Fungus Among Us: Mushrooms at Bellair Farm
Fall is a fun and fruitful time on the farm — especially for mushrooms! Bellair’s mushroom logs are fruiting full-tilt this fall. Come by the Meade Park or Saturday City Markets to snag some for yourself and read on to learn more about this cool project!
Bellair farmer Michelle first began this project in the winter of 2014-2015. We headed out into the woods to harvest white oak logs for innoculation. We ended up with about 140 four-foot logs of (mostly!) white oak. Luckily, shiitakes are fairly easy to grow and aren’t super picky about the type of wood, as long as it is recently cut hardwood. We ordered our sawdust spawn online and started with a widely-adaptable strain that will fruit in many temperatures and is forgiving for beginners, aka us!
Then we drilled holed and packed some sawdust spawn into each one. We then placed our logs in an area that receives morning sunlight and afternoon shade–right near the pick-your-own field #2. If you come out to the farm, you will likely see them there stacked in a log-cabin formation. We let the logs sit there for over a year for the mycelium to innoculate the entire log.
Finally, the log is ready to fruit (aka produce mushrooms). We use a force-fruiting method, which just means that we soak the logs to simulate a naturally cool and wet time period. We move the logs we want to fruit into a large tub and fill it with cool water. Depending on what the weather conditions have been lately, Michelle will soak the logs anywhere from 24-48 hours. After they come out of the water, we prop the logs A-frame style on sawhorses. This just makes them easier to harvest.
After that, the mycelium is triggered to fruit and tons of “pins” begin to form. These little nubs eventually bell out and around 10 days after soaking, it’s time to harvest! We cut the mushrooms over a period of a couple days and start soaking another batch for next week!
The logs can be fruited in the spring and in the fall. Sometimes the weather is not cooperating and the logs will want to fruit on their own without being soaked! We are working on experiments to see how closely we can control the fruiting and how far into the summer we will be able to “force” the fruits.
This year, we are excited to start the first fruiting on a second batch of logs we innoculated last winter! We are excited to keep growing this project and see where it goes. So far, the project has been relatively simple to manage and has created mushrooms of superior quality.
Right now, our mushrooms are available for seasonal retail sale at our farmer’s market locations. Come try some for yourself!