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Growing Shitakes — Success

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I’m embarrassed to write that I completely dropped the ball on my shitake story. Questions sent by a couple of readers reminded me that I’d left the poor mushrooms warm and moist in their humidity tent.

Shitakes growing from the side of the log

Shitakes grwing from the side of the log

Happily the story turned out well, in fact very well.

Within a week, small brown nodules started to poke out of the mycelium covered block. From that point on, it was a bit like watching a time-laps movie. The buds grew rapidly and quickly took on the characteristic mushroom shape as the cap opened up,  looking first like a conical hat and then spreading out like an umbrella.

Most grew out of the sides of the block, pressing against the humidity tent (aka plastic bag). The instructions warned that this could distort their shapes, so I adjusted the bag — I mean tent — daily to provide room.

When the first couple reached what looked to me like the prime eating stage, I pulled out the kitchen shears, clipped them off where they emerged from the log, walked the five-feet to the cutting board, removed the stem, sliced them up an dropped them into a saucepan of EVOO and garlic. Five minutes later, I was enjoying the freshest and tastiest shitakes I’d ever had.

Sliced and cooked with EVOO and garlic

Sliced and cooked with EVOO and garlic

My earlier forays with home agricultural have always resulted in a sudden oversupply of whatever I was growing, often at the same time that the neighbors were trying to give us their excess. While it’s hard to have too many tomatoes, it’s easy to have too many zucchinis. Thankfully, my shitakes cooperated remarkably well. I was able to harvest a couple of plump  mushrooms every 2-3 days for about two weeks.

On the plate with a few olives and yellow tomato

On the plate with a few olives and yellow tomato

Once the crop was done, I set the log in a dry spot and let it go dormant. Two months later, now an old hand at the process, I soaked the log and set up the humidity tent. Two weeks later, I had another crop, pretty much like the first one. We had a family gathering planned, so this time I let them grow and was able to harves about a dozen large mushrooms all at once. It was a little tricky, because the ones that had emerged the earliest were showing signs of shriveling. They were still delicious.

The log is now drying out. I’m anxious to try another crop in warmer weather, which is only a few weeks away. The first two crops may have suffered because our kitchen drops into the mid 50’s (F) at night. If what I read is correct, a warmer environment should result in faster growth and larger mushrooms.

Prior posts on this blog about growing shitakes are at: Growing Shitakes — RTFM, Growing Shitakes — The Humidity Tent and Growing Shitakes.

Written by Al Stevens

May 9th, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Posted in Edible Things

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Growing Shitakes — RTFM

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The saving date on my shitake patch

The critical date on my shitake patch

It’s day four since I soaked my fungi patch in hopes of rewarding myself with a crop of fresh shitakes. I’ve now got a soggy mass of sawdust and myceleum sitting on my kitchen counter under a plastic “humidity tent” supported by chopsticks. I’ve kept the kitchen heat at 60 degrees, even at night, making me feel guilty about the effects my soon-to-be ‘shrooms are having on my carbon footprint. But I have reached a point where I can relax a bit and review progress. I’m into the phase where I need only mist the block three times daily — a task that takes about 30 seconds.

Having followed the flow chart and done all of the difficult steps, it now seemed like a good time to review the manual  — with most tech gadgets this is usually a last resort, but I had mistakenly picked up the fungi instructions with my morning to-review-on-the-train stack of paper.

Panic occurred after the first paragraph. “Your shitake patch is enclosed within a plastic incubation bag featuring a square white filter patch. A date is written on this patch. If 40 days have not yet passed, leave your shitake patch in its box.”  But I’d already taken it out. What if I’d started the process way too early? Calling home to have the date checked was not an option. No one was there and I would have looked stupid anyway.

There must be a recovery procedure. Paging forward to the troubleshooting guide only increased my anxiety. It included the entry “mushrooms do not appear” and listed as a cause “Mushroom patch immature.” The solution was “Wait until 40 days have passed from the date written on the filter patch.” But…, I had already started the process. There was nothing in the procedure about how to backtrack.

I did manage to maintain enough perspective to remain at work — I only briefly considered leaving early to check the package date. On the train home I recalled getting reprimanded when I’d messed up a computer system by making changes before understanding what I was going to do. The admonition in an email was “before you touch anything else, RTFM.” As then, before touching anything I should have read the f**king manual.

I walked calmly into the kitchen, not wanting my anxiety to show to Doreen – she’s taken a more relaxed view of the mushroom patch than I have. “10-16” was what the label said.

Relief. I had not killed the patch. I sat down to make amends and RTFM.

Written by Al Stevens

January 11th, 2009 at 3:11 pm