About Anything

The personal blog of Al Stevens. Focus is overrated.

Archive for the ‘shitake mushrooms’ tag

Growing Shitakes — The Humidity Tent

without comments

The Fungi Patch Resting in its Humidity Tent

The Fungi Patch Resting in its Humidity Tent

Day two of my adventure with the fungi patch is dawning. Yesterday, I successfully managed to de-chlorinate enough water to soak my fused block of mycelium and sawdust. Alone in our comfortably warm kitchen¬† soaking up chlorine-free water so that it would emerge from stasis, it survived the night plus my next-day’s absence.

The flow-chart and text in the instruction manual indicated the next steps were the most complex. I needed to drain the soaking water and then construct a suitably humid home where the fungi block could spend the next two weeks. Fortunately, the block came with a plastic “humidity tent” — actually a clear plastic bag punched with a handful of holes. There were however no “poles” for the tent. The manual suggested using knitting needles or, as an alternative¬† chopsticks. We don’t have lots of knitting needles in our house, but I’d bought sushi at Trader Joes for lunch the day before and they’d put disposable chopsticks in my bag. With a quick dive into our trash I retrieved them.

Construction materials at the ready, I inverted the bag containing the hopefully now active spores and water, which had turned a shade of amber. It now both its smelled and looked like stale beer.

The result of inverting the bag was similar to birth events that I’ve attended. A gush of water rushed out, followed by a slowing stream. The shitake patch, swollen and sodden with water slowly descended down the canal shaped opening. As it got stuck and I shook the bag to assist its exit it made sucking sounds which sounded faintly grunt-like. It exited in a shower of the remaining broth and dropped into the sink with a very wet plop. The mass quivered slightly as it came to rest.

Sure that this newly gestated life form could survive only briefly outside of a humid environment, I picked up the tent stakes and consulted the instructions. “They can be poked directly into the Shitake Patch,” were the exact words. I was supposed to stab my baby with chopsticks? OK, get a grip, it’s just a block of spores and sawdust.

I composed myself, moved the gray wet mass into a pan and thrust the chopsticks into it. Except for a few squirts of the soaking liquid there were no complaints.

After adding water to keep the humidity up, I dropped the tent over the poles, checked the kitchen heat and left the patch to itself.

Now its just a matter of waiting. Except for misting it three times a day, which could be a problem. I briefly considered asking my neighbor to drop in mid day and spray the patch, but I’ve decided to go with a 7am-6pm-11pm schedule which I can handle myself.

And if I do have trouble, I can always call the distributor’s “Mushroom Hotline”‘ which they do have, to get help. Even if they’ve outsourced that to India, I’m sure they’ll be able to provide recovery instructions for any problem I have.

Written by Al Stevens

January 6th, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Growing Shitakes

without comments

Shitaki "Patch" soaking in a bag of water in my kitchen

Shitake "Patch" soaking in a bag of water in my kitchen

One of my Christmas presents this year was a “Shitake Mushroom Patch” — a five-pound chunk of sawdust held together by shitake mycelium. (Mycelium is, as the accompanying instructions define it is “the fungal network of thread-like cells that give rise to mushrooms.”) Encased in a plastic bag, it looked a lot like a large cube-shaped popcorn ball. It smelled faintly like stale beer.

Last year, the same family members gave me a GPS — maybe I should have added a sentence to that year’s thank you mentioning how much I love electronic gadgets. …or sent a thank you in the first place.

So this year they decided that they would get me something organic.

Unlike other food gifts that appeared under our tree, a mushroom patch is not immediately edible. It comes with a twelve page instruction manual which starts with a full page flow chart. “What does the patch look like?” This seemed straightforward enough, but the prominent box in the middle of the flowchart labeled “Consult troubleshooting guide” suggested that coaxing mushrooms out of this mass of fungi cells and sawdust was going to be a challenge.

The first step confirmed my suspicion: “Soak in cold water for 24 hours” followed by, in big capitals “DO NOT USE CHLORINATED OR DISTILLED WATER”. Where do you get five gallons of chlorine free water. I could melt snow. There was a 3 inch layer in my back yard. Fortunately I’d posted my predicament on facebook and got a quick tip: let a bucket of tap water sit overnight and the chlorine will evaporate. It works for pet fish so it should work for fungi. I briefly considered a second suggestion: go to Costco and buy a bag of dried ones. I’d never be able to face my family again.

My “patch” is now quietly soaking in our warm kitchen. I opted to use the bag it came in rather than a bucket. The bucket method requires bricks to hold the block under water and I wasn’t ready to dig them out of our snow-covered patio. I’ve left the thermostat up — the instruction book says to keep it warm. The warmth has definitely amplified the stale beer smell which I hope is a sign of mushroom health. Tomorrow I’m to begin misting it — three times a day. And in two weeks, or so, I’m going to have edible mushrooms. Or… I’ll be doing what I often do with my electronic gadgets: consulting the troubleshooting guide.

If I’ve inspired you to try growing your own shitakes, mine came from Fungi Perfecti.

Written by Al Stevens

January 5th, 2009 at 8:56 pm