Shitake mushrooms growing from an oak log. Photo by Stephen Hight, USDA

by Alline Anderson, Rutledge, Missouri

When I first moved to Northeast Missouri I was vaguely aware of mushrooms – I liked them well enough on my pizza. But hunting for wild mushrooms, and eating them, seemed like something that only crazy people in the Pacific Northwest did. How did they not die an excruciatingly painful death from poison mushrooms? Newly arrived in Rutledge, my local friends began talking excitedly about morel mushrooms. Right here on our own land! What?

As spring approached we watched the temperature for warm days and nights above 40°. Soon we went out on the land, looking in sandy creek bottoms, around dead or dying elm trees, on sunny south and west slopes. And amazingly, there they were. Dozens of wild morel mushrooms, just waiting to be harvested.

Unfortunately, I soon found that I am the world’s worst morel mushroom hunter. In my morel hunting career I’ve found two. That’s two mushrooms, not two dozen, or two bags-full. And one of them I lost on the way home.

So I was absolutely delighted to learn that I could grow my own mushrooms. Shitake mushrooms are not only incredibly delicious they are beautifully suited to be grown in dappled shade in one’s own yard. I found I could create my own mushroom farm – the process is fairly simple. By drilling holes in freshly cut oak logs (of a specific length and circumference), placing mushroom spawn in the holes, and sealing the holes with wax, I could create the ideal growing conditions. The logs are then placed in shady areas that receive a bit of sun and circulating air, and after a few months of rain and sun and shade, dozens of mushrooms pop up out of the logs, ready to be harvested and sauteed with a little garlic, butter and white wine.

Mushroom logs produce twice a year for three to four years. After the initial inoculation, the logs pretty much take care of themselves. After harvesting the shitake mushrooms one can use them fresh or easily dry them for future use.

The Milkweed Mercantile at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is really excited to be able to share this food resource with our local community. We’re presenting a Shitake Mushroom Log Workshop on Saturday, April 28, 2018, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. With skilled assistance, each workshop participant will prepare and then take home 6-8 shitake mushroom-producing logs. Cost is $120 per person and includes all materials (already-cut logs, mushroom spawn, and needed tools), expert instruction, care directions, and a delicious mushroom-filled lunch. For more information or to register please go to milkweedmercantile.com/mushrooms or call 660-883-5522.