The Farm, 680 Muhunoa West Road, Ohau 5570 (towards the coast from SH1 just south of Levin)
The mushroom farmer hot-line: +64 204 098 5657
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Shiitake mini farm FAQ

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I’ve received it, what do I do?
We sell our Shiitake mini farms as mature. You can tell it’s maturity as the otherwise white mycelium to will have started to turn brown. Inspect the bag, if you see brown bubbles forming under the plastic these may be baby shiitake forming, be gentle. After step 1 below, you can take off the bag.
Create an autumn storm!
With the mini farm fully colonised the following tips will help get the mushrooms growing (pinning). We call this process ‘creating an autumn storm’. You can do this to get a new block going, or for an older block that’s been dormant for a while. The purpose of these steps is explained here as well.
  1. Give the bag a firm but gentle slapping …a storm has blown the tree or branch down! Better to do this with the plastic on, or a bit more gentle with it off.
  2. Cut off the plastic bag giving it a burst of fresh air …ahhh they just love that autumn breeze
  3. Soak in cold water for a couple of hours …possibly a passing rainstorm
  4. Put it in the fridge overnight – optional …yep! Winter is coming
  5. Put it in a warmer spot and keep an eye on it ...ahhh a nice sunny autumn day, evaporating all that rain, …oh the humidity!
  6. Wait patiently, and when you see baby mushrooms forming, start misting like crazy
What’s different about your shiitake-farms and others?
We sell our shiitake-farms ready to go. We have taken out the long wait and made success a certainty. Others sell kits or logs. Kits may require you to find a suitable stump or log (usually a deciduous Harwood like oak), drill your own holes, seal with beeswax and wait …and wait. It may take over a year for anything to happen if anything happens at all. Some people want to manage and be part of the entire process, others just want to eat them.
My shiitake farm is growing lumps, actually, it’s lumpy all over.
This is a good sign, and often called popcorning. It is a sign that the shiitake are getting ready to fruit. You may not notice this because we typically ship our shiitake-farms after this has happened.
Why does it turn from white to brown? You might receive a mini farm which still has all its white mycelium visible, but as it ages it will start turning a beautiful rich brown. The Shiitake is essentially making a skin from properties called metabolites, that helps protect it from moulds and bacteria. You may also notice these metabolites as a brown watery liquid.
These same metabolites are also bio-available to our own bodies when we eat the mushrooms, and they comprise many of the health benefits that shiitake are known for.
We typically leave the plastic on during the white stage, mainly to conserve moisture and protect it. If you receive a white one and already ripped the plastic off – that’s okay – just check it’s weight every so often to calculate water loss and hydrate if necessary (more info below).
Are these grown on logs?
We do not grow on logs because it’s a very slow process, and has a lower success rate. Instead, we use a combination of oak and pine sawdust, plus some wheat bran for added nutrition. This sawdust is certified organic and strangely enough, food-grade!
As the shiitake mycelium colonises the substrate it binds the loose sawdust into a fairly solid block and gains a texture similar to cork.
Where’s a good place to put it?
We think they look pretty special, even when not fruiting, so should take pride of place on your kitchen bench or even your coffee table. Bonus when it’s fruiting you have an awesome fungi bonsai.
For those prone to a little OCD (who doesn’t), you can play around with the humidity and try to get the caps to split. Go for the perfect ‘hana donko’ grade shiitake. Or you can go minimal and simply watch them grow while you write your haiku.
My mushrooms caps are cracking!
This is considered a desirable quality especially if you are considering drying them for storage. This happens when the fruit body is moistened (misted etc) and you then let them dry out, as the cap grows. If you don’t want this happening then keep the cap moistened.
After receiving the shiitake farm, How long will it take to fruit?
Being nature and your environment unique, your mileage may vary. Typically it takes about 12-16 weeks after we make it. We then incubate it for about 10 weeks, so you still have a couple or so weeks waiting. However, the shiitake will respond well to your patience and general good vibes.
When should I pick?
The perfect shiitake are picked soon after the cap separates from the stem, and starting to expose its gills. If you want a larger shiitake you can leave it a day or so to grow. If you leave it longer the cap will flatten out and drop spore. Try to avoid this.
What temperature does it need? 
If you are comfortable, they will be comfortable. But, they prefer it running a little cooler, especially on a hot day. If you have air conditioning/heat pump, be aware that this will dry the air. Please try and maintain a humid environment for your shiitake-farm.
Some of my mushrooms are very small
Sometimes the fruit bodies will be small, but larger on the next flush. You may get smaller fruit bodies after a soaking.
What’s the reason for slapping the bag?
The shiitake can sense impact, which would usually be after the tree or branch has fallen during a storm. It is thought that this may be a signal to the shiitake that it needs to propagate (grow mushrooms). This is often a technique to initiate first pinning, so you only need to do this once …if at all.
Why should I put it in the fridge?
In nature, the shiitake will fruit in the autumn (and spring) as it can detect wild fluctuation of seasonal temperature. They can sense when it’s time to procreate. Shiitake are very cold tolerant and in nature may need to live-out winter in a frozen log. You would typically use the refrigerator, or an ice bath, if it hasn’t fruited in a couple of weeks, and weather has been warm (say +25c).
Why and when should I soak it?
Soaking the farm (plus cooling it) simulates an autumn rainstorm. As far as the little shiitake-farm is concerned, it’s dreaming of being in a puddle on the forest floor. Together with raising the temperature a couple of days later, simulates a warm sunny autumn day. The shiitake sense this and know that the forest is now a perfect humid environment to grow.
You may need to soak the ‘farm’ to initiate initial pinning. After this, soak it only when it becomes dry. **Note: half the weight of the shiitake-farm is water. So if a 5kg one is weighing in at 2.5kg… you got a desert: and as you know, mushrooms don’t grow in the desert! So if it is getting close to 3kg it needs a dunk. Tap water is fine.**
Oh no! I think I’ve dried it out?

