Freshly cut hardwood logs or stumps can be inoculated with dowel spawn to grow a variety of fungi. Timber should be disease-free and cut in the dormant season. Most hardwoods are suitable (except when growing Indian Oyster, which requires softwood), although oak, beech and birch (which are used by commercial growers) will give the most reliable results.
Dowel spawn consists of sterile wooden dowels colonised with vigorous mushroom mycelium. 9mm holes are drilled into the logs or stumps and the dowels are tapped in with a hammer. The surface must then be sealed with wax to reduce moisture loss. Allow 50 dowels for a 1m x 10cm log or for a stump.
A starter selection pack of 30 shiitake, 30 oyster and 30 lion's mane dowels (with wax and daubing tool) costs £16.50.
Dowel kits include wax and a daubing tool and are priced at £13.50 for a 100-dowel kit, £26.50 for a 300-dowel kit and £47.50 for a 1,000-dowel kit. A selection pack of 100 dowels each of three species of your choice, with wax and daubing tool, costs £30.00.
The following varieties are available:
Shi-itake (Lentinus edodes)
Popular and widely cultivated oriental mushroom with domed cap and fibrous stem.
Has a strong smokey flavour and is best suited to slow cooking. It dries well.
Grey (Pleurotus ostreatus)
Easily cultivated and well recognised fungi, forming clusters of caps from its growth point.
Though not strong in flavour, it is versatile enough to be used in most mushroom dishes.
Chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)
Distinctive yellow shelf-like lobes that are best eaten young.
Has the taste and texture of chicken breast - some enthusiasts even claim that it is superior.
Lion's mane (Hericinium erinaceous)
A strange but beautiful mushroom consisting of waterfalls of icicle-like spines.
Has a mild, sweet flavour which, when grilled and served with melted butter, reportedly tastes like lobster!
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