My guest for this episode is Steve Gabriel, a permaculture practitioner and a member of the extension team at Cornell University. He is also co-authoring a book with Dr. Ken Mudge, Farming the Woods, set for release later this year. Steve is also a farmer practicing what he teaches. Find out more about that work at his farm website, Wellspring Forest Farm.
This conversation is an introduction to the idea of cultivating mushrooms on woody material. As this is Steve’s second time on the show we jump right into the topic at hand. If you would like to learn more about his biography and background, check out our first conversation, Agroforestry with Steve Gabriel.
The four types of mushrooms discussed:
- Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
- Lions Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
- Oyster (Pleurotus spp.)
- Winecap Stropharia (Stropharia rugosoannulata)
We end a bit abruptly, but covered everything that I wanted to in this introduction to farming mushrooms in the woods. You can find out more about the work at Cornell and Steve’s research in a document titled, “Best Management Practices for Log-Based Shiitake Cultivation in the Northeastern United States.” (PDF) I want to have Steve back on to answer listener questions, so if you have anything regarding these mushrooms species, or others, you’d like to have him discuss, please let me know.
If you enjoyed this conversation and would like to learn more from Steve, the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute is running an in-person 15-day intensive Permaculture Design Course in New York from July 25 – August 10, 2014. Go to fingerlakespermaculture.org to find out more information and register if you’re able to attend.
Because of this conversation I was encouraged to take the plunge into growing my own mushrooms. I’ll join you after the interview with Steve to talk about that experience. I’m going to be inoculating with Stropharia around my home design in the next few days, and will post pictures of that process.
My own mushroom inoculating experience so far involved having my photographer John join me for a day of plugging logs, along with assistance from my son, over a one day period. What I learned from that experience is that, as Steve indicated, it is a labor intensive process. Using a starter kit from Field and Forest Products, paired with a hand-drill meant that it took 45 minutes to inoculate each log, once we got started. Combined with the video and photograph production time, we ran until we were running out of comfortable daylight and my wife was calling us to dinner. Drilling 50 holes,
plugging, and sealing them for each log was rather intense, but satisfying.
That day John, my son and I we were able to plug 5 logs with shiitake spawn that day: three red maple and two red oak. I’m now picking my way as time allows through some relatively fresh logs to plug more shiitake, and some reishi.
What I learned from this experience is that an ideal team for plugging logs is a 4 or 5 person team per station: 1 person to drill, 2 to plug, 1 to wax. That potential fifth would be there to turn the log for the driller and keep production moving.
The Stropheria looks to be much easier, and I’ll know in a day or two of this episode coming out as I’ll be inoculating with 5lbs of sawdust spawn. More on that in the near future.
Even though I have some time before I’ll be able to harvest the mushrooms, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with them and hope that you’ll take my step forward with this as encouragement to try your own hand at these species of mushroom as well. Download the document (PDF) from the team at Cornell for more ideas on how to grow your own mushrooms, as well as information on the cost and potential yields.
Then check out the Field and Forest Products, Inc. website, fieldforest.net, and see what is appropriate to grow where you are. If you have any questions, let me know and I’ll have Steve back on to clarify what he can, or direct us to appropriate resources.
What are your experiences farming mushrooms and fungi? What would you like to learn more about? I’d love to hear from you.
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