Shiitake are very hardy, and it’s likely that it’s okay. Soak it in water to rehydrate. It may bounce back quickly or may be dormant for a while. Be patient.

Do I need to keep it in the dark?

These type of mushrooms grow in the deep shade of the forest, so inside room lighting is about right. It’s doesn’t need light to grow, so it’s equally ok in the dark. I prefer to give it a natural environment as possible, to stimulate the production of micronutrients.

Can I put it outside?

You can, but it’s likely that pests like fungus gnats will make a home of it and get to your mushrooms first. The larvae stage of the gnat lives inside the farm eating the mycelium and weakening it. They will eventually eat their way through the cap and fly away to lay more eggs. If you see little critters flying around your shiitake-farm, invest in some yellow sticky fly traps sold in garden centres.

How long will it last?

If you care for it, it should produce for over 6 months. If you are really good, closer to 12. However, it’s nature and there are a lot of variables that will affect its longevity. As it gets older it’s yield will decrease as nutrition is depleted. When you think it’s finally done, you can use it as mulch in the garden.

*Note: we will replace a farm if it doesn’t fruit, but after the first flush it’s up to you to care for it.*
How often will it fruit?
It should cycle on and off fruiting every couple of weeks. Sometimes you may have the odd shroom popping up randomly, but if you have it in a good environment it should have a fairly consistent cycle, producing over a half dozed mushrooms at a time. This followed by a week or so being dormant. However, being nature your mileage may vary.
I see mould, is that a problem?
If the shiitake farm is running a little to damp after the soak, sometimes mould may appear. Often the shiitake can fight back and deal with it. If its struggling or looks like its getting worse, try dabbing some hydrogen peroxide on the mould. At worst, you may need to carve off the affected part.
Have I drowned it?
If you forgot and left it soaking a few days, just let it drain and recover. It should be ok, but watch out for mould. The mycelium may have weakened and mould may try to move in.
I’ve grown your oyster mini farms, what’s the main difference?
The Oyster mushrooms are very aggressive growers. It takes them 3 weeks (after making a bag) to fruit but the Shiitake need’s 3 months. As a consequence, the oyster mini farms are usually ’spent’ after 3 months where Shiitake can go 6+. Being aggressive the oysters will often have very large flushes or yields, where the Shiitake is less, but spread over a longer time.
Another main difference is that we remove the bag from the Shiitake but leave it on for the Oysters. This is because the Shiitake grows a protective skin, and the Oyster doesn’t.
Why do you use plastic, is it biodegradable?
Unfortunately, we have not found a suitable substitute for the polyethene bags, but we are working on it. We are also very sceptical regarding the biodegradable nature of plastic alternatives (biodegradable plastics is almost an oxymoron) all that happens is that the plastic just breaks down into small particles (that we can’t see without a microscope), and leach into waterways to easily get into places they shouldn’t.
If you cannot dispose of the plastic ethically please send it back to us. On the farm, we melt these plastics down into bricks that are used as edging etc in the garden. This way we can manage the waste by turning it into a somewhat solution. We are also acting as custodians of our waste until such time as it can be more effectively processed.
We are also in a good position, and interested to experiment with strains of Oyster mushrooms that are being developed to digest plastic. Watch this space.