Friday, 4 January 2013

Turning Logs into Mushrooms!

Another question frequently asked about growing crops amongst tall trees in a polyculture is: 'But what can you get to grow in all that shade?'

Sunlight must be our biggest consideration when designing an edible ecosystem and it certainly seems like a scarce commodity sometimes here in Devon. Firstly we must position the trees carefully to allow plenty enough light to penetrate through to the smaller shrubs and vegetables below. But of course there will still be places that'll see very little or no sun.

Luckily no sun doesn't have to mean no crops, and one perfect example of a shade loving crop is delicious mushrooms.

Not only do mushrooms offer us an easy crop in an otherwise difficult position, they can also turn our otherwise useless prunings into food and compost.

Full of essential vitamins and minerals and containing 10-30% protein when dried, mushrooms are super foods which can crop prolifically. This gives them great potential as a food to nourish the world's millions without the need for animals - and mushrooms may also crop when all else fails and are perfectly ecological to produce.

Gourmet species like Shiitake, Oyster Mushrooms, Lion's Mane and Chicken of the Woods can all be grown on logs. If you've never tried these kind of mushrooms before - they're quite a treat! Much meatier and more flavoursome than most shrooms, they are also easy to grow.

Many kinds of trees can be used, but oak and chestnut are often favourites, providing a high yield and durable wood that can keep cropping for 10 years.

The typical method is to inoculate freshly cut logs with specially prepared spawn during the winter. Logs are then left in a damp and shady place and usually fruit all by themselves 6-18 months after inoculation, in the spring or autumn.

Shiitakes are the most popularly grown log mushroom and one reason for this is that they can be forced into fruiting not just once but three times a year by a process called 'shocking'. Logs are soaked in water and banged on the ground to simulate a falling branch. The fungi, then thinking that it is time to procreate, unwittingly provides us with loads of tasty fruit, yum!

This method of cultivating shiitakes is thought to have begun around one thousand years ago in parts of China, and now seems to be just beginning to catch on over here!

If you'd like to grow your own mushrooms, a great website with lots of information and spawn for sale is Ann Miller:

I will be preparing lots of shiitake logs from oak branches this winter and will happily supply you with freshly inoculated logs. The logs will be around 3ft long x 10-15cm wide and should start providing you with mushrooms by 2014.

 Each log takes time and materials to prepare so I'm asking for £12 per inoculated log or £3 per freshly cut oak log for you to inoculate yourself.  I'm afraid they'll have to be picked up locally in Devon though as they're too heavy to send!

Please email me for more details...
Shiitake mushrooms are believed to help fight cancer, lower cholesterol and boost our immune system

1 comment:

  1. Good post, something which was not known to me and I always welcome new things. Going to try this out by myself and hope that results will be good. Thank you for sharing it