Australian shiitake mushroom production set to ‘sprout up’ everywhere

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 17th October 2012

A Victorian company has been praised for their sustainable approach to growing shiitake mushrooms in Australia by simulating an indoor forest environment like the naturally occurring conditions in Japanese forests. Otway Forest Shiitake has been praised for its innovation for growing year-round shiitake mushrooms with a strong flavour on the logs of oak and eucalyptus trunks.

Previous efforts to grow shiitake mushrooms in Australia used saw-dust but saw low reproduction rates. Using a solar thermal heater to control the temperature of the ‘indoor forest’, Otway Forest Shitake can ensure that the mushrooms are not dried of their fungus and are able to resist pests such as slugs and flies. The company has been praised for its sustainable approach to reusing the 1 metre logs after each crop is harvested.

The logs in which the shiitake mushrooms are grown on are injected with mycelium (found naturally in mushroom biomes) and are stored for 9-12 months for conditions to become suitable for shiitake growth.  Currently the mycelium is imported from America; however, Otway Forest Shitake recently reported working with a mycologist in the hope of producing their own spawn.

Otway Forest Shitake now produces around 30 kg of mushrooms each week since they began commercial production about two years ago. They have received a ‘gold award’ and ‘best new exhibitor award’ at the 2011 Harvest Picnic, and recently received the title of ‘best new product’ at the 2012 Delicious Produce Awards.

The company’s production of shiitake mushrooms, the second most eaten mushroom in the world, suggests that many other commercial and domestic ‘indoor forests’ may appear. Since the success of Otway Forest Shitake, the Otway Agroforestry Network (a not-for-profit group that encourages sustainable forestry practices in the Otway Ranges, 150 KM south-west of Melbourne) has published a grower’s manual for producing log-grown shiitake mushrooms in Australia. The shiitake growing manual and spawn is available for purchase online through the Otway Agroforestry Network website.