Shiitake mushrooms are commonly grown on logs, but they may also thrive using other substrates, such as growing bags. Some growers utilize substrates made from straw to produce beloved shiitake mushrooms. Regardless of the kind of substrate you choose, to be successful, you still need to observe proper growing practices, which I aptly provided in this post.
What Are Shiitake Mushrooms?
One of the most popular mushrooms in the world is the shiitake. Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes) include substances that may promote heart health, increase immunity, and fight cancer. They are highly valued for their savory, rich flavor and various health advantages.
Edible shiitake mushrooms are native to East Asia.
Native to the mountains of Japan, Korea, and China, Lentinula edodes thrive there on downed logs. People have historically harvested wild shiitake mushrooms throughout East Asia for use as food and traditional medicine. Around 1,000–1,200 years ago, shiitake mushroom cultivation started in China when the species was known as dongo or shanku.
They have tan to dark brown bodies and 2 to 4-inch long crowns (5 and 10 cm). Shiitake are fungi that naturally grow on dead hardwood trees, usually consumed like vegetables.
Although they are also grown in China, Singapore, the United States, Canada, and Singapore, about 83% of shiitake is farmed in Japan. They are available in various dietary supplements, dried or fresh forms.
How Can You Identify Shiitake Mushrooms?
Here are the distinguishable features of shiitake mushrooms:
The umbrella-shaped crown of the shitake is tan to brown.
The shiitake mushroom's margins roll inward and downward toward its whitish, cream-colored gills on the underside of the cap.
The mushroom's stem is similarly white or cream-colored but can turn brown as it gets bigger.
The diameter of the caps can range from 2 to 15 cm (or 5 to 6 inches).
Lentinula edodes reach 5 to 8 cm (2 to 4 inches) in height.
What are the Health Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms?
Before I share with you the alleged health advantages of shiitake mushrooms, it would be useful if we could know their nutritional info:
- Carbohydrates: 21 grams
- Calories: 81
- Sodium: 5.8 milligrams
- Sugar: 5.6 grams
- Protein: 2.3 grams
- Vitamin D: 1 microgram
- Protein: 2.3 grams
Shiitake mushrooms and heart health
Mushrooms are heart-healthy because they are naturally low in sodium and saturated fats, primarily when used as a substitute for processed meats. Shiitake mushrooms contain a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which lowers cholesterol. Shiitake mushrooms even contain potassium, which lowers blood pressure as well. (https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/67/11/624/1850752?login=true)
Shiitake mushrooms and gingivitis
The collection of "bad" bacteria in the mouth and plaque formation are the two leading causes of the treatable dental illness gingivitis. This bacteria destroys the tissues of the gums and can result in problems like periodontal disease.
Shiitake mushroom extract has been found in studies to lessen these dangerous bacteria while maintaining beneficial bacteria. These findings imply that shiitake mushrooms have advantages for tooth health. (https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2011/507908/)
Shiitake mushrooms and prostate cancer
A 2019 study that followed more than 36,000 Japanese men between the ages of 40 and 79 discovered a link between eating mushrooms and a lower risk of prostate cancer. According to researchers, Ergothioneine, an antioxidant found in mushroom variations like shiitake, king oyster, oyster, and maitake varieties that might lessen oxidative stress, is the cause of the association. (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.32591)
Shiitake mushrooms and vegetarians
Shiitake mushrooms could provide several valuable nutrients for vegetarians, lowering the likelihood of deficiency. The zinc-rich shiitake mushroom is a beautiful food to eat. Typically, red meat, poultry, and seafood contain zinc. A daily goal of 8 to 11 milligrams of zinc per day is supported by a cup of cooked shiitake mushrooms, which includes almost 2 milligrams of zinc.
Shiitake mushrooms and immunity
Since the body does not store much copper, having a consistent food source can help prevent a deficiency. More copper than the average adult needs daily is found in one cup of cooked shiitake mushrooms.
The production and function of several immune cells, including T cells, neutrophils, phagocytes, B lymphocytes, natural killer cells, and antibodies, are supported by copper, which is essential for the immune system.
Can You Grow Shiitake Mushrooms Indoors?
Step 1: Preparation
Initially, you must determine what substrate you'll use and purchase the necessary materials before you can begin cultivating shiitake mushrooms indoors.
