Who knew that we had the ideal conditions to grow shiitake mushrooms in our hemlock grove? While attending Cornell University, Farmer Steve’s son, Logan, joined the Cornell Mushroom Club. After visiting The Heron, the club’s president, Nick Laskovski, suggested we try growing shiitakes. In the spring of 2007, we worked together to inoculate over 800 logs. Today, we have over 2000 logs in production; the largest in Western NY! It’s something very unique to see. Come for a visit and tour the mushroom yard.
Inoculating logs involves drilling holes, inserting spawn, and waxing all openings and ends. After inoculation, the logs are stacked and left to rest until the following spring. During this “rest period” the spawn, which is made up of living shiitake mycelium, grows within the log and colonizes it. The logs, and the mycelium, take 12-18 months to build up enough energy to fruit.
To get the logs to fruit on a consistent schedule, we soak one batch each day. After soaking, we stack the logs “teepee” style to make them easier to harvest and to encourage good air circulation. The shiitakes are cut by hand, one by one, weighed, packed and refrigerated.
Shiitakes have an earthy flavor with a meaty texture, and are ideal for making sauces, omelets, stir-fries, and soups. The nutritional value of this mushroom is exceptional, with good amounts of protein, vitamin D, and fiber. Medicinally, shiitakes are valued for their anti-cancer properties, their ability to boost the immune system and to reduce cholesterol.