How to Grow Your Own Shiitake Mushrooms


Jess PeckWe’ve been gardening for two years now, and if there is one thing growing our own food has taught us, it is the true beauty in patience. In a culture that is becoming more and more accustomed to instant gratification, waiting three months to reap the benefits of your work can seem like an eternity.  To me, the rewards are beyond worth the wait. Recently, we have been enjoying the rewards of something we put the work in for six months ago; one of the most illustrious mushrooms of the fungi world: shiitakes. We inoculated these treasures in March and within the last few weeks (it is now September), they have begun to explode.

Shiitake mushrooms are extremely tasty and versatile. So far, we’ve made homemade shiitake mushroom sushi, ground pork and shiitake mushroom Asian dumplings, and shiitake mushrooms and eggs.  And the best part about shiitake mushrooms?  They are extremely easy to grow yourself.  

The very first step of this process is harvesting logs.  These logs will serve as both the habitat and food for your shiitake mushrooms. White oak logs are the best, but we also threw in a couple birch logs with ours, and they have worked fine.  You will need to cut live trees, and your goal is to do this when the trees are the most moisture-rich and full of sugars. These sugars reside in the trees’ leaves during summer, so it’s best to harvest your logs before the sugars enter the leaves again in early spring, or after they exit the leaves into the core of the tree in late fall, before they sink down to the roots for winter hibernation.  It is also important to harvest during these times because it helps to keep the bark from falling off.  A tree’s bark is looser during the summer.  You can cut as many logs as you want.  We started with about 20.

drilling in log

After you cut your logs, allow them to rest for two weeks.  Most trees produce a compound that is fungus-resistant, so this rest period will allow that compound to break down.  

This waiting period will be the perfect time for you to order the rest of your materials.  In addition to your logs, you will also need mushroom spawn, cheese wax, and metal tags (these are optional as they are really only needed if you do different strains or inoculate at different times, where they can be used to keep track of the differences in your logs).

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