I have bad news for picky and adventurous eaters alike, mushrooms, which are so commonly shunned as a strangely textured and  flavorless food, are so chock full of health and environmental benefits that, in my opinion, those who insist on picking them out of their food should probably give mushrooms a second chance, and a third or fourth if necessary.
      Shiitake mushrooms are an edible type of fungi that have long been valued for their medicinal uses and now are becoming a more common ingredient in American cooking. Shiitakes boast countless health benefits, including that they are a good source of iron, strengthen the immune system, and are good for the cardiovascular system. Shiitakes have even been found to help protect against the development of cardiovascular disease.
                Not only are shiitake mushrooms an acclaimed super food but they are also an easy and sustainable source of food to grow. Shiitake mushrooms that you buy in the grocery store are usually grown on blocks made of sawdust and cooked grains. These sawdust logs are kept inside where the mushrooms are grown under controlled settings of temperature, light, air flow, and moisture. Though store bought mushrooms usually taste just fine, there is a much less expensive and healthier way to grow mushrooms that can be done at home!
 Homegrown shiitakes are produced on natural hardwood logs that are injected with mushroom spawn and then kept outside under shade trees so that they are exposed to sunlight, day and night cycles, and natural ventilation. After 6-18 months the logs will begin to produce mushrooms in cycles, usually yielding dozens of mushrooms for a short period of time during the spring and fall rainy seasons. Shiitake logs do not require much maintenance and, given the right conditions, they will continue to produce for up to 4 years.  Shiitake logs can be purchased for about $25 from many different online retailers.
Pine Mountain Shiitake logs
When the shiitake logs here at Pine Mountain began to produce this past week we were inundated with heaps of fresh mushrooms. Because mushrooms don’t stay fresh for long we had to quickly find ways to preserve all our mushrooms. Here are a few ideas of what to do with your bounty of shiitakes!

Want to learn more about shiitake mushroom logs and start your own home production?
Join us in Inman VA for an informative workshop:

Shiitake Mushrooms at Home: Experience a hands-on demonstration and take home your own mushroom log (supplies limited, small cost). Workshop will be held November 5th. To sign up or receive more information visit: www.Samsva.org/garden or call 276-565-6167.