Growing shiitake mushrooms at home is a fun & rewarding project. I can promise you, they taste nothing like the mushrooms you find at the store. They’re rich, earthy, and flavorful. I highly recommend giving it a try!
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A few weeks ago I went to the Northwest Flower and Garden show with my mom. It was the perfect way to catch up (we did so many laps around the convention center). Plus we also got to shop for amazing garden goodies and get inspired for our own shop (someday). It was my first time going and I’ll definitely be back. Jerry was a little jealous he had to stay home.
One of the booths was for Rain Tree Nursery. Mom wondered if I remembered her taking us there as youngins, but I couldn’t recall. The name rings a bell, but I don’t remember the trip. And you’d think I would because it’s just outside of Morton, which is a many-hour car trip from where we lived. Don’t all kids remember those devastatingly long car trips?
Anyways, they had quite a few things that caught my eye. I decided to pick up two lingonberry plants. I’ve had them on my shortlist ever since I bought a jar of lingonberry syrup from Ikea. So yummy! Jerry can’t stop calling them Elderberries…I wish! Still need to get them in the ground. We’re pretty limited on space since we rent, but I just keep bringing plants home. We’ll figure something outright? The one on the right doesn’t seem quite as happy. It dropped a bunch of leaves when I brought it home, but I’ve gotten them outside and they both seem to have new growth. Fingers crossed!
The other thing that caught my eye was their mushroom kits. Jerry bought one last year, but in an effort to make more YouTube videos, I was insistent we did an “unboxing” video, which ultimately meant we never got around opening the box. So I think we were off to a bad start. It only produced a few small mushrooms. Plus the instructions weren’t great, which I now know after getting our new kit. It’s fabulous!
I’ll do my best to walk you through the process of growing shiitake mushrooms at home. It’s super simple to do…all you need is the kit! Shiitake, lion, oyster, button…there’s lots of options out there! Keep in mind that our experience is with button and shiitake, so your instructions may vary slightly, depending on the type of mushroom.
Step 1: Arrival & Choosing Location
When your kit arrives, you’ll need to find it a home. Keep it in the bag for the time being. It’s important to keep your mushroom block somewhere where it gets light, but nothing direct. Don’t put it in a windowsill. I found that average winter house temperature worked just fine for us (65 degrees). It’s right in the optimum range of 60 to 70 degrees. Just make sure it doesn’t get too cold, like below 50 degrees. Keep it away from drafts and furnace vents.
Regarding the plastic bag, your kit will arrive in one of two setups. If it’s wrapped airtight, take it out of the bag right away. Airflow and moisture are key for growing shiitake mushrooms. If you keep it suffocated, they won’t grow. However, if your kit is somewhat loosely wrapped and has a patch for airflow, leave it in the original bag until you see little mushroom bumps. This could take a few days or up to two weeks. You may only see a few bumps or you may see a bunch. At this point, you’ll want to cut away the bag. Once the bag is removed, put your block on some sort of plate or platter. This will be it’s permanent home.
Step 2: Ongoing Care
Your kit should come with a humidity tent. Make sure that it has a handful of small holes for ventilation. It needs to get humid inside, but not be totally enclosed. It’s also important that the bag doesn’t touch the block or touch any growing shiitake mushrooms. A great way to accomplish this is with a wire hanger. Grab and pull apart the main part of the hanger, so it resembled a square, instead of a triangle, then unbend the hook. That is the part that will be shoved into the top of the block. With the humidity tent over the hanger and around the block, you should have enough space to give them separation.
The block needs to be misted at least once a day to keep it humid. For this, just remove the bag and hit it with a spray bottle. Give it a good soaking, both the block and any developing mushrooms. It’s totally fine if the water puddles a little bit. You’ll need to mist more often in warmer temperatures. Be sure to put the humidity tent back on once you’re done misting.
Step 3: Harvesting
It will take another week or two for the mushrooms to fully develop. Typically the fewer mushrooms that grow, the bigger they’ll be. That was definitely our experience. We got six very large mushrooms. Don’t worry if all the mushrooms don’t develop. Some shrivel up and die, these are called aborts. As the shiitake mushrooms grow, they’ll flatten out. Though for our shiitakes, they didn’t get as flat and wide as expected. Eventually, the edges of the mushrooms will uncurl. At this point, they’re technically considered overdone, but they’re still totally fine to eat. Ours were overdone because I feel like for the first time, it’s hard to tell exactly when they’re ready. However, they still tasted phenomenal!
To harvest the mushrooms, give them a gentle tug and maybe a little twist. You want to separate them without taking too much of the substrate (typically sawdust) with you. Ours were very easy to remove. Store your mushrooms in a paper bag in the produce section of your fridge. They should keep for about a week.
Step 4: Second Flush
The beautiful thing about these mushroom blocks is that they typically give off a second and sometimes even a third flush of mushrooms. Usually each flush is a little smaller than the last, but there have been reports of the second flush being the biggest. Ours is kinda looking like that might be the case.
In order to get the next flush, you should soak it, submerge it in water, overnight. Be sure that the container is sanitary. You don’t want to be introducing any stray bacteria. We did ours in the jumbo mixing bowl. It was half submerged, so I flipped it mid-night, when I went to bed, and we feel like it got a decent soak. It can be tricky though, because the block wants to float. You have to weight it down. I put a cooling rack on top of the block and horseshoe on top of that. And because this method can be tricky, there are some folks that skip it. Others have sworn by just giving it a really good spray down, tons of puddling at the bottom. I could see this having the same effect, but haven’t tried it.
After it’s soaked or sprayed, let it drain a bit, then put it back on the plate, put the hanger back in, and re-bag it. It will take another week or so for the second crop to appear.
From what I’ve heard, you can continue into a third flush. The woman at the booth that sold it to me, mentioned it being somewhat indefinite if you know how to handle it. We’re pondering new substrate and harvesting the spores from the mushrooms to keep it going, but I would bet we’re not going to get around to it in time. There’s just always an unending list of things to do that sometimes push the fun experiments down. We’ll get around to it eventually, with our own private bog, holding log after log full of varied mushroom plugs. A girl can dream!
Step 5: Eat
The shiitakes taste wonderful! It amazes me every time how much better food tastes when it’s homegrown. We both took a good bite and stood there lamenting how we’ve never tasted real mushrooms before. Mind is blown!
Shiitakes are a very meaty mushroom, with a strong flavor. I’d say not as strong as an Oyster mushroom, but more flavor than a Crimini. They are a great meat replacement for tasty vegetarian dishes. For preparation, they appear to lend themselves really well to Asian cuisine. I’ve seen recipes saying the best preparation is tossing with a little sesame oil and soy sauce and sauteing for about 3 minutes. Others work them into miso soup or homemade wontons. We decided to make a super simple mushroom pasta and it turned out delicious!
And there you have it! The process really is that simple for growing shiitake mushrooms. I highly recommend giving it a try. You haven’t really had mushrooms until you’ve grown or foraged your own!
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Shiitake Mushroom Pasta
- 1/2 Lb Dried Whole Wheat Spaghetti
- 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil Divided
- 2 Cup Shiitake Mushrooms De-stemmed & Chopped or Left Whole (if Small)
- 6 Cloves Garlic Minced
- 1/4 Cup Flat Leaf Parsley Rough Chop
- Salt and Pepper
- Parmesan Cheese
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, add 1/4 cup of olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the de-stemmed shiitake mushrooms and cook for 4 to 5 minutes.
- Then add the minced garlic and an additional 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the cooked spaghetti and toss.
- Give it a taste and season with salt and pepper. Toss in the flat leaf parsley. Plate and top with Parmesan cheese.
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