Shiitake mushroom log innoculation

“We’ve innoculated 25 trunks with shiitake mushroom spores and I’m not even sure if I like them.”

Spending time in a woodland gets you thinking about mushrooms. Wild ones are popping up everywhere, all year round it seems. With lots of meter long logs that we had made from trees we cut down last month. Inspired by them we decided to have a go at growing our own, surrounded as we are by plenty of wood, the main food for mushrooms. We bought some shiitake mushroom mycelium from a local mushroom cultivator, Fungi Natur – see them at www.funginatur.com. One April morning we invited 10 friends to come to the woodland and give us a hand moving logs of wood and innoculating the mycelium into the logs.

Step 1 Select logs

The shiitake grows well in deciduous wood, the harder the better. It thrives on woods such as oak or chestnut. In our woodland we are surrounded mostly by chestnut so that made up the majority of our logs. We had also felled a few eucalyptus a month earlier to make space for planting the native species that we would like to grow for coppicing and decided to try innoculating some of them as well.

Logs need to have a diameter of 5-20cm and a length of 0.5-1.5m. They are best cut between one and three months before you use them so that they lose 30% of their water. Any longer and they will have dried out too much and also other unwanted wild fungal spores might colonise your logs and outcompete the cultivated mushrooms that you want to grow.

Step 2 Drill holes

Holes should be 3-4cm deep in each log with 10-15 cm between holes going along the length of the log. The next row should be 3 cm below the first. We put a marker on the drill piece so that we could see when we had reached a depth of 4cm.

Step 3 Innoculate the logs

With the super innoculating tool that we got from Funginatur, each hole was packed with the sawdust containing shiitake mycelium. Getting this technique down was a challenge, but everyone had a go and with a bit of practice we got into the rhythm of it.

Step 4 Seal holes with wax

Each hole was then sealed by brushing a soya based wax melted in a metal bowl over the fire. This maintains the moisture in the hole and prevents the tasty sawdust/spore mix getting eaten by mice and beetles.

Step 5 Stack the logs

The logs were stacked in a shady spot underneath several chestnut trees. We placed a permeable carpet over them to prevent them drying out and to allow rainwater to enter. And then the waiting game started….there is a year to wait before harvesting. During this time the mycelium will be growing and spreading through the wood.

Which is why I am excited now. In a few short weeks the year of waiting is over and I can finally get to taste the shiitake – and find out if I like them. I hope so…we could have hundreds.

I’ll write again in a few weeks and explain the process of ‘shocking’ the logs to produce mushrooms.

Kirsty Heron

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