Monday, December 15, 2008

Plug Spurned!

I guess you could say that sometimes when I sit with my finger on the trigger, ready to make hasty Internet purchases, I can be a little hair-brained.  In this case I had shiitake for brains. Or at least, shiitake on the brain.  Admittedly, the excitement of an Internet deal is often hard for me to squelch.  And in the case of mushrooms (one of my favorite foods) nary can I turn away from the bright LCD screen begging for me to add another item to my virtual shopping cart.  Often times, in these situations, the finger click is followed by the synapse fire.

I had written a couple of weeks ago, hinting at my lust for fungal fare, and mentioned the possibility of growing some shiitake plug spawn.  Plug spawn are small wooden dowels inoculated with spores of whichever mushroom you fancy.  The plugs are about 1/2" in diameter and roughly 1" long.  They are meant to be "plugged" into holes around 2" deep in fresh hardwood logs.  Fresh in our terms means cut no more than 5 months ago.  The reason we need fresh wood is because older wood has had more time to sell its fresh heartwood to the highest bidder, i.e. another fungus.  We don't want to go eating any mushrooms of course without knowing exactly what they are.  And if our shiitake plugs were to mingle with a less than edible sort of mushroom, we'd be deep in the pits of wonderland or worse.  Being in California, I thought that the possibility of finding freshly cut oak logs would be no big deal. Easily done.  Just a phone call, right?  Wrong.  

As it happens fresh oak that has not been promptly chipped, shredded, split, cured, or turned into a piece of flooring is rather hard to come by.  In fact it has been rather consuming to find just what we need at all not to mention without driving all over kingdom come to fetch it.  To add to the frustration of finding the wood, plug spawn are living organisms with a 30 day time limit.  On top of this is the onset of the holiday season and holiday shopping madness.  In short, this has been less than the good time I'd first imagined.  Had I known then what I know now I would have simply continued to grow them from sawdust bags, saving plug spawn dreams for a day when I was huddled in my woodland yurt amidst acres of hardwood trees.   I am unsure just how many times I will have remind myself to always do my research before I let myself be reeled in by the flashy lure of a sale sign.

Alas, we have yet to give up and are still on the hunt for fresh wood.  Like vampire Ents we will not rest until we plug our spawn!  If any of our readership knows of a reliable source of any fresh hardwood please send them to us or us to them.  Any little bit helps.  

Link of the week:
In case you too are interested in growing gourmet mushrooms but want to do it in a much easier and faster way you can usually get bags of impregnated sawdust that produce great results but far less of them.  Before, I'd mentioned Fungi Perfecti, a Washington based company started by one of my personal heroes Paul Stamets.  For a more local source of equally great products go to Far West Fungi .  They are a Bay Area based operation with a store front in the Ferry Building downtown San Francisco as well as market stalls at various farmer's markets and an online store to buy kits and produce.  They all are very helpful and informative.  I buy the bulk of our mushrooms from them every week at the Heart of the City farmer's market in the Civic Center on Wednesdays and Sundays.  Check em out!

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