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Will Mushrooms Be Your Next New Crop?
Shiitake mushrooms are creating a lot of interest in the Midwest for their good taste and their profit potential as a sideline business for woodlot owners.
Says Kraig Kiger, project coordinator of the Shiitake Mushroom Project, Grand Rapids, Minn.: "The Shiitake mushroom variety is extremely popular in Japan and Asia. The popularity spread to the U.S. where it's now a favorite on the East and West coast.
"They grow to have a 3 to 6-in. dia. head and have a light brown color.
"They're unique taste is described as a cross between pork and lobster and can be used just like regular mushrooms fresh in salads, baked on pizzas or fried for steaks. We hope to sell the mushrooms to restaurants and grocery stores.
To grow the Shiitake (pronounced Shee-e-to-kay) mushroom requires hardwood logs;, preferably oak but others also work well. In Kiger's research he's tested a number of trees, including small diameter aspen which is commonly left as waste after logging.
He feels that mushrooms will make the otherwise wasted 3 to 4-in. dia. aspen logs productive. For growing mushrooms, he suggests cutting the trees into 4-5 ft. lengths so they're easy to handle. The trees should be cut in the winter so the tree has the most moisture left inside. You then stack the logs to let them air until May when they're innoculated with plugs. Another reason for using fresh cut trees is that they're normally disease free. The Shiitake fungi is extremely weak and won't grow if there's other fungi present.
The plugs contain mycelium (the mushroom's root system) and are placed in 5/16 by 3/4-in. holes drilled into the logs. On a 4-ft. log Kiger says you'd put in 4 rows of plugs each containing 25-30 plugs.
Once the log is innoculated it takes 18-24 months to get a "crop". The care needed during that time includes keeping the logs at the proper humidity by spraying a light mist over them and turning the logs once a year for aeration. Kiger suggest stacking the logs and keeping them off the ground. Cold weather doesn't kill the mycelium it merely puts it into dormancy.
Kiger figures a cord of wood (about 200 logs) will produce 500 lbs. of mushrooms in five years. He hopes to sell the crop for $6 to $12 a lb. noting that imported Shiitakes now sell for up to $18 a lb.
Plugs sell for $35 a thousand. One cord requires about 5,000 plugs.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Kraig Kiger Shiitake Mushroom Project, ICC, 18,51 Hwy. 169E, Grand Rapids, Minn. 55744 (ph 218 327-1760, ext. 227).


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1985 - Volume #9, Issue #4