The Basics of Hardwood-Log Shiitake Mushroom Production and Marketing

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Shiitake mushroom production offers an income opportunity for Virginia’s small-farm operators and small-woodlot owners while providing enjoyment for others. It is also a relatively simple food-production activity, like gardening, that can be a hobby or used for teaching. This publication describes a technique for shiitake production and marketing that can be used and adapted by Virginia farmers, hobbyists, or teachers. It describes common techniques based on the available research, as well as areas of disagreement and typical difficulties producers may face, such as pests. In addition to production methods, this publication describes some of the basics of the finances and marketing of shiitake mushrooms for those interested in using them for income production.

Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) are the fruiting bodies of a fungus species native to Asia, where they have been consumed for centuries. They have a distinctive flavor and have become popular in the United States over the past 30 years. Shiitake mushrooms have been reported to have beneficial health effects, including lowering blood cholesterol levels, and there is some evidence of antiviral and anti-tumor benefits (Jong and
Birmingham 1993). They also contain protein, vitamins, and antioxidants.

There are two basic ways, each with variations, to produce shiitake mushrooms (Przybylowicz and Donoghue 1988): on hardwood logs or on bags of compressed sawdust and other materials. The log production technique is described in this publication. The sawdust technique produces mushrooms faster and at a much higher efficiency but requires a larger investment in time, indoor space, supplies, and equipment.

Gregory Frey
Virginia Cooperative Extension