Friday, October 19, 2018

Totally Shiitake Workshop: Trends and Techniques to Growing Shiitake

by Lindsey Bender

Shiitake mushrooms growing on logs.

Shiitake mushrooms are the best selling specialty mushroom in the world. They are known for their garlicky flavor, ease of growing, productivity, and reliable fruiting. For those that already grow shiitake, there are a multitude of strains and techniques to expand and improve your growing experience.  For those that are new to mushroom growing, there are many options to get started. At Field and Forest Products, we offer a wide variety of workshops annually to provide hands on instruction and training for anyone interested in growing mushrooms. On November 10th, we will be hosting an event appropriate to both aspiring and seasoned shiitake growers. This all day event will be easy going and casual, yet instructive and inspiring. Shiitake can be grown in a variety of ways depending on the interest of the grower, their needs, resources, timeline, and other variables. Stay tuned for an exclusive on the new shiitake “high-speed method”!

Specialized tools can be used to speed up the inoculation process. Pictured here are our Okuda Hand Inoculators. 

Growing shiitake on logs is the industry standard. This method provides a long term perennial option to growing high quality, delectable shiitake in a very passive way. Often times, shiitake logs can produce mushrooms for up to 8 years from a single planting! This workshop will cover everything you need to know to select quality logs to grow quality mushrooms. Participants will have the opportunity to be hands-on and use a variety of innovative tools to drill and fill their own log to take home. For the more experienced growers, this is the opportunity to try inoculation tools that will transform and simplify your inoculation process. After inoculating logs, we will tour the Field and Forest Products laying yard – a true sight to behold! Over 5,000 shiitake logs lay under the forest canopy in various stages and stacking configurations. There are a variety of options for log maintenance, management, and fruiting strategies to improve your growing and maximize log potential.   

No shiitake log grower can ignore the opportunity to fill the niche of gaps in production with shiitake sawdust blocks, so we also teach you where, when and how to use these synthetic “logs” to keep production as seamless as possible. Simply open the blocks, place them in a growing area, and be ready to harvest shiitake in 7-10 days!  We will tour the Field and Forest fruiting room that sustains our mushroom production throughout the year – but most especially during the winter months in northern Wisconsin when the shiitake logs are lying dormant outside blanketed in snow.

Shiitake ready to fruit blocks can be incorporated to provide continued production during cold months. 

Speaking of the north, the snow, and the coming winter…

Shiitake log growing can require patience.  Although it’s well worth the wait, logs often times don’t begin fruiting until the following year after planting. Northern growers in colder climes are also typically restricted to just the spring season to plant their logs. There is a solution! We are now introducing the “High Speed Method” for shiitake cultivation on logs. This method, developed by the industry leaders in Japan, allows growers to commence fruiting shiitake logs in as soon as 5 months after planting!  This new incubation technique also enables even northern growers to harvest wood in the fall and plant shiitake logs that will be ready for fruiting in the spring. The technique is simple but innovative – designed to continuously stimulate shiitake metabolism and growth within the log at the cellular level.

These logs were inoculated at an increased rate and incubated indoors, resulting in a rapid spawn run time. 

Growing shiitake can be as simple and passive or as intense as you want. Likewise, it can be a profitable opportunity.  Please join us on November 10th to learn what you need to know to become a part of the wonderful mushroom growing community. Each participant will take home a shiitake log, a ready to fruit sawdust block, as well as the knowledge needed to begin this fun, simple, and rewarding hobby. The workshop will be held from 9am-5pm at the Field and Forest Products location in Peshtigo, WI.  We will provide coffee, tea, water and bakery in the morning and a mushroom infused meal for lunch. Class limit: 25. Registration required by November 7th, no cancellation refund after November 8th, 2018. For more information or to register for this workshop, click here.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Grow Oyster Mushrooms with a TeePee Kit

by Laura Kahles

Oyster mushrooms growing from a roll of toilet paper.

The thought of growing mushrooms may seem too daunting for those just starting out. Maybe your green thumb easily withers away a few short weeks after purchasing your spring transplants. If you can’t grow plants how could you possibly keep mushrooms alive, right? Well, I’m here to tell you that mushroom growing can be easy, and more importantly ANYONE can do it. 

