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Saturday, January 20 2018 @ 01:43 AM AKST

Cultivation of Shiitake, Oyster and other Mushrooms in Alaska

Home and GardenIntroduction: This brief article will provide tips on small-scale cultivation of mushrooms in Alaska.

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and oyster (Pleurotus spp.) mushrooms are specialty mushrooms that are well-suited for small-scale production in Alaska. Unlike Agaricus types (common button mushroom, portabellas, and criminis), which require large, highly mechanized facilities with environmental controls, shiitake and oyster mushrooms can be log-cultivated. These and many other mushrooms may, of course, be cultivated indoors in Alaskan homes using bags of sawdust, straw, and other media.

Growers producing sawdust-grown mushrooms under controlled environmental conditions can provide a year-round supply, giving them a marketing advantage. However, log-grown mushrooms are considered superior in flavor and have a longer shelf life when compared to those grown on artificial media. Additionally, log-grown mushrooms may contain higher percentages of the medicinally active ingredients present in these species. Whether the quality factors are sufficient to outweigh the efficiency factors in the marketplace is uncertain.

Market Outlook

Specialty mushrooms, which are relatively new to the U.S., are becoming very popular as a gourmet food item. Their increasing presence (especially shiitake mushrooms) in national food market chains indicates they are becoming mainstream. Sales of shiitake mushrooms have increased steadily over the past 15 years. As consumer awareness increases through taste tests and other effective marketing strategies, an even greater demand is expected. This article will not delve into the economics of commercial mushroom production.

Production Methods

Shiitake Mushrooms are cultivated on small diameter (3 to 8 inches) hardwood logs that have been cut from decay-free, live trees with intact bark. Logs may be cut any time, however the rising sap in the late winter/early spring has a higher sugar content and will encourage a more rapid growth of the fungus. After cutting, the logs must be left in a place where air can circulate around them to allow time for the naturally-occurring fungicides to dissipate. The logs should not be left on the ground as unwanted organisms may invade the logs. This may take up to 3 weeks. Suitable logs found in Alaska are primarily Birch.

Shiitake spawn is introduced into holes drilled in the logs by inserting commercially produced spawn (either as loose sawdust, dowels, or plugs). The inoculation sites and cut ends of the logs as well as any nicks to the bark are then sealed with hot wax to protect the logs from undesirable competing fungi, molds, and pests and to retain moisture in the logs at those sites. Inoculated logs are stacked off the ground and incubated for 6 to 18 months in a moist, shady location. The moisture level of the logs must be closely monitored, and irrigation may be necessary if drought conditions develop. Once white mycelial growth from the spawn is visible at the ends of the logs, growers will know that the spawn has fully occupied the entire log. The logs can then be forced to fruit on a schedule by immersing them in water overnight or for 24 hours. It is recommended that growers wait a year from the time of inoculation before placing the logs on a production schedule. After soaking, the logs are prepared for production by placing them under a light-colored cloth cover. A building or greenhouse with humidity and temperature controls is necessary for winter production in most of Alaska. Freezing temperatures may kill the growing mushrooms.

Shiitake mushroom growing on wood.

Shiitake can also be grown on artificial logs or blocks under controlled environmental conditions. Artificial logs are composed largely of sawdust with supplements (such as millet, rice bran or wheat bran) added to this substrate. Artificial logs have the advantages of controlled productivity and efficiency over natural logs, and can be used for year-round production.

Oyster Mushrooms can similarly be grown on hardwood logs and stumps such as Birch or Alder using spawn introduced into holes drilled in logs, or by packing inoculated sawdust or wedges. Inoculated logs are then treated much the same way as the above-described methods for shiitake. Freezing weather will not harm inoculated oyster mushroom logs or stumps. Oyster mushrooms are more aggressive than shiitake and may be ready to fruit in as little as 6 months.

Oyster Mushrooms, Photograph by Aaron Sherman

In addition to log culture, oyster mushrooms can be grown on a variety of artificial substrates, such as composted straw, chopped wheat straw, and sawdust. After the substrate is pasteurized or sterilized, it is cooled and spawn is added. The mixture is placed in sealed plastic bags, bottles, trays, or beds in a controlled environment. Timing to production is similar to that of logs.

