Sustainable Organic Gardening

Oyster and shiitake mushrooms – don’t need much room!

I love mushrooms; amongst my favourites are shiitake and oyster mushrooms. Their robust flavours are perfect in stir fries but work well in many other dishes too. They can be quite expensive to buy fresh, but are very easy and satisfying to grow. Your home mushroom farm needs very little space and could be set up on a shady verandah or balcony. It is a good idea to avoid the hottest months of December and January.

The kits are readily available and surprisingly easy to use. In my experience, growing mushrooms on ‘logs’ is a lot less tricky than using the mushroom growing kits in boxes. ‘Logs’ made of compressed sawdust and bran are pre-inoculated with mushroom spawn (the ‘seed’ of the fungi) and matured for some months, so you can usually have your first crop in a couple of weeks. An internet search should bring up some suppliers in your area – here in Queensland I know of one at Coolum and one in Brisbane.

Here’s how simple it is:

Oyster Log Preparation

Take your plastic wrapped log and cut the covering off each end if it’s oyster mushrooms; remove the plastic altogether if you’re growing shiitakes.

Activate the log by soaking it in water for 24 hours – you may need to hold the log down with something heavy like bricks or pavers.

Oyster Log Soaking

After soaking, put the log in a large bucket or container with some water in the bottom. Sit it up on a brick so it’s out of the water.
The idea is to keep the log moist but not sodden, so have a spray bottle handy to use each day and cover the container with a damp towel. Mushroom growing doesn’t have to happen in the dark – in fact they need a bit of light to develop colour properly – but put them in a cool spot, out of the direct sunlight.

Oyster Log Soaking

Check your mushroom log each day; soon you’ll see little pinheads emerging. They’ll develop into button-sized mushrooms before quickly becoming ready-to-eat. You can twist them off at the base or snip them with scissors to harvest. Once that flush is finished, rest the log for a couple of days, before resoaking it for round two!

Oyster Log Buttons

Oyster Log Harvest Time

You’ll get four or five harvests from your kit, then put it in the compost or feed it to the worms.
The process is nearly as fast as sprouting and really quite fascinating – you can have nutritious, home grown mushrooms on your plate in just a fortnight.

Shiitake Log

Shiitakes are familiar to most of us as dried mushrooms; fresh, they have a richer flavour than field mushrooms and take up flavours of soy sauce and garlic very well. Oyster mushrooms have a softer texture, a light but distinctive taste and work really well stir-fried with lots of bok choy or wong bok.

Shiitake Harvest

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