There is a memory, lurking cold and murky in the deep folds of my frontal lobes, and it speaks of sterile salad bars.
Enter through the strip-mall doors and pad along the inevitably 80's-theme printed carpet (why always so many multi-colored triangles?) to grab a tray, still coated in warm condensation. Then come the mounds of Orange---shredded carrots, cheese, mandarins from a can--and the ham cubes, crunchy peaks of romaine, the boiled eggs enjoying their intimate peeled nakedness. Those sad little boat slices of pink tomatoes.
And then there are the mushrooms.
Soft, sliced button mushrooms with the consistency of compressed air and what, to me, always seemed to be a distinct frowny face. Or at least discontented.
iscontentment matched only by my own.
I should settle this: I love mushrooms. I even love button mushrooms. And I love salad bars. For years, they were one of few locales devoted (in name at least) to the kind of food I wanted to eat. And in high school, I had some fairly serious buttgrooves in a corner booth at a Souper! Salads! that boasted excellent potato soup and chocolate chocolate chip muffins. They really earned those two exclamation points.
However, it is a damn travesty when the entire world of edible fungi equates to those Nintendo-looking sad sacks. ushrooms are a world of goodness.
When you move beyond their association with blue shrink-wrapped cartons, colorful drug dreams and fairy sitting stools, you discover this realm of yumminess, medicine and fun.
Long ago back in January I mentioned our interest in mushrooms. We had put in some orders for Maitake, Shitake and Lion's Mane mushrooms and I gave a very brief description of the basics of mushroom-plugging. I promised when we finally plugged our mushroom logs I'd kiss-and-tell, photos and all.
At the time, I thought that particular reveal would occur within the month, but it's only now in mid-April that the stars, logs and schedules aligned to allow for this bout of mycorrhizal amusement.
But hey, that's life. And that's farming. And without further ado, here is the Mushroom Log Plugging Process:
1. The bags of innoculated dowels arrive.
After you've ordered the mushrooms in the quantities you desire, (and in our case, looong after) the bags with little wooden dowels cut into inchish pieces arrive, agog with mushroom organisms. You let it sit for a month or so, according to which type of mushroom.
2. Drill some holes!
Once you've located the type of wood favored by your selected mushroom (I blanch at trying to explain that in too much detail here---trust me, if you get really into mushroom cultivation, you'll learn all about hardwoods versus softwoods for certain fungi)
The holes are spaced around 1.5-2inches apart, and fill up the entire log save the ends.
3. Plug it up!
4. Hammer it in!
You just keep going until the entire log is chock-a-block with mycellium-laden dowels. Work is nearly done!
5. Heat some wax. Paint it on.
We used beeswax (provided along with the mushroom orders and supplemented with some stored in our freezer), but the main goal is to seal those little dowel heinies and the ends of the logs with a naturally-based cover. It keeps other little buggers and weather from getting in and mucking with your log.
6. Let them be!
Store your logs in a non-sterile environment. Some mushroomers call for space under a table in a greenhouse, others say build a geodesic dome in a pine-filled meadow. It's all allowing for the types of mushrooms you're growing, the space you're working with, and oh-so-most-importantly, the time you have. (Remember how precious your time is?)
Make sure you enjoy what you're doing---if making a mushroom labyrinth fills you with gut-busting joy, do it. If not, throw them in some trees, like this:
If any of this information lights your fire, I urge you to explore the myriad sources on the internet--there is SO much information on mushroom foraging, mushroom cultivation and just plain ol' articles about mushrooms accompanied by groovy pictures. One of my favorite resources is the Milkwood Permaculture website whom I've referenced before. If you like good writing, juicy-looking pictures and wise advice, it's a good place to visit.
So there we are. Clearly, I didn't include every bit of minutiae of mushroom plugging, but hopefully this gave a broad idea about what it even is for those of you out in the web ether that know nothing or little about edible fungi, and for those who know more than me---well, don't read the post too closely.
Expect to see more pictures once these babies fruit. That'll be a whole 'nother story, ripe with intrigue and recipes.