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Shiitake Happens

Imagine my excitement when this highly prized, edible beauty emerged on my plugged logs. I had all but given up every last ounce of hope within me that it would ever happen.

"Mushrooms are not plants. Wait...What?"

It's a common misconception that mushrooms are plants. They are not. Mushrooms are a spore-bearing, fruiting body of a fungus. In fact, they are more closely related to animals. I could go on and on about mushrooms but all you really need to know is some of them are so amazingly delicious and beneficial to your health and well-being and some of them will kill you outright with no apologies. For this reason, it is very important to be able to identify them decidedly before ever eating one.

Shiitake mushrooms are edible mushrooms native to East Asia. The name Shiitake is Japanese. Shi means death or dead and take meaning edible. Other common names for the Shiitake are; sawtooth oak, black forest mushroom, black mushroom, or oakwood mushroom. Whatever you call them, they are delicious.

I had been trying my hand at growing my own oysters indoors for a while now. So far, so good. Could I be successful in growing shiitakes? Who knows, but my desire for steak and mushroom took precedence over any doubts I may have had at the time.

One of my oyster 'pinheads' emerging

Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms are not psychedelic mushrooms, they are mushrooms that are packed full of things like antioxidants and other compounds. They provide tremendous benefits to your immune system. When I think of medicinal mushrooms; the ones that come to mind are chaga, reishi, turkey tail, cordyceps, shiitake, and lion's mane. Of those, reishi & chaga being more superior in health benefits. For the purpose of this blog, I will keep the focus on the shiitake mushroom. *I am not a doctor or a nutritionist; the information I provide here is information that is already widely known. Of course, know yourself and do your research ahead of time.

Some of the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms include, but are not limited to:

  • Helps to reduce cholesterol levels

  • Supports immune function

  • Contains all eight essential amino acids

  • Assists with weight loss and building muscle

  • Helps destroy cancer cells

  • Supports cardiovascular health

  • Contains compounds that protect your DNA from oxidative damage and chromosome damage. Such as occurs with cancer treatments.

  • Reduces food allergies and sensitivities

  • Improves digestion and gut health

  • Boosts brain function

  • Contains antimicrobial properties - meaning it is effective in treating things like gingivitis

  • Great source for vitamin D, vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin E, fiber, manganese, copper, zinc, potassium, magnesium, iron, riboflavin, among others

  • Promotes skin health

Side effects

Certainly, anything you consume too much of is never a good thing. If you partake of too many shiitake too often, it could lead to gout. So, if you experience gout-like symptoms, decrease your consumption.

Plugging Logs

Oyster mushrooms, I was growing indoors. For shiitakes, I felt it best to try those outdoors. They grow best on logs (or sawdust) of shii, oak, maple, beech, chestnut, poplar, mulberry, among several others. I had some tree trimming done and I had the man save me the logs that were suitable in size. After a lot of research, I purchased some plugs and went to work. Normally, I would share the website where I purchased (even though I receive no funds to do so). In this case, I'm not though, because out of three types of plugs I bought, only the shiitakes produced mushrooms. The other two were two types of oysters and they were duds.

A mushroom plug is a dowel full of spores. After preparing the logs, you drill holes in the logs and insert the plugs. Then you seal them with a food-grade wax. After many days of love, care, and wishes you should start to see the mycelium spread through the log. That's a great sign. It means that one day, you will have that steak and mushroom gravy that you so long for.

That white stuff is called mycelium

"What's taking so freaking long?"

Maybe I wasn't patient enough. I didn't get anything the first season. After that, I felt sure I had done something terribly wrong and it surely was a waste. At this point, I was trying to decide whether to try again or stick with what I know. I could always continue growing oysters and maybe expand on that idea. It was then I let go of my shiitake hopes. Winter came and went; spring was upon us.

That's when my brother told me that I might want to check my logs.

"Holy Shiitake, Batman"

I have never in my life seen a mushroom that size! Of course, I don't get out much either, so. I'll be honest, I didn't get many but I did get a few and that was a start. By golly, I made some steak and mushroom gravy (recipe here with those little dreams. By the way, shiitake is equally good right off the log. They don't have to be cooked to be eaten and boy do they have flavor. Great with steak, soups (recipe here, stir fry, and more.

The white ones are oysters, the brown ones are shiitake

The point is, don't give up and maybe shiitake can happen to you. Have a blessed day and thanks for reading.

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