We’ve had dribs and drabs of shiitake mushrooms over the last six months. We got a few last fall, which was unexpected, since we only inoculated the logs last spring. We got another one or two mushrooms over the winter, and a couple small flushes this spring. I was pretty happy with the way things were going, but Kevin was dissatisfied.
“I thought there’d be more,” he said, surveying our mushroom log set-up. “I’m pretty sure there should be more.”
Enter YouTube. YouTube is a place where you can see all kinds of crackpots pulling all kinds of crackpot stunts, and Kevin’s favorites are the ones that involve heavy machinery. In between watching guys run amok with log splitters and do dumb things in boats, though, he found a video of a guy named Ozark Vlog who forced his shiitake logs by soaking them in water.
I’d read about forcing shiitake logs. You soak them in cold water for 24 hours, and the combination of moisture and temperature is supposed to trigger fruiting of the mycelium. I was content to let the mycelium decide for itself when it wanted to fruit, but Kevin, after he saw Ozark Vlog’s dramatic results, decided he wanted to accelerate the process.
We’re lucky enough to have a source of cold fresh water right in our back yard, so Kevin rigged up a makeshift fence to cordon off a little section of the pond. He chose five of our fifteen logs, loaded them in the wheelbarrow, and took them down to the water.
Twenty-four hours later, he donned his waders and reversed the process.
And then we waited. Ozark Vlog saw dramatic results the second day after he pulled the logs out of the water (he used a tank, fed by a spring). Literally overnight, a forest of little shiitakes had sprung through the bark. On day five, he harvested his crop.
When Day Two rolled around, there was nothing. No signs of fruiting, no telltale lumps in the bark. No indications that the soak did anything at all. Ditto Day Three. And Four, and Five.
By Day Seven, we were ready to conclude that our logs just hadn’t been ready. The mycelium has to have colonized the log in order for forcing to work – if it hasn’t, there’s nothing to fruit. It was certainly possible that our colonization was as yet incomplete, and it was fruitless to hope for a fruiting.
But Day Eight brought sunshine, warmth, and nascent little mushrooms breaking out on three of our five logs. It’s like they knew we gave up on them.
Our plan is to force them in rotation, five logs at a time. We’ve read that they can be forced several times a year, and a regular schedule should keep us in shiitakes at least until winter.
I have mixed feelings about this small success. On the one hand, I’m delighted to have mushrooms and a workable way to make them fruit. On the other hand, if Kevin starts doing other things he sees on YouTube, we could be headed for trouble. It’s boating season, after all.