Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Above is a plate of Shiitake mushrooms that were for sale in early spring this year at the Berea Farmers Market. They were being sold by the pound by students of the Berea Agricultural Department of Berea College, Berea, Kentucky.

I buy the Shiitakes every year from the students, eating some fresh and drying the rest. This year I decided to find out more about how the students raised the mushrooms. I had not a clue as to the process.

In a small woodland patch on the Berea College campus are stacked logs that produce the fabulous Shiitakes. It is an area that has little sunlight which helps retain the moisture creating an ideal environment.

I was able to talk to Sean Clark, staff member of the Berea College Agricultural Department. He gave me a short albeit informative lesson in how they go about mushroom gardening.

He stated that it is an ongoing process. White oak logs are gathered in January when the Berea College woodland properties are culled. It is important that the logs are dormant.

The logs are inoculated and then produce for about five years. As logs are retired from the garden others are stacked into the area. The usual number of logs in the garden numbers between 400 to 500. This number reflects that the Berea College students in the Ag Department are learning the ways to produce a commercial
cash crop. A homeowner would not have this large of an inventory for sure

To step back a bit. Before the logs are stacked and after they have been gathered in January they undergo first, inoculation, then, an "incubation" period. I call it incubation although Sean did not. In my mind it was the best way to understand the pre-stacking process.

Inoculation is done sometime in January. The inoculation is done with a fungal and sawdust mix. Several chain saw cuts are made in the logs and filled with a this mass which is called a spawn. Then the saw cuts are wrapped in duct tape.
This spawn will eventually produce the fruit that grows on the logs -- which is the mushrooms.
Next the inoculated logs are placed under open metal grid tables in the college greenhouse. On top of the table are other plantings of the Ag Department that require regular watering every day. As the students water the plants on the tables water seeps down through the metal grids and moistens the logs below. The logs begin to fruit six to eighteen months after inoculation. The logs are moved out to the log garden in the spring.

At the Berea Farmers Market one can buy inoculated logs from some vendors to try their hand at raising their own mushrooms. I would imagine that other farmer's markets would offer inoculated logs.

Shiitake mushrooms exposed to brief sunlight contain high amounts of vitamin D. Mushrooms are the only vegan source of vitamin D. They are also powerful antioxidants.

For those that would like to try their hand at producing mushrooms at home you might want to pick up from your local library, Mushroom Cultivation: A Practical Guide to Growing Mushrooms at Home by Stamets and Chilton.



  1. Those mushrooms are SO beautiful. Very interesting how they are cultivated.

    Today I'm grateful for your sidebar once again, on the Arts & Letters Daily I found a book review of great interest and might never have known about it otherwise. Thanks.

  2. We've had shitake logs for some years and last year added oyster mushrooms. It's a joy to harvest these delicious 'shrooms!

  3. Cool. Those are beautiful mushrooms!

  4. Fascinating, Barbara! Beautiful pictures, too! You've lit a fire under me to go back and check the logs that MM inoculated several years back! Forgot entirely about them! As usual, you always share something full-bodied and lovely in the natural world. Always wisdom and knowledge we can use. Thank you!

    And your new "header" is BEAUTIFUL!


    BTW, thank you so much for "introducing" me to Vicki Lane! (found on your "Good Sites' listing.

  5. June -- An old friend the is an ex-pat living in Paris gave me the lead on the site of Arts and Letters. So glad that it provided a review of interest for you. Thanks for the nice comment -- I enjoy reading your 7-0 post. -- barbara

  6. Vicki -- I have thought about trying to raise mushrooms with perhaps just one log. It still is in the thinking stage. How great that you are into mushrooms. It would be interesting to read about how you as a homeowner approach it. Thanks for commenting on the mushrooms. I read all your fascinating posts! -- barbara

  7. barefootheart -- The shiitakes are not only beautiful but ARE delicious. The first year I bought them I ate too many that first day and paid dearly for it. One has to approach real fresh mushrooms with some reservation by not eating too many at once. Enjoy receiving your comments and also reading your informative posts. -- barbara

  8. Elora -- OK -- did you get your inoculated logs checked out and were they producing still? I read that raising mushrooms is becoming quite the industry.

    Thanks for the comment about the header. The old seed tins fascinated me when I did the post on them several months ago. The farm store buys their seeds in big bulk bags. Then they begin the process of filling and refilling those tins as they are depleted through customer sales. Quite an undertaking I would say.

    I am late responding to the above comments. I have my daughter and granddaughter coming in for a visit from Utah and am tied up in knots trying to get an itinerary and the house ready.
    I know you are very busy with your farm work too.

    Have a good weekend! -- barbara

  9. Hi Barbara:

    Nice post on Shitake mushroom cultivation. I attended a workshop a few years back put on my our Extension Service and was all gung-ho about setting up a small operation, but it hasn't floated to the top of my "must do" list yet. I still have the knowledge and desire and maybe I'll committ myself to making it happen in early 2011. Paul Stamets definitely knows his mushrooms.

  10. Hi Thomas, I don't know what type of mushrooms you plan on growing but the Shiitakes sure are delicious. It does sound like a lot of work to get them started but it seems once they start fruiting they can pretty much take care of themselves if they are in the right environment. Sean Clark from Berea College suggested using the fungal/sawdust method as it is the most economical spawn -- with the same desired results as others. Thanks for your input and recommendation of Stamets book. -- barbara

  11. That is a very colourful type of mushrooms. They almost look like a seashell.So pretty the tops.In your first picture.

    Thanks for the education. I found some mushrooms in front lawn in a circle of a evergreen we dug out in back field. I was wondering why they circled them selves completely around. I then look it up to find.

    Goes back long ago they are (fairy mushrooms) and if in the night one would go inthe circle. It is a fairy tale that one would have good luck.

    Nature is lovely isnt it and how man can help culitavate the way.

    1. sparkle -- Shitake 's are delicious, a real treat. Early spring is when I find them fresh to buy. thanks -- barbara