Fall Equinox: Prime Time for Growing Shiitakes

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Temperatures, rainfall and the 12-hour day and night cycles of the autumnal equinox are perfect for growing shiitake logs outside. Native to Asia, the world's second most-favorite mushroom doesn't grow wild in the Western world. Lost Creek Mushroom Farm offers all-natural, grow-your-own shiitake mushroom log kits that will grow shiitakes for years. Owner Sandra Williams, the Mushroom Lady, founded Mushrooms in Ghana Project and donates a portion of sales to help expand the mushroom industry in Ghana. Oyster mushroom cultivation is a successful tool for economic development in Ghana. Adding shiitake log production will increase farmers' sustainability, productivity and profits.

Light, temperatures, and moisture are perfect for shiitakes. It's time to put shiitake logs outside in the garden shade and let Mother Nature fruit them.

Twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of dark, cool fall rain. Shiitakes start mushrooming up through the bark of fallen tree limbs in Japan and China where they've grown for centuries.

'The world's second most-favorite mushroom doesn't grow wild in the US,' according to Mushroom Lady Sandra Williams of Lost Creek Mushroom Farm, where she and her husband Doug make shiitake mushroom log kits with all-natural hardwood logs. 'In Asia fall means huge harvests. Shiitakes can grow several inches a day. I've picked them almost as big as my head.'

"Light, temperatures, and moisture are perfect for shiitakes. It's time to put shiitake logs outside in the garden shade and let Mother Nature fruit them."

Normally the log owner 'shocks' a log by soaking it in non-chlorinated ice water or by putting it in the refrigerator or freezer. The 'shock' mimics nature in spring and fall by dropping the internal temperature, as with autumn's 70° F./21° C. days and 50° F./10° C. nights.

Lost Creek Mushroom Farm has a line of grow-your-own shiitake kits: a 6 inch/152 mm 'Shroomie for $16.95, a 10 in/254 mm kit for $19.00+$9.95 s&h, and a 14-15 in/355-381 mm log kit with a soaking tray for $34.95+9.00 s&h.

'Our most innovative idea is the Ma & Pa Kit, with two 9-10-inch logs,' Williams said. 'A log will produce every two months for about 4 years. Two logs will supply shiitake mushrooms every month.' The Ma &Pa Kit sells for $38 + $9.95 shipping ($47.50).

'With the cost of low-fat, high-protein shiitakes ranging from $16-26 a pound in the US, kits can pay for themselves in the second year.'

Logs grow indoors like houseplants and outside in shade. Kits will produce mushrooms for about four years, with a few mushrooms at first and increasingly larger harvests as the logs mature. Logs 10 inches and larger are fully guaranteed to grow mushrooms. Kits include instructions and recipes.

A percentage of sales are donated to Mushrooms in Ghana Project. Williams is the founder and director of the project, which brought alternative agriculture teachers from Ghana, West Africa, to the US to learn shiitake log production. The project is furnishing a mushroom spawn laboratory in north-central Ghana. The lab will help expand the mushroom industry and enable oyster mushroom farmers, most of them women, to increase production and profits. 'We're helping to introduce shiitake logs to the farmers so they'll have a backup crop and a second source of income,' Williams explained. 'Between 2002 and 2008, contamination wiped out 60% of the oyster mushroom production. Thousands of farmers quit because they were dependent on a single crop. If they can also grow shiitakes, they have a better chance of survival.'

Excitement rising in her voice, she continued, 'It's working. It's really working! Bernard Bempah, Director of Bemcom Youth Enterprises Association, a non-profit training center, has taught farmers how to increase their incomes from less than $1 a day to $5 and more. According to Bempah, the larger farms can bring in as much as $10-15 a day in local market sales. Mushroom cultivation is a proven method to alleviate poverty.'

Information and online ordering are at shiitakemushroomlog.com, which includes a link to Mushrooms in Ghana Project.

The phone number for free brochures, orders, and donations is 800-792-0053. Donations made to the 501(c)(3) Magical Child Foundation are tax deductible. Mail orders and donations can be sent to Lost Creek Mushroom Farm, PO Box 520, Perkins, Oklahoma 74059-0520. Log kits are also available on Amazon.com.

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SANDRA WILLIAMS
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