I heard about purchasing a "mushroom log" and growing your own mushrooms, right in your house, from my parents a couple of weeks ago and thought it might be a good blog post.
According to the owners of shiitakemushroomlog.com, the Japanese starting cultivating shiitake mushrooms in the 1930's by taking logs and using saw cuts to inoculate the log with mushroom spawn. Now, instead of using saw cuts, holes are drilled throughout the log. Then the grower waits for the fungus to colonize the log. Commercial growers usually grow the mushrooms on blocks of sterilized sawdust. Holes are drilled in the sterilized blocks, just like the logs. With the sawdust blocks, commercial growers can grow many times the amount of mushrooms than logs can and can increase their profits by as much as 10-fold.
Apparently the mushrooms grown in sawdust blocks are not as meaty and tasty as the mushrooms grown on a log. In Asia, sawdust block-grown mushrooms sell for about $2-$3 a pound while log-grown mushrooms sell for $40-$60 a pound.
So how does growing your own mushrooms work? Well, you first have to purchase a mushroom log from a supplier (there are many to choose from online.) After that, you have to "fruit" the log, or force it into thinking that it's the spring or fall rainy season, which is when the shiitake fungus usually produces mushrooms. This is done by soaking the log in ice water for 24 hours. This is called "shocking." Growers recommend that logs shouldn't be fruited more than every two months, and in the mean time the log needs periodic "soaking" times and rest times. The log should be soaked every two weeks, anywhere from 12-16 hours, depending on the humidity level of your area.
Shiitake mushroom logs can be kept in your house, anywhere that you would place a low-light house plant. There are definitely different ways to nuture your mushrooms, and some people even say that they produce better when in positive environments and less when there in tension or arguing in a household. I couldn't say either way, since I've personally never seen a mushroom log, but this definitely sounds like an easy pet to have that even feeds you, too!