Your mushrooms will establish themselves as mycelium in a substrate before using it to nourish their fruiting bodies (which are the mushrooms we eat).
Compared to oyster mushrooms, which grow on cardboard, coffee grounds, or just about anything, shiitake mushrooms are a little pickier about what they will eat.
A growing media made of wood is essential for shiitake to grow and receive the necessary nutrients. You often only have the choice of cultivating them on logs or blocks of sawdust. If you reside in a city, it will probably be simpler for you to find sawdust or sawdust pellets than fresh logs.
Avoid any logs with moss, lichen, or other fungi that may already be living inside the wood and any logs that exhibit other indicators of fungi or mold.
Shiitake inoculation logs should be between 3 and 6 inches (7.6 and 15.2 cm) in diameter and between 3 and 4 feet (91 and 122 cm) long. If you're using sawdust or pellets for your growing medium, you'll also need to buy or construct some kind of container or growing bag to house your substrate.
The mycelium culture used to create mushrooms is called spawn, similar to how seeds are used to grow fruits and vegetables. Shiitake mushroom strains don't differ as noticeably from one another as different strains and subspecies of oyster mushrooms do.
Shiitake mushrooms often have the same color, shape, and size. Most strains have an impact on the environments that mushrooms prefer. There are strains for both cold and warm climates. Beginners should choose a wide variety, which is most frequently employed for year-round commercial growing.
Several vendors need to mention the variety of shiitake spawns they offer for sale. Several varieties of shiitake spawn are available depending on how you intend to develop your mushrooms. Nonetheless, WR46 is an incredible beginner-friendly strain to choose from if you have a choice of several other strains.
Step 2: Substrate readiness
IMPORTANT: It won't be necessary to sterilize some of the substrates that shiitake mushrooms grow on because they have already been treated.
If you use sawdust pellets:
- They have already undergone pasteurization during pellet manufacture's pressure and high heat.
- You can soak the sawdust pellets in water for 30 minutes.
- Pasteurization is not required when using new logs.
If you decide to use straw or fresh sawdust:
- Pasteurization is required for this type of substrate. To accomplish this, soak your sawdust or straw in hot water (149–176°F; 65–80°C) for one to two hours. You might also soak in a high-pH lime solution for 12–18 hours if you'd like.
Step 3: Inoculation
How to inoculate logs for shiitake mushrooms?
You should inoculate logs with your shiitake spawn in the spring after the final threat of frost has passed if you intend for them to thrive outside. Drill holes slightly larger than the spawn you intend to insert into the log using a power drill.
Typically, a 12 mm drill bit is used for plug spawn and a 12 mm drill bit for sawdust spawn. If you need more clarification, ask your spawn supplier to confirm what size drill bit to use. Make sure you are wearing safety ear and eye protection.
Along the length of the log, drill holes every six inches that are about an inch deep. After drilling one row, turn your log around and drill a subsequent row a few inches over.
To leave space between each plug, you should alternate your holes in a checkerboard or polka-dot pattern. Till the log is completely encircled, continue drilling rows of holes into the wood.
Step 4: Incubation
If you're utilizing logs, your shiitake mushrooms need 6 to 12 months to incubate. Place them off the ground in a shaded area.
To lift them, use bricks or a wooden pallet. This approach may also help keep rival fungus from attaching to the logs.
Cover your logs with shade cloth or another breathable material to keep them out of the sun and allow moisture to pass through. Avoid covering your wood with a plastic tarp because doing so will promote mold growth.
Suppose you choose to incubate shiitake mushrooms using growing bags; here are some practical steps for you to observe:
Keep your mushroom bags in the dark, room-temperature location.
When your bags produce new mycelium, there is no need for maintenance or watering.
The white mycelium, however, does not indicate that your shiitake is ready to fruit as it is with other mushrooms. For an additional two weeks, you must let them brown.
Your bag's entire contents of white mycelium will start to change to a brownish hue. You're ready to begin fruiting once most of your mycelium has turned brown.
Step 5: Fruiting
For logs growers
Shiitake logs or sawdust sacks that have reached full colonization are ready to produce mushrooms but are awaiting the rain. This procedure can be sped up and accelerated to produce shiitake mushrooms earlier because producers can access running water. The shiitake logs are shocked into fruiting early during this process.
