottom of the hole. Using a hammer lightly tap a dowel into each hole. Wax over each site with hot paraffin that has been heated in a double boiler. A small paint brush works well for this.
Illustration: Evenly spaced all around the log
This will take from 5 to 12 months, depending on temperature and moister. Stack you inoculated logs in your growing area off the, ground on pallets or suported on cinder blocks at the ends. Stacks can be several layers tall, in log cabin fashion. This is where you need to be patient. Remember, you are growing a living I plant inside that log. The log needs to stay moist inside, while the bark dries out between waterings, or rains. If it doesn't rain for a few weeks, you should water the stack of logs. Misting overnight is good.
Illustration : leaning stack, cinder blocks, square rick or log cabin
Your logs should fruit naturally twice a year, spring and afll. You can force the log to fruit more often by soaking the log in cold water overnight, then stand it up in a shady area out of any drying winds. Within a few days, you should notice small white, bumps on the bark, these are the beginnings of mushrooms. Shiitake can be picked and eaten at any stage, but should be harvested before the cap opens completely.
After the logs have fruited, lay them back down to rest for 6 to 8 weeks, then repeat the fruiting instructions. In Maine we can fruit our logs 4 to 5 times before the weather gets too cold. Temperatures between 45 and 75 degrees are best, Shiitake like it cooler rather than warmer.
Logs should be left out in the laying yard over the winter. A good snow cover is ideal, but if it is an open winter, or your logs are exposed to drying winds, you might cover the stacks with an old blanket. Spring will come, and another season of Shiitake will too. Your logs will fruit for several years if you manage them well.