How do I get mushrooms?
Please take time to read the instruction leaflet carefully. Its here as a PDF, and you will also be sent one when you buy a log. We are currently out of shiitake logs.
'Shock' the logs to initiate fruiting by (i) knocking one end of the log sharply on hard ground and (ii) totally immersing it in COLD water (the icier the better!) for 48 hours. The water should be non-chlorinated, ie rainwater or tap water left to stand overnight.
Place the log in a sheltered, shady spot. Logs should start fruiting within 1 - 3 weeks, forming in 'flushes'.
Cut the mushrooms off the log when the cap is 3 - 4 inches across, after 4 - 8 days of growing (they'll grow quicker in warmer temperatures). Shiitake have a brown cap and white gills - see the photos for positive identification. Trim off the stalks before eating. Shiitake are best cooked slowly and gently - remember you are dealing with a vibrant fresh organic health food! You can also dry them (thread on a piece of string and leave in a dark airy place), and then reconstitute them when you are ready to use.
After picking the mushrooms leave the log outside on the earth in the shade in a damp place for six months to 'recuperate', then soak the log to start the second fruiting flush. Frost and snow are no problem. This resting period is for the mycelium to recolonise the sapwood of the log, and extract more nutrient for the shiitake mushrooms.
The log will need rainfall on it unless you are regularly soaking it. A north facing wall out of the wind is a good place, alternatively under a shady tree. Watch out for cats scratching and dog pee! Slugs can also be a problem - you may need to bring the log in to a slug free area while it is fruiting. The most important thing is to put the log somewhere easy to see! Most 'failures' are due to the log fruiting happily away at the bottom of the garden out of sight and mind. Place the log on its cut end rather than laying it down.
Logs are approximately 30cm long and between 10-25cm in diameter. An Shiitake log will fruit for up to three years and you can expect 2 harvests a year.
The small print
Log cultivation of mushrooms is a practice that is subject to the whims of nature. With careful management, each log should produce around 2 - 3 lbs of mushrooms over its lifetime, but success factors such as wind, temperature and humidity are uncontrollable. Log cultivation is not an exact science and requires patience, time and a little luck. Please persevere!