Shitake Mushroom Workshop

What could be more delectable than picking your own shitake mushrooms? Turns out that dream is more attainable than most people realize, and now we hope we’re on our way at Longleaf Breeze.

I signed up Amanda and me both for the shitake mushroom workshop at Jacksonville State University on Feb 28, but she had to bow out when we realized she needed to be at a family baby shower. So I pulled the three-hour drive up and back as a solo. There was a small crowd, only about six participants. It was great for us students, because all of us got lots of time and personal attention from the excellent instructor, Dr. Safaa (“call me Safaa”) Al-Hamdani. I just hope it wasn’t too much trouble for Safaa for such a small group.

Safaa did a great job setting up everything before the workshop began. We began with about an hour of classroom instruction, where we learned that shitake mushrooms have been cultivated for 1,000 years and that they are an excellent source of protein and are low in fat and calories. There are several varieties of the spores that form shitake mushrooms, but the one recommended for us in Alabama is WR46. Safaa purchases spores already mixed with damp hardwood sawdust, a mixture called “spawn,” using a company in Wisconsin called Field & Forest Products.

The remaining two hours or so of the course were all hands on in the gorgeous sunshine. We took turns performing the steps in inoculating an oak log with mushroom spawn:

  1. Drilling a series of holes about 3/4 inch deep and about 1/2 inch wide about five inches apart around the entire log.
  2. Filling each hole with spawn using a metal injector that we simply stamped in the bag of spawn to get it full, then pressed a button to inject the spawn into the hole in the log.
  3. Coating each hole (and any other point where the bark is broken) with hot wax. This protects the log from infection from other organisms until the mushroom hyphae have a chance to get a foothold.

Our modest workshop fee included the cost of an inoculated log. Amanda and I paid extra to get three extra logs, for a total of four, and then Safaa was generous enough to throw in a fifth at no charge. We now have them stacked in the shade just south of the barn beside Veg Hill, and our task is to keep them damp and well shaded. Once a log begins bearing, if we want to force it to produce mushrooms, we can soak it in water for a day or so, and a couple of weeks later we’re supposed to see mushrooms!

Amanda and I love shitake mushrooms, so we’re excited about what this might mean. I just hope we have the patience to wait the 6-18 months required before we begin to see the fruits of our labors.

The video runs a little less than two minutes.

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