Monday, January 31, 2011

Growing Shiitake Mushrooms - 101

Yesterday, I attended a class in the greenhouse at Sussex County Fairgrounds to learn how to grow my own shiitake mushrooms!  The class learned how to select the best tree logs (oak, beech or maple) and the best size (a 2" - 10" diameter).  We even got to practice 'inoculating' the logs with living shiitake fungal tissue, called spawn.  Hopefully, the logs should start to produce mushrooms in the next 6 to 18 months.

While I am waiting for the fungi to grow and digest the wood before my mushrooms can appear, here is some additional mushroom information, with a few specifics to shiitakes:

The latin binomial name is Lentinula edodes, and is a member of the Polyporaceae family.  In Chinese medicine, the pin yin name is Hua Gu. Shiitake is indigenous to several temporate Asian countries, including Japan and China.  It is a wood 'decomposing' type of fungi, and the traditional mushroom cap and stem that folks will recognize in the supermarket is actually the "flower" or fruiting body.  The mycelium is the actual fungi that goes through a log, and it is from the mycelium that a medicinal extract is derived, called LEM or Lentinula Edodes Mycelium.   Shiitake is the most studied of all medicinal mushrooms. 

From a medicinal perspective, shiitake - taken in the form of LEM - has antiviral, antifungal and immuno-modulating properties, and studies have shown tumor inhibiting properties as well.

From a food standpoint, shiitakes are a nutritional powerhouse.  As with most mushrooms, one gains the maximum nutritional benefit only upon cooking them.  They contribute a wide range of essential amino acids, are low in fat, high in fiber and provide a wide range of vitamins including Vitamin D, thiamine, niacin, ascorbic acid, riboflavin and biotin.

A final note of interesting trivia:  The discipline of biology devoted to the study of fungi is known as mycology, which is often regarded as a branch of botany, even though genetic studies have shown that fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants since they are the only organism to combine glucans and chitin in their structural cell walls:  glucans are compounds found in plants and chitin is found in the exoskeleton of arthropods.

So the next time you want to add mushrooms to your favorite dish, consider reaching for shiitakes:  they have a more robust flavor than standard button mushrooms, and are also a great meat substitute!

1 comment:

  1. Fungiculture is the process of producing food, medicine, and other products by the cultivation of mushrooms and other fungi. growing mushrooms indoors