A few years back, Paul Stamets told TED viewers that mushrooms can save the world. If that announcement surprised you, you're not alone -- but as most vegetarians know, the humble mushroom packs a big portion of B vitamins, antioxidants and rich flavor, without packing on the calories. Of all the varieties of edible, non-psychedelic mushrooms, shiitake is one of the best known. It's been cultivated as a delicacy for over 1,000 years. Organic shiitakes can cost upwards of $10 a pound -- or you can grow it in your backyard for a fraction of the cost, and eat garden-fresh mushrooms whenever you please.
What You'll Need
- Shiitake "plugs": Dowels that are inoculated with mushroom spores
- A fresh-cut oak log, free of disease (don't have the space for a log? Try Fungi Perfecti's Mushroom Patch kit)
- Drill and hammer
- Melted wax
How It's Done
Let your oak log sit for two to three weeks, so its natural fungicides die off. Then drill holes along the length of the log. Your holes should be wide enough and deep enough that the dowel will fit snugly inside, without the end protruding. Place the dowels in the holes, tapping them with a hammer until they're flush.
Brush off any sawdust, then paint over the holes with a light yet complete coating of wax.
That's it! Stack your logs in a mostly-shady spot, someplace where you can easily water them. If you live in a dry area, you'll need to keep them moist by dousing them every week or two. If you live in a wetter area, avoid stacking logs directly on the ground, or they can be colonized by other mushrooms.
"Fruiting" can take anywhere from six months to two years; it's usually brought on by a heavy rain or by you, soaking your log in cold water. You can tell your log is about to make shrooms when you see dark mottling on the cut ends. Harvest your shiitake gems before they're fully open, and store them in the refrigerator until you're ready to eat them. As if you could wait to eat them.
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