The best water is rainwater, boiling water, or other non-chlorinated water. But if that's all you have, you can use water straight from your yard hose. Bring your logs back to your shaded area and stand them vertically (upright) after soaking them for 24 hours. This will ensure that all your spawn holes have open space around them, protecting your mushrooms from contamination and ground fruiting when they begin forming.
Primordia, tiny pegs that eventually merge into fully grown mushrooms, will begin to grow between two days and two weeks. During this stage, water your logs once or twice a day for at least five minutes to keep them moist.
For growing bags users
You can unzip the bags once your shiitake mycelium has thoroughly colonized your substrate. Place your spawn block in a humid location with much air movement.
Although it took your substrate several months to colonize, your shiitake proliferates at this stage and will produce the first flush of mushrooms in less than a week.
To keep your spawn block fresh and healthy, mist it daily. Don't be scared to water the shiitake mushrooms every few hours because they appear to develop more quickly with more water.
Step 6: Harvesting
Although they will be a little more sensitive if you harvest your shiitake when they're smaller, there is no right or wrong size to do so.
Shiitake mushrooms are best harvested with a knife by slicing them at the stem's base. Twisting could harm the mycelium and prevent subsequent flushes. Shiitake log incubation takes a long time, but it will be worth it when you have 4 to 6 years of fresh mushrooms before replacing your logs.
What Substrates Work Well with Shiitake Mushrooms?
There are at least three substrates that you can use for your shiitake mushrooms. I ranked them below among the most popular to the least commonly used substrates:
Growing mushrooms on a dead tree log is the closest thing to imitating the process of growing shiitake mushrooms on dead trees. The growers drilled the holes into the logs, filling them with plug or sawdust spawn. Wax is then used to seal the perforations.
The spawn will discharge hyphae, which will branch together to form mycelium, consume food in the wood, and expand outward, just like in the wild and other substrates.
It is wise to utilize hardwood pellets as the primary substrate for shiitake mushrooms since they are sterile and suitable for fungi. This substrate is appropriate for your objective of simulating the growth of our mushrooms in the wild. They are saprophytic mushrooms, which consume and break down hardwood trees.
A few varieties of shiitake mushrooms can be grown on straw. Most mycologists, however, prefer to use wood substrates that mimic how shiitake mushrooms develop in nature; thus, they do not advise it.
Nevertheless, here are some advantages that straw substrates may provide for your shiitake mushrooms:
- Compared to wood, straw is a more renewable substrate. Although wood can be grown, it takes a lot longer to mature and harvest than wheat straw.
- Straw is more aerated and less likely to compress than other materials. It can also contain a lot of moisture, which is advantageous for growing mushrooms.
- Because straw is often less nutrient-dense, it faces less competition from other bacteria and fungi.
- Sometimes finding straw is more straightforward and less expensive than finding the correct kind of wood.
How Do You Harvest and Storage Shiitake Mushrooms?
Shiitakes are harvested by gripping the lower part of the stem and gently twisting the mushroom to remove it from the log. Shiitake can also be collected by cutting them with a sharp knife or pair of scissors as close as possible to the log's surface. Only the stems should be handled during picking because bruises on the caps and gills will quickly turn discolored.
To reduce the buildup of bark flecks and other debris on unpicked mushrooms, it is best to start picking mushrooms at the bottom of the log and work your way up. Shiitakes can also have their stems pruned to remove debris after being harvested.
You can place picked mushrooms into a box, basket, paper bag, or appropriate container. Avoid using plastic bags since they expedite the decay of mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms should not be placed in containers deeper than 4-6 inches to avoid bruising and to encourage quick chilling. It is advised to have air vents in the container so the shiitake can cool quickly.
After plucking, cool your harvested shiitakes to 33-35 degrees Fahrenheit as quickly as possible. For refrigerator storage, it is advised to use plastic crates or baskets with all-around slats. When mushrooms are stored in containers that do not allow quick chilling, their shelf life is drastically reduced. Moreover, frost-free refrigerators tend to overly dry mushrooms.
Shiitakes have a comparable shelf life to Agaricus bisporus (common button mushroom), which is heavily influenced by temperature. For instance, Agaricus bisporus mushrooms can be stored for 17–20 days at 32 F but only 7–10 days at 37 F.