Shiitake Mushroom Cultivation workshop

Shiitake mushrooms grow on red oak inoculated about two years earlier. (Photo provided — Ken Mudge)

It’s easy and fun to cultivate edible mushrooms using logs, stumps, or other mediums (i.e. straw, corn cobs), and the moist shade of your wooded property. Each mushroom variety offers its own unique, often nutty flavor. And mushrooms are packed full of nutrients: things like B-vitamins, including riboflavin (an essential dietary nutrient which plays a major role in red blood cell formation and energy production, and strengthens the immune system); niacin (a digestive aid that can help maintain good blood circulation, healthy skin condition and brain function); and pantothenic acid (one of the most versatile and flexible vitamins).

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin and Essex Counties invite you to attend a workshop on home or small farm-scale cultivation of shiitake and other specialty mushrooms. The workshop is designed to introduce gardeners, market growers, and woodland owners who would like to grow low-maintenance shiitake mushrooms as a home hobby or small fresh-market business venture to the principles and techniques used for successfully inoculating and cultivating delicious, healthy shiitake mushrooms on logs in outdoor environments.

Attendees will learn how to cultivate gourmet mushrooms at home. In fact, they’ll actually do it! The shiitake mushroom cultivation segment of this workshop will be a hands-on session in which participants will be given the opportunity to inoculate their own hardwood logs, which they’ll bring home. Each inoculated log will produce harvests of fresh, delicious garden shiitake mushrooms for years to come.

I’ve been cooking with mushrooms all of my adult life. They add real zest and excitement to all sorts of recipes. They’re exceptional, in many instances, as a meat substitute. And they’re the perfect choice for hearty, intensely satisfying, really-good-for-you, low-calorie meals. They’re high in fiber content, loaded with protein, contain a multitude of minerals, and can be added to dishes from soups to pastas and everything in between.

Shiitakes have a wonderful, robust texture and a rich, smoky flavor that is stimulating, yet mild and heady. The Japanese have a word for it; umami. Translation: pleasant savory taste.

The name, shiitake, comes from the Japanese ‘shii’, which is the species of tree upon which they were first documented as growing, and ‘take’, which means mushroom. They’re native to East Asia and revered as a delicacy in China, Japan, and Korea. The Chinese call them Xiang-gu (Shiang-gu), fragrant mushrooms.

Shiitakes are recognized worldwide as having a wide range of medicinal properties. They’re the third most widely cultivated mushroom in the world. Their scientific name is Lentinula edodes.

According to Cornell University Emeritus Professor of Horticultureand co-author of the book ‘Farming the Woods’, Ken Mudge, “Any farmer with a woodlot and the drive to diversify should consider forest-cultivated shiitake mushrooms.” He notes that, “The demand for shiitakes is considerable throughout the Northeast,” an area where demand for locally produced, healthy foods is increasing, adding that they command “a retail price of $12 to $20 per pound.”

Mudge believes that “growing mushrooms encourages landowners to learn more about sustainable forest management.” He calls it an “added benefit.”

Almost all forest landowners view their land as a potential source of income from the sale of standing timber. But many are unaware of the harmful, long-term environmental and financial impacts that can come from poorly planned timber harvesting. They’re also unaware of the many available income-producing opportunities, like mushroom cultivation, that don’t compromise the quality of timber stands or put habitat, watershed, beauty, recreation, or the spiritual renewal that forests offer, at risk.

Releasing crop trees by thinning or removing low-grade and/or excess small diameter trees (culls) from timber stands has long been considered an important management practice for achieving healthy, sustainable forests and other ecosystem-management objectives. But conventional hardwood markets have offered little or no economic incentive for the removal of low-quality hardwood trees. In fact, low-grade and small diameter trees are commonly left behind after a timber harvest, a practice known as high grading, which results in unproductive land, where a future return from saw timber can take a minimum of 50 – 75 years or more to realize.

On the other hand, a landowner who chooses to properly manage a timber stand by removing culls and releasing crop trees can use the removed material for shiitake (and other) mushroom production and generate ongoing profit from the sale of sustainably cultivated mushrooms. The result is short-term payback for long-term management of woodlots and private forest land.

If you go…

When: Saturday, Sept. 29, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Paul Smith’s College VIC, 8023 state Route 30, Paul Smiths

How much: $20/person; which includes handout materials and an inoculated log to take home

Registration: Pre-registration is required at franklin.cce.cornell.edu — click on event, or call 518-483-7403.

More information: 518-483-7403 or jlr15@cornell.edu.

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