Monday, April 26, 2010

Shitake Mushroom Cultivation

The Farm's Ecovillage Training Center in Tennessee (and its partner programs abroad) are oriented towards making the best of the post-petroleum energy transition. The Farm offers an array of courses and workshops in permaculture and sustainable living technology, outlined on the web calendar here.

On February 20, I traveled with a few Tuscaloosa residents to participate in a shitake mushroom cultivating workshop at The Farm. Albert Bates and Frank Michael were the main instructors for the day's event, having extensive experiential knowledge about growing all kinds of mushrooms sustainably and commercially. The course examined medicinal properties of several mushroom varieties, and went over all the steps of cultivating mushrooms (particularly shitake), from selection and cutting of logs, to preparation, inoculation, spawn run, fruiting, and how to continue maintenance of mushroom production.

Select trees and cut logs for mushroom cultivation sometime between when the leaves turn brown in the Fall to a few weeks before leaf-bud in the Spring. Oaks work exceptionally well (except for blackjack), but you can get good yields from hornbeam, ironwood, hard maple, and sweet gum trees as well. Other trees yield less mushrooms, and softwoods yield none because their aromatic resins are fungicidal. The bark should be medium-thick, healthy and intact as much as possible; this creates a good barrier to other fungi. You do not want to use rotten logs. A good size for logs is 2" - 6" in diameter and 40" long.

Inoculate your logs with spawn within three weeks of cutting. Delays can result in lower yields becuse the logs dehydrate and are colonized with other microorganisms. If you cannot inoculate your logs right away, first make sure the bark is dry, and dead-stack them like firewood over two horizontal logs off the ground in a shady spot, and lightly cover them with plastic to keep off the rain, but you want to maintain air circulation.

You'll need
-a hot plate

-an old pot
-half a sponge cut lengthwise to apply
the melted cheese wax
-A high-speed drill makes life easier for runs of over 100 logs. (Use a 5/16" diam. bit for plug spawn, or 7/16" diam. for sawdust spawn, with a drill stop set at 1" depth for plugs, 3/4" for sawdust)
-an inoculating tool (keeps your fingers from wearing out)
-aluminum tags and some 1" roofing nails to label your logs with the date/variety
-and mushroom spawn

Once you inoculate every log with the mushroom spawn, you want to make sure you label the logs correctly with details such as type of wood, type of mushroom, date of cutting/date of inoculation, etc...
Shitake is suggested for beginning mushroom growers because it is one of the most forgiving growers. It is also noted for its health-boosting properties - it is a friend to your immune system. Shitake reverses T-cell suppression caused by tumors, making it a valuable anti-cancer food. Shitake's spores and mycelia are antiviral, inhibiting cell-division of viruses. Albert Bates informed us that one shitkae mushroom, eaten with a tablespoon of butter, actually reduces serum cholesterol. In Japan, it is used to regulate high and low blood pressure, and improves stomach ulcers, constipation, and heorroids as an anti-inflammatory. Shiitake also diminishes fatigue, generates stamina and improves the complexion.

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