One may purchase ready-to-use kits for indoor and/or outdoor mushroom cultivation from companies such as Fungi Perfecti. This is the company from whom I bought the plugs for shiitake, blue oyster, and pearl oyster. I have been dealing with them for years and have been quite satisfied. The site also has articles, tips, videos, and more for the novice or experienced mushroom cultivator.

Pest management

Direct damage to the mushroom caps can occur as a result of feeding by slugs, snails, birds, squirrels, and other animals if the logs are left unprotected.

Harvest and storage

Mushrooms are harvested by either cutting or twisting them off at the base of the stem. They should be refrigerated immediately in corrugated cardboard containers or paper bags to retain quality and freshness. Packing boxes for fresh mushrooms should be vented to allow for air circulation. Shiitake have a longer shelf-life under refrigeration (12 to 14 days) than the more fragile oyster mushroom (5 to 7 days). Both species can be dried (air-dried or in a dehumidifier) and stored in sealed containers. Drying increases their shelf-life by at least 6 months.

On 1 June 2013 I inoculated a number of 4' long by ~ 6 in. diameter Birch logs with plug spawn of shiitake, blue oyster, and pearl oyster mushrooms. The shiitake logs are overwintering indoors. Check back for a follow-up to this article!

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Cultivation of Shiitake, Oyster and other Mushrooms in Alaska | 9 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Cultivation of Mushrooms in Alaska
Authored by: Lisa on Tuesday, June 24 2014 @ 11:02 AM AKDT
This is a great, informative piece. Thanks for writing it, my husband and I are so going to do this!
Cultivation of Mushrooms in Alaska
Authored by: DG on Tuesday, June 24 2014 @ 12:06 PM AKDT
Thanks! I wrote this article after I started cultivating Shiitake, Blue Oyster, and Pearl Oyster mushrooms, but I have been collecting Boletus, Shaggy Mane, and Puffballs as well as other fungi for many years. When I was in college I did a stint doing research into Arctic fungi in the Brooks Range. I also introduce various fungi into my gardens, as they help the soil and I don't use any artificial fertilizers or pesticides.

I'll write a follow up article to this, right now the logs are all resting outside. I plan to expand and offer products for sale or trade soon.
Cultivation of Shiitake
Authored by: TrudiPYJ on Tuesday, June 24 2014 @ 09:48 PM AKDT
Great article! This is something I want to try.
Cultivation of Shiitake
Authored by: DG on Wednesday, June 25 2014 @ 03:57 PM AKDT
Our organic gourmet Alaska-Grown Shiitake is fruiting. I noticed it this morning when doing the chores. I inoculated the log over a year ago, and it spent the winter indoors. The recent cool wet weather has obviously encouraged it to fruit. Now I need to stand it up in a bucket of wet sand. Shiitake Fruiting on Alaskan Birch Log Photo by Dennis Garrett

I shall write a follow-up article soon.

Cultivation of Shiitake
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, July 13 2014 @ 01:15 PM AKDT
Thanks for writing about your experiences and the tips. People benefit from this. I'm looking forward to more related articles.
Cultivation of Shiitake
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, October 28 2016 @ 12:10 PM AKDT
Pretty cool photography of mushroom I truly like your photography work I wanted to become professional writing companies photographer and taking class from professionals. They are polite and give full attention of enhancement of my photography skills.
Edited on Friday, October 28 2016 @ 05:28 PM AKDT by DG
Cultivation of Shiitake
Authored by: Helen on Saturday, October 29 2016 @ 11:49 AM AKDT
Great, informative article, now I have the confidence to try this. Please post follow ups.
Cultivation of Shiitake
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 29 2016 @ 10:04 PM AKDT
Terrific article! I hope you continue to write about this. Maybe even start a Valley Fun-Guy blog.
Cultivation of Shiitake
Authored by: Brian on Friday, November 04 2016 @ 08:09 AM AKDT
Great article, have you tried growing the mushrooms in media other than logs?