Making a shiitake mushroom log

Shiitake mushrooms are the yummiest variety, in my opinion. They’re also the most expensive in the shops, and virtually impossible to find in an organic variety (at least where we live). Solution: grow your own.

You’ll be happy to hear that making your own shiitake mushroom log turns out to be very easy. It would make a great holiday project for any family, or a great skill-share workshop in your community. Here’s how you do it.

How to get rich quick by growing shiitake mushrooms. Or you could just eat them instead. Much better.

Ready to go…

We made our shiitake logs as part of a workshop we ran in Sydney recently…

Making a shiitake log: materials

  • one freshly cut log (ideally 100-150mm in diameter)
  • shiitake spawn (plug or sawdust)
  • hand drill
  • beeswax (organic, if you can)
  • paintbrush
  • a mallet – preferably with a rubber head
  • heat source and saucepan

Making a shiitake mushroom log: method

Our freshly-cut eucalypt logs, ready for action. Photo by Cathy x

The log: a freshly cut log is best, as this means other fungus haven’t yet had a chance to colonize it (and less competition means more shiitake mushrooms for you). ‘Fresh’ means cut in the last 72 hours or so. Apparently 100-150mm diameter is ideal, length preferably no less than 60 – 75cm.

You can use a variety of woods. We used eucalypt, and we de-barked them as they had thick, woody bark. If you log has thin bark, you wouldn’t need to do this.

The holes: we drilled each log with 20 holes, evenly spaced around the log, width 8.5mm if you’re using standard plug spawn – the diameter of the dowel plugs increases from swelling in the moist spawn environment.

If you’re using sawdust spawn, this might be different. You can get a small hand tool that injects a small chunk of sawdust spawn, for example, snugly into 12mm holes.

The shiitake plug spawn. Photo by Cathy x

The spawn: The basic idea here is to fill the holes in the log with shiitake spawn (mycelium). Plug spawn (shiitake spawn that has colonized a wooden plug) is one way of doing this. Colonizing sawdust with shiitake spawn, and putting that in the holes, is another way. We used plug spawn.

Tapping the plug spawn into the holes we drilled. Photo by Cathy x

Inoculating the log: This was the fun part. You take a spawn plug and tap it into the hole. Ta da! One innoculated log. Repeat until you run out of holes.

Sealing each end of the log with melted beeswax

Painting beeswax onto the holes, with plug spawn inserted, to seal them. Photo by Cathy x

Sealing the log: this step is to ensure that you actually get a harvest of shiitakes, and not some other crazy fungi. To ensure that other fungi spores, which are always floating around in the air, don’t take over your carefully prepapred log and out-compete your shiitake spawn, you need to seal all open surfaces on the log.

The best way to seal the log is with beeswax, as it’s the most natural substance for the job. The mushrooms absorb whatever they come into contact with, so obviously you don’t want to use petroleum or artificially based waxes or sealants on your food.

In a perfect world you would use organic beeswax, as beeswax is a bio-accumulator for whatever toxins the bees have encountered (and most conventionally-managed bees encounter quite a bit, both in and out of the hive). If you can’t, just go with whatever beeswax you can get. It’s still the best option for this job.

So melt down some beeswax in a saucepan, and apply some anywhere the log has been penetrated. Don’t forget to seal each end of the log where it’s been cut, as well as each hole.

The knock-on effect: just before you site your log, give it a good bump and a whack. This stimulates the mycelium to proceed into a state which will result in a later ‘flush’ (blooming of mushrooms).

Which makes sense, when you think about it. This kind of mushroom grows on dead wood. Intrinsic to that wood becoming dead is it’s falling (a branch off a tree, or a trunk falling to the ground). In turn, this great big thump activates the mycelium. So you can simulate this by giving your log a thumping. Pretty cool, eh?

Siting your log: hurrah! Your log is now prepared. Now for the waiting bit. Take your log and put it somewhere with good airflow, preferably in semi-shade. Keeping it moist is good, but apparently the shiitake mushrooms will fruit even if the log is not constantly moist, it will just take longer. If you have a tree, put your log up in the branches, or close to the tree somehow. Make sure you keep it out of contact with the ground.

And in the space of 6-12 months, your log should look something like this:

The final product, hopefully. Photo by Mushroom gourmet.

Harvest: your log should yield 5-6 ‘flushes’ or harvests following its first. Enjoy.

