Shiitake time!

Yes, you have to do your hammer-time dance when the shiitakes start to flush.

We grow shiitakes on oak logs back in our woods. Getting the spawn into the logs to make mushrooms grow is an arduous process that I promise to photograph at some point. Kent planted his first set of logs in 2007 and ads to his collection each year. The oak trees have to be felled at just the right time of year, the crown and all the limbs removed and the trunk cut into 4-foot sections. Larger is better, to prevent the log from drying out before the mycelium takes hold. Then you shlep the logs over to the workbench and drill a whole bunch of holes all over the trunk, insert the mushroom-spawn-sawdust into each hole, and paint over the hole with melted beeswax to keep the moisture in. Then take the innoculated logs into the woods and set them into position and WAIT. A year. Or two. The logs Kent prepared in Spring of 2009 will fruit this autumn for the first time. It makes me tired just writing all that down.

But all that effort is worth it when the logs miraculously begin to fruit. Kent’s shiitake logs seem to be really happy in the spot he picked for them, because they have fruited several times this year. The mushrooms grow in that pith between the wood and the bark. Here’s a photo where you can see the mushrooms breaking through the bark.

shiitakes

Shiitake mushrooms emerging from log (click to enlarge)

The shiitakes are so lovely when they are growing. Our logs produce a couple of different strains.

Star crinkles on shiitake

Shiitakes with smooth top

Some have star-shaped grooves on the top Some are smooth on the top with more pronounced white lacy markings around the bottom

Cooking with fresh mushrooms is such a treat. Just like anything else, freshly picked mushrooms have a terrific flavor that cannot be matched by store-bought mushrooms that were harvested god knows how long ago. So far, my favorite mushroom-enhanced culinary creations have been:

  • scrambled eggs with mushrooms and fresh peppers
  • American style cream of mushroom soup
  • French style mushroom / leek / potato soup (more butter, less flour than the recipe above)
  • Mushroom ravioli
  • Mushroom cream vol-au-vents

a teenie shiitake

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