We interrupt this outdoor series..(shiitake mushrooms from a kit)

..to bring you a little indoor news. I’ve been waiting for the “you’re all effectively locked down again” news for a while. I am not especially happy about it, any more than I was last time, but it at least seems like a decision which is better than the weeks of speculation, gossip and backbiting that have come before. I didn’t do the bread starters or running thing that seemed to be very popular last time, I wasn’t really in form for anything much really, so this time I have made plans to do basket making – I want to make a basket for gathering mushrooms – and attempting to grow fungi indoors with kits. My willow is currently wallowing in the bath, so more on that one later.

My interest in finding mushrooms in the wild spilled over one rainy evening into how growers got started and what they do to cultivate them. It took me to many, many Paul Stamets videos, (of which only a very occasional one was ST: Discovery related, and I watched those too, because ST:Discovery) and many more by Southwest mushrooms, like this one introducing different types they cultivate.(US) and even more by GroCycle(UK) I reckon I would very much like to start trying to produce small amounts of different types of mushrooms if and when I get to a new place, I don’t think my postage stamp garden will let me be as ambitious as I would like. In the mean time though I wanted to see if I could get anything at all to grow and was prepared to accept one (1) single mushroom as a successful outcome. My first attempts to get a home kit was to try to find a link to buy from Urban Oyster – I had seen their kits in action at the Science Gallery in 2016. I’m not a coffee drinker and I was pretty broke in 2016, so I think I was late to the venture, I couldn’t find any way to actually buy anything now. Then I found yellow oysters, shiitake and brown mushroom kits on thegardenshop.ie , sorted.

Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) are not native to Ireland, but I’ve never knowingly had them before and they’re awesome so they made my list. I’m thrilled with myself. It came in a box and basically looked like a lump of white and brown mould, like popcorn was soaked and mushed together and left to go off a bit. This is exactly the way it’s supposed to look. It’s a solidish block of substrate – wood shavings packed hard together to simulate a stump or log of decaying hard wood covered and totally shot through with the mycellium that will produce the mushrooms, the fruit. The kit came with instructions and I had learned from my youtube fest that Shiitake don’t like to get dry, so I organised my sprayerand got to work encouraging the suggestion of primordia to become pins and then mushrooms.

Slight hiccough when my cat Boots – not a small cat, quite a large Garfield inspired cat – decided to try to warm everything up by sleeping on top on the box a few days in, breaking one of the early pins. I’ve kind of forgiven him.

The instructions recommended soaking the substrate after about half of the surface had gone brown to get things started, but recommended against if it had already started to produce pins. Mine did very quickly even though it’s not 50% brown. I have a feeling my harvest might be a bit peculiar but since I’m as enthralled by the process as I am by the results this does not bother me one little bit.

This evening I looked up how I would know when my shiitake were ready to harvest. Turns out a couple were sightly past the recommended point, but still at a very good time so I decided this evening was going to be cook up night for my first harvest. See that little ridge or skirt around the bottom of the mushroom? I’m told that it’s best to get shiitake when the skirt is present but still folded up a bit rather than down like in the fourth picture. They were all delicious to me though, so I’m not going to be overly concerned.

I’m easily pleased, (it’s part of my charm) but these are awesome mushrooms, I mean look at them! They have a fantastic heft and substance to them, these are not mushrooms that will leave you feeling hungry and unfulfilled. And they’re delicious, really good. I tried some with butter, salt and pepper, some with seasame oil and gluten free soy sauce (my youngest is coeliac) and some in an omelette and they were all excellent. I reckon I’m going to have to fight my youngest for the next harvest.

The other mushroom kits are just gearing up to start producing tiny things, I’ll post on these as I have more.

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