March is the Month for Mushrooms: Grow Your Own Shiitakes on a Log Indoors or Out

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The first day of spring is the peak season for shiitake mushrooms to spring through bark of hardwood branches and logs. Doug Williams of Lost Creek Mushroom farm tells the story of how mushrooms grow in nature and in grow-your-own shiitake log kits.

70 degree days and 50 degree nights with rain.

It's Nature's way that a little cold rain around the first day of spring creates a fertile field for mushrooms. Just as mushrooms grow wild out in the yard or on old trees, they'll grow at home on hardwood logs for mushroom lovers.

"Mushrooms seem to pop out overnight," said shiitake farmer Doug Williams of Lost Creek Mushroom Farm, (http://www.shiitakemushroomlog.com) "but they've been months in the making. Their fibers connect inside the tree, the log or under the ground and they mate - shiitakes have four sexes that must merge - to produce the fruiting body that we call a mushroom."

According to Williams, spring and fall are the natural fruiting seasons for shiitakes, "70 degree days and 50 degree nights with rain."

Lost Creek shiitake logs have been injected, or inoculated, with shiitake spawn and the spawn allowed to "run" for a year or more, until the entire log has a layer of shiitake fibers under the bark. "It's pure white," Williams said, "At first it's just a dusting. As the log matures, it becomes a solid layer of shiitake.

A small colony will form, producing two or three mushrooms. Then another colony emerges someplace else on the log, and another. Eventually these separate colonies connect and the whole log can be covered with shiitakes. That process peaks in the second and third years and tapers off as the log is consumed by the shiitake after four or five years."

Lost Creek Mushroom Farm shiitake logs will grow indoors like plants or can be placed outside in shady areas. They produce a crop of mushrooms every two months with increasingly larger harvests. Soaking in ice water fools the log into thinking it's the spring or fall rainy season and triggers the mushroom cycle. Then the log "rests" for two months with regular soaking every two weeks.

Shiitakes are the second-most popular mushroom worldwide, valued for their flavor, meaty texture, and nutritional benefits. High in protein and low in fat, they strengthen the immune system and can help regulate blood pressure and reduce cholesterol.

Log-grown shiitakes are favored for their greater flavor and higher health-potency levels as compared to most commercial shiitakes, which are mass-produced on sterilized sawdust.

"Many chefs hadn't seen log-grown shiitakes before I brought them in," Williams said. "The chefs were delighted with the firm texture and the deeper flavor of these mushrooms."

Lost Creek Mushroom Farm shiitake kits are guaranteed to produce. They come with full instructions and a recipe booklet. The original kits include a tray for soaking, fruiting and resting the log. A 14-inch log sells for $38.50 and a 20-inch log for $48.50, including shipping. The Ma and Pa kit, with two 8-10-inch logs will provide shiitakes every month by alternating the producing log and sells for $47.50, s&h included. The single 10-inch log sells for $27.50, including shipping.

The Shiitake Sampler cookbook by Janet Bratkovich has over 50 shiitake recipes from appetizers to main dishes for $6.95.

"It's a joke among growers that there aren't any shiitake desserts," Williams said, "although I did make some pretty tasty shiitake chocolate once."

Online information and ordering are available at http://www.shiitakemushroomlog.com and at Amazon.com. To request a free brochure or order by phone, call 800-792-0053. The Lost Creek Mushroom Farm mailing address is P.O. Box 520, Perkins, OK 74059-0520.

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SANDRA WILLIAMS
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