Why do Oysters need a bath?

cultivation, maple logs, mushroom worker's lung, oyster mushrooms, straw logs -

Why do Oysters need a bath?

Yesterday we were talking about hedgehogs (the mushroom) and today we will be talking about oysters (the mushroom). Sense a theme here?

Oyster Mushrooms fruiting in straw logsLast summer I began raising Oyster Mushrooms in "straw logs" indoors, in a room above our garage that doubles as a wine cellar and exercise room. I was growing oyster mushrooms like crazy, and very inexpensively (I'll blog sometime about that). but the experiment went south when my wife discovered that the oyster spores were making her sick every time she went up to exercise!

I had a hard time believing it, at the time, but it turns out it's a real thing ... "Mushroom Worker's Lung," it's called, and it's actually an allergy or sensitivity that some people have to the billions of spores pumped out into the air by the lovely Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus). She could eat them just fine, she just couldn't be in a room when they were sending out spores. So I moved my whole Oyster growing operation out of doors.

Growing Oysters from straw logs is fast and relatively easy, but doesn't work as well out of doors, so I decided to go a different route. I purchased about 200 Oyster spawn plugs, little wooden dowels impregnated with the mycelium of Pleurotus ostreatus. You find a piece of wood that Oyster Mushrooms love (like Maple), cut it so that it can begin to decay (I cut my 6" diameter logs into 3-foot lengths), drill a bunch of holes (up to 50) in each one, tap the spawn plugs into the holes then seal the holes with red food-grade wax. You mount the logs so that they aren't touching the ground and let them season outdoors, rain or shine.

In a few short months my logs started bearing mushrooms, and I was in business. I could harvest maybe a half pound or a pound at a time out of each log. I have 6 logs and I had a few really good breakfasts.

I would like to make more, as they can go months at a time between fruiting. (Now, a little over a year later I've gotten about three or four good fruitings from each log.) My understanding is that they will keep doing this, fruiting periodically for years, if the conditions are right.

Oyster mushrooms harvestedThe mushroom organism (which is primarily mycelium, hidden in whatever medium it grows in, usually either soil or wood, but sometimes other things) usually doesn't fruit unless it is stressed somehow ... by changes in season, in temperature, or by excessive moisture. The latter is said to work quite well for Oysters, and when I was growing them indoors out of straw logs I tented them with clear plastic, suspended above open pans of water to keep the humidity level up. And I placed them near windows. The light and moisture seemed to cause them to fruit quite quickly and well.

I'm trying a similar principle now with my maple Oyster logs. I've read that you can stress these by submerging them in water for a period of 24 hours at a time.

So I built an oyster "bath," using 2x6 outdoor wood, nailed into the form of an open-topped box, with the inside lined with sheet plastic of the variety used by painters. You have to have a box big enough to be able to submerge the log and the apparatus that keeps it off the ground. My box is about 40" long by 17" wide by 12" in height. I have been submerging one log at a time, upside down, for 24 hours.

I'm hoping this will initiate some good fruiting action. I'll report back and let you know!


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