Is shiitake easy to grow?

May, 2022
Darren Spalding

Shiitakes comes from Japanese and means “mushroom of shii” or oak, where the mushroom probably grows wild. You can add mushroom plugs to a tree trunk of a hardwood tree and get harvests for 6-7 years, or you can grow in a grow bag and inoculate a mixture of sawdust and bran to get a harvest much earlier. Shiitake mushrooms are grown either on tree trunks or in bags of nutrient-rich sawdust or other organic material called bag culture. Before you can start growing shiitake mushrooms, you need to decide what substrate you want to grow your mushrooms in and buy the supplies you need.

How long does it take for shiitake mushrooms to grow?

Shiitake mushrooms are a bit more picky about what they'll eat than oyster mushrooms that grow on coffee grounds, cardboard, or just about anything. When choosing a substrate for shiitake, your options are somewhat limited compared to other commonly grown mushrooms. This is not only a big plus when growing larger quantities, but it is also a great advantage if you decide to grow mushrooms commercially one day. So don't wait more than a month before you vaccinate your strains or your mushrooms will likely have increased competition.

In appearance, they vary from light brown to dark brown with mushroom caps that reach 5-10 cm in diameter. However, unlike other mushrooms, the white mycelium doesn't signal that your shiitake is ready for fruit.

How hard is it to grow shiitake mushrooms?

Because it's more important to add fungal spores to your growing medium when the growing medium is sterile, plan ahead. Wait 24-48 hours and if you haven't had an allergic reaction, you can assume that your body can digest it perfectly. Since shiitake does not compete well against wild mushrooms outside their home environment, they need a blank leaf - which is what a fresh tree trunk offers. If you vaccinate your shiitake strains in the middle of winter when they are below freezing, spawning isn't very active.

However, growing shiitake mushrooms for the home gardener or hobbyist is not very difficult and can be very rewarding. While this mushroom thrives in nature in much of East Asia, it doesn't compete well with mushrooms that grow elsewhere in the world. That's why it's so important to sterilize the stems or substrate that you use as a host to grow shiitake mushrooms.


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