We have a few options for indoor grow kits, but I’m going to focus on one that allows you to do the planting yourself, our Oyster TeePee Kit. TeePee translates into TP, which stands for toilet paper. Weird…I know, but why not grow mushrooms on something that is easily accessible and a part of every home. Toilet paper, although not very rich in nutrients, can support the growth of an incredible mushroom…the oyster. This mushroom can grow on a wide variety of substrates like paper, cardboard, coffee grounds, straw, sawdust, and logs (just to name a few). It is mild in flavor and versatile to cook with. 

Rolls getting ready for inoculation. 

Kits come in a variety of size options, enough to plant 7, 15, or 21 rolls of toilet paper. And just so we are clear, these are not the toilet paper tubes alone, but rather the full roll of toilet paper. Each kit contains grain spawn (mushroom seed), filter patch bags, rubber bands, instructions and a recipe card. All you need to provide is a large pot for boiling water, tongs, and a spray bottle.

Let me explain the basics:

Toilet paper should be dipped into boiling water to hydrate.

First, heat a large pot of water to boil. Using a tongs, grip a toilet paper roll, and push it down under the hot water for about 3-5 seconds. Pull the roll out of the water and place on a clean surface to cool. Repeat with all toilet paper rolls. Once cool to the touch, place one roll in every included filter patch bag. Roll the bag down and pour the grain spawn into the center tube of the TP roll. It’s okay if some of the grain falls outside of the tube. Now, rubber band each bag closed (above the filter patch) and store in an undisturbed area between about 65-75 degrees. Closets, kitchen cabinets, or the top of the refrigerator work well for storage.   

Within 3-4 weeks you should notice that each roll is covered in a fluffy white mycelium (mycelium is like mushrooms roots), and this means it’s fully colonized and capable of producing mushrooms. The rolls should be put in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours. This will help to stimulate fruiting. If you wish to stagger the fruiting, rolls can be left in the refrigerator longer. Take the rolls out, remove the rubber bands, and pull open the bag to allow fresh air inside. Mist daily with a spray bottle and wait. Within two weeks you should be harvesting delicious mushrooms. Keep up the misting and the kit can last several months, producing mushrooms every few weeks. 

Watch our YouTube video outlining the steps above.

Toilet paper rolls are capable of producing several times if misted on a regular basis. 

This kit is interactive, and can be a fun learning experience. Often times they are used in the classroom for teaching the basics of fungi, and are periodically used for science fair projects. However, any person young or old can enjoy the wonders of this kit. If you are looking for something unusual to bring to deer camp this year, I guarantee this kit will fit the bill. They can make for interesting birthday and Christmas gifts too! Follow this link to buy one of these unique kits.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Home-Grown Hen of the Woods (aka Maitake mushroom)

by Mary Ellen Kozak

Hen of the Woods, prime for the picking.

Hen of the Woods mushrooms are members of the "superior" class of wild edible mushrooms. Crunchy even when cooked, rich in flavor, autumnal in color, they are a beloved mushroom to people who know them. Cultivated hens are referred to as "Maitake" (pronounced my-tahk-ee), but they are very tricky to grow indoors consistently. If you are lucky to find them in the wild, you will find them growing in late summer and early fall, often at the base of isolated oak stumps or growing out of radiating buried roots. You can revisit that stump, often for years, and find a hens roosting there every fall. It will likely take many acres of searching to find a hen, but when you do, it can be a prime photographic moment before harvest and hitting the pan!

Hen of the Woods really can look like a hen taking a sand bath and often blends into the landscape. No plucking is a perk!

Fortunately, if you have access to oak logs, you can grow them outdoors yourself. Inoculated logs will fruit for years every fall, but usually need 16-18 months after inoculation for fruiting to commence.

Maitake is a weak competitor. Like growing Shiitake or Oyster mushrooms on wood logs, you will inoculate the logs with spawn, but we highly recommended that you pre-treat the log first, then bury the log outdoors and let the fall weather bring on the fruiting. A prep/planting schedule looks like this:

Late fall through early spring → cut oak logs  
March through April → pre-treat logs and inoculate 
Through June → incubate logs indoors
By end of June → bury logs outdoors 
Fall, up to 18 months after burial → fruiting
Harvest a cluster every fall for approx a year per diameter inch of the log.

What is "pre-treatment"?
Wood logs come with their own protective bark sleeve which is sufficient to hold in moisture and prevent invasion of other fungi, allowing for fast colonization of whichever spawn you plant into the log. With Maitake, however, spawn run is unreliable but we can help it along by pre-treating the log in one of three ways: sterilizing it in a pressure cooker, boiling it for 1 hour or steaming it for 6 hours.

