Making sure your spawn is good
To ensure a steady supply
of shiitakes, you should inoculate new logs every three to five years.
We inoculated logs in 2007 and 2009, but by 2013, were feeling in need
of more shiitakes.
Unfortunately, the plugs
we ordered that winter arrived looking like plain wooden dowels,
apparently mycelium-free. I trusted the source, though, so Mark and I drilled holes, pounded the plugs in, waxed over the holes...and waited.
happened, and I eventually realize that I should have trusted my gut.
Here's your warning: if your spawn arrives and the substrate doesn't
appear to be coated with white mycelium, something might be wrong.
Fast forward ahead two
years. We decided to order from a different company this time around
(Field and Forest Products, whose spawn has always grown like
gangbusters for us). And sure enough, the plugs arrived fuzzy with
mycelium...but frozen solid!
This time, the issue was
entirely my own fault. I knew the spawn was shipping, but didn't change
my routine of walking Lucy out to check the mail the morning after it's
delivered rather than catching it on day one. So a night in the teens
meant that I brought home spawn coated with ice crystals.
I emailed the folks at
Field and Forest Products, and they responded quickly and soothingly. I
wasn't to worry --- as long as the spawn didn't freeze and thaw
repeatedly, it would be fine.
And, yes, I trusted them.
But I also recalled how much work and time we wasted on spawn that
didn't do anything two years ago. So I fell back on a technique I
recently learned in Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation.
Tradd Cotter recommends putting questionable spawn somewhere warm but
out of direct sunlight for a few days to see if the mycelium begins to
grow. Sure enough, after three days on top of the fridge, our plugs were
whiter than ever!
We'd planned to inoculate
our logs this week, but it looks like the weather isn't going to
cooperate. While I'd read previously that it's okay to inoculate logs as long as you're not going to see lows beneath about 18,
Field and Forest Products has a different guideline. They said to wait
until daytime highs are reliably hitting 40 Fahrenheit...which was the
case last year at this time, but not so much in 2015. (Actually, with
lows of -12 now forecast, we wouldn't be plugging logs this week by
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So the spawn is now
resting in the fridge, along with scionwood and maple sap. It sure is a
good thing I'm the head cook, or my homesteading spillover into the
kitchen might get on the kitchener's nerves....