Time was, when my friends grew their own mushrooms, it was for recreation, not food. But times change. And with delicious shitakes mushrooms around $15 a pound, it makes sense again to start “growing your own”. Shiitake mushrooms are easy to grow on oak or other logs that are too small for the mill or fireplace, but too big to chip up.
Two neighbors and I decided to go in on a cord of red oak logs, the top limbs about 3-4” in diameter that often get left in the woods. We’re going to use this logging waste to grow our own shitakes. We’re ordering spore plugs from a shiitake supplier. As soon as everything arrives, I’ll document the process so you can do it yourself.
Shiitake is a forest mushroom native to Japan, China and Korea. The Japanese name, shiitake (shee-tah-kay) is derived from “shii” meaning the shiia or oak tree on which they grow and “take” meaning mushroom.
Shiitakes hold a special place in Asian history first mentioned over 1800 years ago. The mushrooms were once reserved only for the emperor’s family. Shiitake are also supposedly good for healing cold, flu, sinus, headaches, measles, worms, constipation, hemorrhoids, gout, liver disorders, nutritional deficiencies, poor circulation, and sexual dysfunction! Modern herbalists still include shiitake as treatment for many complaints. Shiitake mushrooms contain an amino acid called eritadenine, good for lowering cholesterol by up to 50 percent, especially in cases where high-cholesterol foods were eaten simultaneously with the mushroom.
Shiitakes are a good source of protein, and contain niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, potassium, and iron, as well as vitamins A, B, C, and when sun-dried, Vitamin D. They also contain more than 50 different enzymes, including pepsin that aids digestion, and asparaginase, a substance that has been used to treat childhood leukemia.
While you wait for my DIY, there are commercial houses like Shiitake Mushroom Log that sell small shiitake logs already inoculated with spores. You soak them from time to time to make them fruit, pick and cook the shiitakes, dry or freeze the ones you can’t use right away, and repeat the process for 3-4 years. We’re going to take our oak logs and put them outdoors in a hemlock grove near my stream, so they’ll stay moist and cool and let them sprout and fruit at their own pace. They can last as long as 5-6 years out there, until al the wood cells get broken down by the mushrooms. Lazy farming, for a great food and even a little cash crop.
You can add shiitakes to any recipe calling for mushrooms- they taste like steak when cooked with eggs. Here are some great recipes to try from Backwoods Home :
- Serves two- recipe can be multiplied as needed.
- 3 fresh shiitake caps, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 Tbsp. cream
- 2 leaves of fresh minced basil (or pinch of dried)
- 1/2 Tbsp. butter (or vegetable oil)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Separate eggs. With a whisk, beat whites until stiff but not dry. Add basil to yolks, then beat, adding cream until thick and smooth. Gently fold whites into yolks.
- Heat butter in heavy skillet (cast iron works very well) until sizzling. Sauté mushrooms on both sides until golden. Pour prepared eggs over top of mushrooms and cook until omelet has set. Turn gently and cook other side. Slide onto heated plate. Season with salt and pepper.
Super healthy shiitake stir-fry
This recipe does not follow strict measurements as the whole fun of stir-frying is in creating a dish to suit your own liking to a tee. If you love your platter loaded with snow peas, so be it.
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1/2 Tbsp. sesame oil
- 1/2 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 8 fresh shiitake mushrooms sliced 1/4-inch thick (or dried caps prepared as above)
about 4 or 5 cups vegetables of choice cut into stir-fry fashion: onion, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, carrot, green pepper, red or yellow pepper, snow peas, green beans, water chestnuts, baby corn, or any other veggie you fancy
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- Heat oils in wok over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic and sauté until aroma is released, only a few seconds. Add shiitake mushrooms and stir with a wooden spoon for about one minute. Add prepared vegetables and stir-fry, tossing with wooden spoon until fork tender. Add soy sauce and stir until evenly coated. Serve sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds, if you wish. Goes great with steamed rice. Serves 4
Shiitake soup with rice vermicelli
- 4 cups water
- 4 dried shiitake mushroom caps, broken into small pieces
- 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp. red chili oil (adjust to your tolerance of heat)
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 small, thinly sliced onion
- 1/2 stalk celery, sliced thin
- 2 Tbsp. finely chopped sweet yellow, red, or green peppers
seasoned salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 cup of rice vermicelli (broken into soup-sized pieces) cooked according to package directions, then rinsed under cold water
- Put water in soup pot and bring to boil. Add mushrooms. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, except salt and pepper, and simmer until vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Add seasoned salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the rice vermicelli, and heat to boiling.
- Makes 4 to 6 servings, but recipes can be halved or doubled as needed.
Enjoy the ‘shrooms, and watch this space for a DIY on Shiitake farming coming soon.