What Is a Shiitake Mushroom Log?

B. Koch

A shiitake mushroom log is a log, generally hardwood, that is used to grow shiitake mushrooms. These mushrooms may grow in logs naturally, or their spores may be placed in a log so that they can be grown for personal and commercial use. Shiitake mushroom logs should be kept in a shady, damp area and take up to two years to produce fruit.

Whole and sliced shiitake mushrooms.
Whole and sliced shiitake mushrooms.

Originally from Asia, shiitake mushrooms are now grown all over the world, including in the United States. These mushrooms are edible and grow naturally in a number of different types of cut wood. They may be eaten fresh or dried and are often found in Asian dishes.

A popular ingredient in Japanese and other Asian cuisines, shiitake mushrooms contain B vitamins and minerals such as selenium.
A popular ingredient in Japanese and other Asian cuisines, shiitake mushrooms contain B vitamins and minerals such as selenium.

These mushrooms are not only consumed for their flavor but also for their nutritional content. Shiitake mushrooms are considered an excellent source of iron, and it is highly recommended that vegans and vegetarians add these mushrooms to their diet to increase their iron consumption. They are also a good source of B vitamins and a number of important minerals. The mushrooms are also low in calories. It is thought that this food may aid in strengthening the body's immune system and heart health.

To create a shiitake mushroom log, wood is needed as a growing medium for the fungus. Typically these mushrooms are grown in hardwoods, but shiitake mushrooms can be grown on the small, cast off logs that would typically be discarded or turned into chip after logging. The recommended types of wood for a shiitake mushroom log include oak, beech, and poplar, although other types of woods can be used.

After a shiitake mushroom log is cut, it is cured for a period of several weeks to a number of months. The log is then filled with shiitake mushroom spores. The spores can be purchased embedded in a wooden dowel. A hole is drilled into a shiitake mushroom log of the appropriate size, and the spore-filled dowel is placed into the drilled hole.

Once the shiitake spores are placed into the log, a period of incubation begins. It is recommended that this take place in a shaded and relatively damp outdoor environment. If such a damp place cannot be found or if several days go by without rain, the shiitake mushroom log should be watered by hand. At the same time, the log should not be kept too wet as that might encourage other mushrooms to grow in the log.

This period of incubation takes several months to several years. Mushrooms will appear in the spring or fall months. They should be harvested from the log as soon as possible after they do appear.

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