John and I went to the Michigan Mushroom Hunter’s Club fungus festival a few weeks ago. The conference was pretty good, albeit not really geared to beginners. Then, right at the end we ran into a mushroom doctor and his partner who were incredibly helpful, kind, and knowledgeable. They helped us ID our mushrooms and make sure we wouldn’t kill ourselves. Then they gave us some more info about upcoming events. One of these was the Mushroom plugging workshop at Farm and Garden Detroit.
The guy we met, Chris Wright, lead it and took us through the steps of how to plug a shiitake log. I never really know how many people are going to come to these types of workshops, and usually I am amazed by how many people are there. This was no exception. Fifteen people in the metro area were interested enough in Mushroom plugging to come down for a Sunday afternoon.
The basic steps for shiitake logs require that the moisture content of the log be measured, holes drilled, plugs hammered, and the coverings waxed. Then the moisture must be retained at 35%, much higher when it comes time to fruit. I plan to make an obscene order from his store one I get closer to the spring.
Then, after the lecture and demonstration we went to plant a mushroom garden. I purchased a composter mushroom kit and mimicked what we did in class at home in a shady moist area of our yard.
Oh yea, and I was too excited to wait and did it in the dark lol. You put down a thick layer of HARDWOOD mulch, then break half the bag of spawn into walnut shaped pieces, dividing them in a diamond pattern. Then, you cover with another 2 inches of mulch and repeat the process with the other half. Cover the final layer of spawn with more mulch. Then, put a layer of straw or a tarp over to shade the area further. Saturate the first day (or night) then water as you would a garden during dry seasons. We are hoping we got the bed in early enough to let the fungus get established before it freezes.
The spore of a mushroom sends a hyphae into the ground and will grow until it finds the hyphae of another spore of the same species. They fuze and form a weblike layer of mycelium through the soil. Once the soil or substate is fully incubated, it is time to fruit the bed by soaking it. This bed may be ready to go next summer. It takes longer for the fungus to invade larger area/thicker logs.
The class ended with a raffle at which John won this pre-grown lion’s mane kit.
It has a seafood type flavor, and Chris plans to make kits of this next year. This was seriously the best mushroom I have ever had, and really it was in the top 10 foods. We served it up carmelized in olive oil, sauteed with wine, and then finished with butter.
It is important to let the edges get crispy or else it may be bitter. Wild lion’s mane is shaggier so it disintegrates quickly. This culture is Chris’s own discovery. We had it along side pasta with fresh homemade sauce and a taste test of home made parmesan, romano, and montasio. If I had just retained the notes that said which were which we would know which we like best!