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How Expert Foragers Cultivate Shiitake Mushrooms

Foraged Feast founder Dan Lipow says it takes three to five years for cultivated mushrooms to grow

Dan Lipow is the founder of specialty foods purveyor Foraged Feasts. Lipow and his team forage mushrooms and greens, which they then sell at farmer's markets, but in addition to foraging in the wild, they also cultivate different kinds of mushrooms themselves, including shiitake mushrooms.

That process begins by taking oak logs and drilling holes into them about six inches apart. Lipow then inoculates the logs by injecting them with sawdust spawn, mycelium grown in hardwood sawdust.

“The quicker it can colonize the log, the safer, the better it is,” says Lipow. “You don’t get contamination from some other kind of mushroom trying to grow in on your shiitake logs.” The filled-up holes are then covered with molten hot paraffin wax to make sure the shiitake logs are also safe from animals.

“This mushroom spawn, if you just left it out, there are plenty of animals and birds and things who would find it pretty attractive,” says Lipow. “It’s a nutrient-rich source so you’ve got to seal it. It also keeps the moisture in the log.”

The team also marks every single log with a metal plate containing the initials of the strain of mushroom that was injected into the log and the year. The logs are then taken to what they call the “laying yard,” where they keep logs in various stages of their mushroom growing process.

“All of the inoculant we just put in, is now going to start feeding on this wood,” says Lipow. “It’s going to start spreading its mycelial network.” After between three and five years, the logs become shiitake mushrooms.

Watch the full video to see how Lipow and his team grow mushrooms and search the forest to spot them in the wild.


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