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How to grow shiitake step by step – and why is it easy?


This post is also available in: English Russian Polish

In the west of Poland, in Krzekotów, there is the Polish largest shiitake production. Weekly, 3.5-4 tons of this mushroom are produced here- Shiitake and Eryngii  The company is called Exotic Mushroom Center, it is the European subsidiary of the Chinese largest shiitake producer – QiHe Biotechnology. For European customers, EMC offers fresh mushroom and substrate for cultivation.UMDIS Mushroom Information Agency – visited their shiitake farm and was surprised how different growing shiitake is compared to champignons.

– In production, shiitake is extremely simple because the substrate is taken out of the cold room, watered – and you can pick mushrooms, – smiles Piotr Rubacha from the Exotic Mushroom Center. Substrate  at a temperature of -2 to 0 degrees might be stored for 6 months. At +2 it can be a month – if you don’t have a storage that can make -2deg. The “shock” for shiitake is defrosting. Until then, if the small pins do not appear, the substrate can wait and not be put on the shelves.

The substrate is delivered to the customer on pallets – 720 logs of the substrate, tied together in 9 or 12 logs. If the customer keeps the substrate in a cold store – it is worth putting it out for a day or two to defrost – and only then put on the shelves. At the Exotic Mushroom Center, they show us a large cold store and explain that the substrate must be defrost before application – if you do not do this, you can damage the first layer of spawn.


We enter the growing room. It is a tent – completely delivered from China – with racks, lights, ventilation and water sprinkler system – only the heat pumps are made in Poland.

If a customer wants to buy such a grow tent, Exotic Mushroom Center can deliver it from China. The cost is around $12,000 at the port. You will need a source of heating and cooling (EMC use heat pumps), a concrete screed, a couple of people to work on making the basement – so $ 20,000 will cost a professional 35 m long and 7,2 m wide shiitake growing room. It is possible to lay out 10,000 logs in it, which will give you about 7 tons of mushrooms in one cycle.

– Here, as you can see, on the left side is the second flush – and on the right side is the first. The technology of shiitake cultivation is so good that it is very similar in the cultivation of the first and second flushes. So, they can be kept in one growing room.90% of the ingredients of the Chinese shiitake logs are wood chips – the rest is wheat bran and others.

– We have two varieties of spawn – L2 and L9, – shows Piotr. – L9 differs from L2 in that it needs a higher temperature at the beginning of cultivation – over 20 degrees. But it has an advantage – the pins pop out less near to each other, so you don’t need to remove buds – even without it, the mushrooms will be of very good quality.

Generally, the temperature during the cycle must be between 12 and 28 degrees. For the thermophilic L9 spawn, it is worth starting from 23 degrees – and then we go down gradually to 16. If the temperature is too high – the mushroom will grow with a high stem and open fast. So, it is needed to reduce the temperature after the pin has appeared. Then the mushroom grows slowly, the cap gets bigger, the stem is thick – these are the characteristics of a good shiitake mushroom.

– You can even make such a cycle that it is warm during the day and cold at night. Throughout the night, the mushrooms regenerate and will become even heavier and prettier, – shares Piotr.

The most important thing for shiitake is watering. For the first time it is made immediately after defrosting – and then watered several times during the cultivation.

– There are three watering technologies. We use watering through nozzles – we turn on sprinklers  for 8-12 hours and pour until the weight of the log increases from 1 kilogram 600 grams to 2.1 kilograms. The second watering technology, which is used by some of our customers who do not want to use so much water for 12 hours, is to put the pallet with the substrate in a tub of water for 2-5 hours before putting the logs on the shelves. A third type of customer manually punctures each log with needles and pours water through the needles inside of the cube. We also puncture – but before the second and third flush, because then the substrate is too hard and you can’t get inside by watering from sprinklers.

These three methods require different amounts of water and different amounts of work. Everyone chooses a way depending on their situation. If you have a communal water source – it is not profitable to pour water for many hours. Others don’t want to spend so much manual work pricking each piece of substrate.

In this hall where we are – what cycle day is it? – I ask.

– If our technologist kept some cultivation cards, then I would know, – smiles a Piotr from Exotic Mushroom Center.  – It’s just that shiitake is so easy to grow that we generally don’t trumpet cultivation cards. We do not measure humidity and CO2. In the summer I need to cool – and in the winter to heat, it’s never the case that we need both cooling and heating at the same time, so there may be a two-way pump. I worked in a company that produces regulators for mushrooms. I know what air conditioning must be like, how everything must be controlled for button mushrooms. That’s why what is happening here with shiitake, how easy everything is – for me at first seemed like absurd.

Piotr Rubacha shows us a fan that blows air into the hall – it turns on for 5 minutes every hour. They let in the air that is outside – regardless of what the temperature is there. They can heat up it already inside the room with a heat pump.

– These mushrooms can get really big temperature differences, the outside air can be at minus temperature and nothing will happen, – says Piotr.

For the production of shiitake, you do not need a complicated and expensive climatic equipment as for button mushrooms. That’s why here in Exotic Mushroom Center – they tell button mushroom producers who come to them and want to switch to shiitake – that their halls are “too good” to start grow shiitake.

– And after seven or ten days we have the first mushrooms to harvest, – says Piotr Rubacha.

After 14 days, all mushrooms of the first flush are harvested. Next, the substrate rests for 2 weeks – the 3rd week mushrooms grow on it – and in the 4th week counting from the first flush – we collect the second flush.

The logs need to rest for about 14 days – but it depends on the temperature in the hall. If the temperature is +10 degrees – they rest 4 weeks. If 16-20 degrees – 2 weeks. Stimulates the pins of the second flush again watering.

In the hall where the harvest is taking place now – I see that the picker collects mushrooms in a large box.

– Will you send it to the client like this? – I ask.

– Shiitake mushrooms are so cool that they cannot be damaged. We collect them in large boxes, store them – further, if the customer wants, we can repack them for him. There is no need to use the one-touch technique. What’s more – if you don’t cut the roots, shiitake can be stored for up to 4 weeks in the rstorage, and only 2 weeks without the root. So, we cut the roots separately, – says Piotr Rubacha.

– Can I do anything to damage the crop, to have no mushrooms at all – like with button mushrooms? – I ask the Piotr.

– Only if you forget to pour water. But the mushrooms will still be – only they will be softer. There are two things that shiitake really needs – the first is to add water at the beginning of the growing cycle, and the second is to water them from time to time so that the log doesn’t get hard and gives the mushrooms a chance to break through it to the outside.

Also, Piotr shows us the Exotic Mushroom Center` substrate warehouse. Currently, they have the pallets with substrate in stock, plus three containers of 20 pallets each, and plus they rent another warehouse a few kilometers from them. So, they are always able to supply the customer with substrate.

In another warehouse we see shiitake. Interestingly, if mushrooms look best in blue boxes – shiitake in black ones.

Two Chinese guys are the grower and production manager here.

The production of Exotic Mushroom Center is Eco – they do not use coal here but use gas, electricity and have 40kw solar power plant.

Exotic Mushroom Center production is ready for visits.

You can make an appointment and ask questions:

Piotr Rubacha

+48600387027 (phone, WhatsApp),

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