Resources:

Shiitake spawn suppliers:

  • Otway forest group – excellent suppliers of shiitake plug / dowel spawn
  • Fungi.net.au – supplies plug spawn and other fancy stuff
  • Fungi Perfecti - Paul Stamet’s drool-worthy fungi enterprise (sadly doesn’t post to Australia)

Beeswax suppliers:

We run Mushroom Cultivation courses! Mostly in Sydney, at this point. Check them out here…

Related posts:

Many thanks to Will Bowowski, Trev Bamford for the documentation and Cathy X for her photos. 

10 Comments

  1. Posted July 20, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    WOW WOW WOW this is fabulous thankyou so much …. : )

  2. Posted July 20, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Where do you get the spawn plug from??

    • Posted July 21, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink | Reply

      we got ours from Will the teacher, but there’s suppliers at the bottom of this post.

  3. Posted July 20, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Wow cool guys. Just saw these for sale in local health food shop for £20 so making my own sounds much better.

  4. Will
    Posted August 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

    There is a new forum for Australian Mushroom enthusiasts

    http://www.ediblemushroom.net/index.php

    Join in and get growing!

  5. Glenn Hinton
    Posted February 26, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hello… I’m looking into growing mushrooms on my farm. The ambition is to start on a small scale and work my up to a point to where it’s a full time job. Have done a bit of research on different types of mushrooms but not sure which type I should start trailing. I’m figuring that buying a mushroom kit and doing a shiitake mushroom log would be a good way of starting.

    Any feedback with thoughts and ideas would greatly be appreciated.
    Regards
    Glenn

  6. dave fergusson
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Its nearly a year now since I inoculated my logs that were sourced from the great WA storm of June 13th 2012. I chose eucalypts with fine smooth bark & used shiitake dowels. The logs have been kept horizontally on a steel frame in part summer shade, full winter! They were mist watered most days during the heat! The bark is currently falling of the logs leaving the end of dowels proud of the timber! As yet there are no signs of mushrooms so what do you believe are my chances at this late stage?

  7. planeteautonome
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 3:12 am | Permalink | Reply

    Reblogged this on Planète autonome and commented:
    Une autre chose à essayer…

11 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Shiitake mushrooms are the yummiest variety, in my opinion. They're also the most expensive in the shops, and virtually impossible to find in an organic variety (at least where we live). Solution: grow your own. You'll be happy to hear that making your own shiitake mushroom log turns out to be very easy. It would make a great holiday project for any family, or a great skill-share workshop in your community. Here's how you do it.

  2. By Shiitake Mushroom on July 23, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    [...] Making a shiitake mushroom log « Milkwood: permaculture farming … Shiitake mushrooms are the yummiest variety, in my opinion. They're also the most expensive in the shops, and virtually impossible to find in an organic variety (at least where we live). Solution: grow your own. [...]

  3. [...] How to make a shiitake mushroom log Share this:MoreLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was written by milkwoodkirsten, posted on August 24, 2011 at 6:00 am, filed under farm and tagged broad beans, gardening, market garden, planting, vegetables. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « Regarding the Lexicon of Sustainability project [...]

  4. [...] How to make a shiitake mushroom log Share this:Share on TumblrMoreEmailDiggPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was written by milkwoodkirsten, posted on December 15, 2011 at 6:00 am, filed under farm. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « Happy Earth’s ‘Grow Local’ Illawarra Edible Garden Guide [...]

  5. [...] How to make a shiitake mushroom log [...]

  6. [...] for outdoor cultivation. We’re already inoculating pine seedlings with spores, inoculating shiitake logs with sawdust spawn and dowel spawn, and making grain spawn to grow oyster mushrooms etc in [...]

  7. [...] http://www.medicinalmushroomreviews.com/ahcc-canada/ http://milkwood.net/2011/07/20/making-a-shiitake-mushroom-log/ This entry was posted in Medicinal Mushrooms. Bookmark the permalink. ← Optimaalne Reisi [...]

  8. […] here’s a Shiitake log how to. Also, if you live nearish, we run darn fine courses in Mushroom Cultivation in Sydney and beyond, […]

  9. […] like plastic bags? Learn how to make a mushroom garden, or shiitake log cultures… there’s mushroom growing techniques for […]

  10. By Time for something new | Foodnstuff on April 4, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    […] thanks to some excellent posts from Kirsten at Milkwood Permaculture. Growing my own mushrooms. A shiitake log, to be exact. I have eucalypts and can provide fresh-cut logs. It’s only a matter of buying […]

  11. By Cheesed off! | Foodnstuff on June 14, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    […] read this post about growing a shiitake mushroom log, by Kirsten at Milkwood Permaculture and decided I’d like to give it a go. There were three […]

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