Shiitakes are one of the easiest and most foolproof mushrooms you can grow on logs. It's no wonder, humans have been cultivating them for hundreds of years! The traditional log growing technique we use stems from practices used as early as the 12th century in modern-day Japan.
Description: They are a nutritious and medicinal mushroom that produces brown umbrella-shaped caps, sometimes with fluffy white tufts adorning their edges called scabers. Caps can crack as they mature, a feature that is prized in dried mushrooms. Flesh and gills are cream-colored bruising brownish, white spore print. If you look closely, their gills have serrated edges!
Ecology: Native to temperate mountains of Asia. There, it grows on the shii tree, Castanopsis cuspidata, a member of the oak/chestnut/beech family. Shiitakes are saprophytes which means they are decomposers which help to cycle nutrients from dead organic matter back into living systems.
Difficulty for Outdoor Cultivation: Beginner.
Preferred Growing Methods: Traditional log style and totems. Learn more about cultivation in our complete log inoculation guide.
Shiitake totem grown by @fryfarm in Georgia
Substrate: Prefers to grow on hard hardwoods. The best trees to use include: alder, beech, hophornbeam, hornbeam, hard maples, oaks, and sweetgum. See our species chart for more recommendations.
Temperature: Our particular strain is wide range and therefore will fruit in a variety of temperatures- both warm and cool! Often, shifts in temperature will help to trigger fruiting, so look out for mushrooms especially in the shoulder seasons after rain.
Mycelium Formation: Shiitake is a slow grower and usually takes at least 12 months of colonization before producing mushrooms. The mycelium is white and turns bumpy or “popcorned” and brown in maturity. When logs are close to being ready to fruit, you should see mycelium on the ends.
Fruiting Information: We recommend waiting until your logs fruit naturally at least once, often after heavy rain and a temperature shift, before starting a regimen of force fruiting. Their ability to be stimulated to fruit every 8 weeks, up to 3 times per year, means they’re one of the most reliable producers! So, log production can easily be scaled up for commercial operations. After they begin to fruit the logs may produce for up to a year per inch of diameter of logs. Shiitake logs usually have their largest flushes during their second and third years of producing. A good yield per log is ¼ - ½ pound each flush, with 2-3 flushes per season.
Harvesting: From pin to full mushroom takes about 3-7 days depending on ambient temperature and humidity. To harvest your mushrooms, use scissors or a sharp knife to cut the stem as close to the wood as you can, without damaging the wood. They’ll keep in a refrigerator for 2 weeks.
Medicinal Qualities: Shiitakes are a well-researched medicinal mushroom, acting as an immune system booster and liver and kidney tonic (Marley, 2009). High concentrations of eritadenine may help reduce cholesterol levels (Enman et al., 2007). Additionally, they may help regulate blood pressure and sugar, and support overall heart health. Needless to say, we sneak them into our morning coffee and bedtime tea with our Immunity Blend Tincture!
Cooking: Shiitake has a savory flavor and meaty texture when cooked. It's great for drying and reconstituting in soups. It pairs beautifully with tamari, ginger, and garlic and can bring needed umami to many different dishes. Nutritionally, it has a great protein content between 13-18% and from 6-15% fiber as well as water-soluble B vitamins and nearly all essential amino acids. When dried in the sun, they can contain high levels of Vitamin D.