Which method is best?
Pressure cooking gives us the highest rate of colonization, but it requires a big enough cooker to hold a 2 lb. log, which we believe is the minimum size for good sized clusters and long term fruiting. Your pressure canner should be a minimum size of 12 qts, and you can process a bigger log if you have a 23 qt size canner.

This 12 qt canner comfortably fits a 2 lb. plus log.

Not comfortable with (or don't have) a pressure canner? The next best choice would be to steam or boil the log prior to inoculation. These each can result in a higher contamination rate in the finished log, but if carefully done and inoculated in a quiet, clean area of your house, can be very successful. You will need a large stock pot for either method. Boiling is a little more uncomfortable to work with, as the log must be boiled for one hour and taken out of hot water when time is up. Steaming (just as you would vegetables, rack on the bottom, a few inches of water and lid on) takes 6 hours, but the log can cool in the clean pot awaiting inoculation. We recommend using large autoclavable bags that will hold up to the heat with all three methods, but these are essential for the pressure cook method. If you have a large cooker you can pre-treat lots of logs, just like we did in the new FFP sterilizer (see below)!

Full instructions come with our Maitake spawn, or call us for a PDF of the instruction sheet.

After a few months incubation, locate a burial spot for your log in a well drained area with partial to full shade. Dig a hole the size of the log and place the log in the hole (you can bury the log vertically or horizontally). Cover the top of the log with a dusting to 1/2 inch of soil. It's also a good idea to mulch the area with a thin layer of wood chips or straw to keep developing mushrooms free from splashing soil as they develop in the fall.

This incubated log is ready for burial!

Make sure to stake or flag where your log is buried. Ours have been lost under the hostas! 

Try to install the logs where you have not seen a known competitor, such as Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria sp.) Because it is uncertain how much this fungus will rob nutrients from the Maitake log, it's best to try to encourage complete spawn run of the Maitake prior to planting it in soil. Maitake is definitely the better tasting mushroom!

This log was buried during the 2017 growing season and fruited September 2018. This log will continue to fruit  every fall for at least 5 more years.

If you don't have a shady spot in your yard, you can install your logs in a plastic milk crate filled with soil. Keep the crate tended through the summer by not letting it dry out. Crated logs tend to fruit a little earlier, but may have a shorter life, probably due to the tendency to keep the logs small enough to fit into a crate. 

You can bury the logs in a plastic tub filled with soil (line it with several layers of newsprint first) if you don't have a yard.

We dug this log up when it started to fruit just to look the point of attachment. Yep! looks like roosting tree poultry!

This log finally bore a tiny Maitake when inoculated with the standard totem method without any pre-treatment at all. This log is at least 8 years in the ground and is the only one of a dozen inoculated (without pre-treatment) that actually fruited. 

Growing Maitake this way may seem putzy, but it is the most sure fire and economical way to get Maitake, unless you are lucky enough to know where your wild Maitake trees/stumps are hiding. If you are "stumped" for good Maitake recipes, use them where you can showcase their crunch and distinctive flavor. Roasting on a sheet pan, they can be used in every way possible. This Roasted Potato and Maitake Salad is a recipe that makes the most of this special mushroom.

Roasted Potato and Maitake Salad

6 T olive oil
2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes (6 medium) cut into 3/4-inch wedges
Salt and pepper
3/4 lb Maitake, rinsed and blotted dry just before using, ripped into 1/2 inch fronds
1/2 c marscapone cheese (or blend 8 oz softened cream cheese with 1/4 c heavy cream)
1/4 c orange juice
1` 1/2 tsp red wine or balsamic vinegar
1/3 c thinly sliced scallions

Preheat oven to 450° F

Coat a rimmed baking sheet with 1 T of the oil. In a large bowl, toss potatoes, 2 T of the oil, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp of pepper. Spread coated potatoes onto the baking sheet and roast about 20 minutes until just tender, flipping potatoes halfway through the cooking time.

Toss mushrooms, 1 T oil, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper in a bowl. Scatter mushrooms over top of cooked potatoes and roast 10-15 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, whisk marscapone, orange juice, vinegar, 1 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper in a bowl and drizzle in 2 T oil while whisking.

Flip the potatoes and mushrooms into a serving dish and spoon dressing over all. Toss to coat and garnish with scallions.

Serves 6-8

Recipe modified with compliments from Janice Thomas at the fabulous Savory Spoon Cooking School in Ellison Bay, WI