OH, a foraging we will go, a foraging we will go, through the woods and by the creek, a foraging we will go. A little tune similar to that of, “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”, plays in my head over and over when strapping on my boots and heading outdoors to explore the land for mushrooms. I certainly do not have to travel far before I find any mushrooms.
Now I am no professional, and I do not know much about forging except all the little brown mushrooms are called.. Ding Ding Ding, you guessed it, little brown mushrooms. And no, this is not a scientific term.
My mother is the true expert and guide on these expeditions, I simply tag along to take pictures. She often leads small group tours at the Adirondack Interpretive Center and informs fellow mushroom lovers of what's what. Which mushrooms are poisonous and which are edible. If you eat a foraged mushroom and it makes you sick, chances are you ate poisonous mushrooms.
*Disclaimer: please do not go out and start eating random mushrooms after reading this, do your homework, hire a guide, also don't be that person that just puts things in their mouth they know nothing about, thank you!
However, this blog isn't about foraging wild mushrooms. Foraging for us, comes in a slightly different form. Now for those of you that are unaware, my mom has a mushroom farm. A micro mushroom farm, but a farm nonetheless. She grows log-grown shiitake mushrooms, dabbles in oyster mushrooms, and occasionally grows a wine cap or two.
When I was younger, like any teenager, I HATED mushrooms. Up until she started growing them I absolutely despised them, and then I had my first Adirondack log-grown shiitake mushroom and thought wow these are good, “am I a mushroom girl now?”
My mom started her micro-farm, High Peaks Shiitake, roughly 6 years ago with a few hardwood logs and a dream. A dream that now has well over 100 logs that fills up part of the front yard. Each year she adds more and more to the fleet. Now growing mushrooms is not necessarily a tough process, but it is a long one. Starting from the beginning, we cut down 20 or so hardwood trees, my father’s a logger so cutting down trees is an easy task, and then cut them into smaller sections roughly a foot in diameter and three feet long. And drill 30 or so holes in each log.
Then it's time to inoculate the logs, fill each hole with the mushroom spores and sawdust mixture, seal it with food-grade wax, and you're good to go, for next year that is. Yes, that’s right, a whole year it'll sit outside. Each log is then labeled and logged into Excel and placed on top of wooden pallets in a cool shaded area low to the ground. They need to be in a place to receive natural rainfall throughout the following year, maintaining moisture during this time is crucial in the growing process of the mushroom. Living in the great white north doesn't matter either, the snow does not hurt them at all, if anything it helps!
So, if you want to start growing mushrooms from scratch you’ll have to do prep the first year so you can yield mushrooms the following year. After you've waited a year it’s time to start mushroom growing. To grow your mushrooms you’ll have to submerge the whole log in water for 24 hrs to “activate” the spores and then set them in a cool damp shady section and wait roughly a week and you’ll have delicious mushrooms.
Here are some things to remember:
- Mushrooms love moist climates, so watering your logs frequently in the summer is helpful
- The warmer the weather the faster the mushrooms grow, typically production slows down as the temperatures begin to drop. June-August are the best months.
- Start Inoculating your logs in the spring so they're ready for the following year.
- Mushroom logs can keep reproducing year after year. We have logs still producing Shiitake mushrooms from 5 years ago!
- Always use a hardwood like maple or oak to grow your mushrooms.
- Have fun and experiment there are plenty of different ways to grow Shiitake mushrooms!
You can find High Peaks Shiitake at local farmer's markets, our property in Newcomb, and at Cloudsplitter Outfitters in the summertime. They are a very hot commodity and oftentimes sell out very fast! And sometimes they don't even make it off the property! We usually make a delicious meal that very night with fresh mushrooms. One of our favorites is a shiitake mushroom wood-fired pizza with asiago, parmesan, and mozzarella cheese. It is just divine.
And last but not least I will leave you with a simple question, where do baby mushrooms grow before they’re born?
In the mush-womb!!!