I like the idea of working once and reaping benefits for an extended period of time. That is why mushrooms are appealing. Whether you find them in the wild or on your property, you can expect to see them popping up again in more or less the same place year after year. Search once, reap many.
Oyster and Shiitake mushrooms present you with a similar situation when you cultivate them yourself. If you have a little bit of space in your backyard, or a small bush lot, you can inoculate some hardwood logs and expect to reap a mushroom harvest for 3-4 years.
I am not going to go into the details of hunting for and picking wild mushrooms. There are a ton of varieties and sometimes the differences between toxic and okay to eat are subtle. I will provide a couple of guides. The Canadian one is suitable for a lot of the US, from the east coast to the west. Of course, the Eastern Forests guide is as titled.
Here is a 346 page guide to the edible and poisonous mushrooms of Canada.
Here’s one for the Eastern US forests.
I had a lot more trouble finding a large, comprehensive guide to US mushrooms than Canadian. Since there are a ton of agricultural research stations, university agricultural extension services and local groups, I suggest you try a Google search with your location and “wild mushroom education” in the search field. I tried it with “ohio wild mushroom identification” and got lots of results. Try a similar search and add the words “guide” or “class.” I am sure you will find something useful and worth your time.
What I want to focus on in this post is raising edible Oyster and Lions Mane mushrooms. These are two of the easier ones to cultivate. And I want to focus on doing it out of doors using logs.
Basically you need to find the right type of logs, fresh enough cut that they are still holding ample moisture. You have to inoculate them with mushroom spawn and place them in the right locations, or so arranged that they get the right amount of shade. Depending on the weather you may need to water the logs periodically. But essentially you walk away.
You maximize harvest by creating the right kind of log environment and using the spawn efficiently. In the wild, mushroom spawn may find the right environment to reproduce or it may not. If it does, it may be in competition with the spores from some other type of fungi. If there isn’t ample shade, then as the seasons progress, it may get too much sunlight. If there is an extended dry spell, then the small struggling mushroom may just dry up and blow away. By lending a hand to Mother Nature, we help ensure survival, and many meals for the future.
One of the simplest ways to get a harvest of mushrooms is to use the Oyster mushroom Totem Method of cultivation. Click on the picture to get a concise two page explanation of the complete process.
The same method can be used for Lions Mane. Select fresh logs about 2 feet long and around a foot thick that were cut before the trees leafed out. Keep your cuts at right angles to the length because you are going to stack the pieces on top of each other.
Cut the logs in half again (about a foot long) and slice a 2″ disk from the outer end of one of them. Put a sharpie mark on the logs where the cuts are going to go so that you can put the pieces back together as exactly as possible. This will make secure stacking more likely.
Put a piece of cardboard on the ground to keep the wood from being contaminated by native fungi and put some spawn on the cardboard. Now stack the longer piece of log on the cardboard. Put more spawn on the upper end of this piece and stack the 10″ section on top of it, lining up the marks. Place more spawn on the upper surface of the second piece and then top it off with the two inch disk.
Cover the whole structure with the kind of brown paper bag used for garden waste and loosely tie it in place. The bag will waste away but you can remove it in six months or so if you wish. You want your logs to be well shaded so that your log sections don’t dry out too much. If your logs are surrounded by evergreens you can be sure they will receive shade summer and winter. All you have to do is check back in the fall or the next year and start picking. This type of setup will continue to produce for up to four years.
Shiitake mushrooms are a little more complicated, but not much. I will examine how to grow your own supply of Shiitakes in another post.