Recycling Oak Trees Into Mushroom Logs: This is Kinda Fun!

Edible mushrooms are a popular item to produce in Oregon – whether marketed by big mushroom producers, hand-harvested wild from secret spots, or grown on hardwood logs by home gardeners and as a cottage industry.

We just cut down a bunch of skinny oaks (see previous post). They were not saw-log quality, so we decided to try some mushroom logs. Some research revealed the method:

  1. clean off the thick lichen and moss blanket (saved those for other purposes like dyeing, floral supplies, and compost – mmmm, good stuff). This is no small task.
  2. I took the extra step of then washing each and every one with some biodegradable detergent and a brush to get the poison oak off. At this point, they were clean enough to eat off.
  3. obtain the mushroom spawn you desire (ours are shiitake and oyster from NW

    Bag o' plug spawn

    Mycological Consultants). We are inoculating logs, so we got the easy-to-use plugs – wooden dowels that are colonized with fungal strands.

  4. drill holes – lots of them! Into the logs, which must be kept moist and used within a couple of weeks of harvest. This introduces the preferred species ahead of any wood-rotting or other fungi that floats in from the surroundings (that is the hope anyway). And hey – you can smoke your cigar while you do this, as Tom has demonstrated.
  5. next, pound the plugs, and countersink below the bark to protect the spawn as it moves into the log over the next 6 – 9 months!

The mushroom strands need to grow into the wood and digest it to obtain food. They mostly look like mold at this point. Eventually, the fungus will get the signal to fruit, and if all goes well, the logs will bloom with mushrooms. After each flush or fruiting period, they need to rest. Then they will continue a fruiting/resting cycle until the food in the log is used up. These logs should last 2-3 years and fruit a few times each year. Although if they fruit naturally rather than being forced, it could be just a couple of times per year. They’re in the “laying yard” now, with regular watering to stay happy.

When they are all done – you’ve got some nice squishy organic matter to use in the garden, and the logs are back to the soil for a new life.

I also got some sawdust spawn, and made mushroom sandwiches with log sections turned on their ends. These should be nice for the garden, since when they are ready to start fruiting, you can sink them in your garden along a bed or path, and they will sprout from the top!

If you would like to reserve a mushroom log of your very own, send me a message using the contact page on this website. As soon as I’m sure they will fruit, I’ll likely be selling them at the markets in McMinnville, and I can set up a delivery schedule between Mac and Seattle along the good old I-5 corridor!

BON APPETIT!