March 2014
The Magic of Gardening

Growing Shiitake Mushrooms

Growing shiitake (she-TAHkee) mushrooms can be a rewarding and tasty hobby. These mushrooms can be grown seasonally outdoors or idoors with a more intensive effort year-around. They can be grown on several hardwood species or even in blocks of sawdust. You will never get mushrooms this fresh or tasty from the grocery store.

Shiitake mushrooms are good to eat, an excellent source of protein, trace minerals, B and D vitamins, and low in both fat and calories. Shiitake mushrooms have also been proven to reduce cholesterol. Shiitake mushrooms do not bruise easily and can be stored for up to a month if harvested at the right time and refrigerated in vegetable or "green" bags. They can also be dried and stored in sealed plastic bags for up to 2 years.

  Growing your own shiitake mushrooms on logs can be a rewarding and tasty experience, but it does require a little patience. Spring is a good time to start this project.

Growing these mushrooms on logs does require a little patience. You can establish a shiitake garden by purchasing or cutting your own logs in the dormant season and inoculating them yourself with the mushroom spores available commercially. It will take 6 to 12 months for these logs to produce mushrooms.

Spring is a great time to start this project and the Cullman County Extension office has partnered with the North Alabama Agriplex Heritage Center in Cullman to teach a beginning class suitable for hobby or small scale commercial production. The class will take place March 11 in Cullman 6-8:30 p.m. To attend, pre-register by calling 256-297-1044 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. There is a small charge to cover materials and instructor expenses.

Our instructor for the evening will be Rhonda Britton, a specialist with Alabama A&M. This class will be of interest to children (minimum age 13) and adults. Participants will inoculate small pieces of logs to take home to grow their own shiitake mushrooms.

If you cannot attend the class but you still want to try your hand at this fascinating hobby, order your spawn from a reputable dealer one to two months before you plan to cut your trees. Spawn producers may not have the most desirable strains available if you wait too late to order. It takes several months to grow spawn from frozen mycelium.

 Be sure to read the strain descriptions. The most important characteristics are fruiting temperature requirements, cap appearance, spawn run time (time it takes to fruit) and productivity on logs or in sawdust. It is best to provide the spawn dealer with your desired shipping date so your spawn will be as fresh as possible.

You can learn a great deal about production of shiitake mushrooms by reading a free Extension publication called "Shiitake Mushroom Production on Logs" available online at

Tony A. Glover is a County Extension Coordinator in Cullman County.