If you’ve ever enjoyed the savory flavor and delectable texture of hen of the woods mushrooms, you may want to go back for more again and again. But, even though they have a longer growing season than some mushrooms, these mushrooms can’t be found year round in the wild. Lucky for you, they can be cultivated at home! In this article, we’ll discuss how to grow hen of the woods mushrooms so you can enjoy them fresh any time of the year!
What You'll Learn Today
Can I Grow Hen of the Woods Mushrooms?
Hen of the woods, or maitake mushrooms, grow fairly well in the wild, particularly in cool, damp, forested regions of North America and Europe. But what if it doesn’t grow in your region, or you would like to have access to fresh hen of the woods mushrooms year round?
Hen of the woods is a choice edible mushroom, and if you love the taste, you may be dissatisfied about having them for only a short season. The good news is that, yes, you can grow hen of the woods at home.
These mushrooms can be cultivated relatively easily; though it may take a little time and patience when you’re first learning, and it may take some practice to perfect, you may find that growing your own hen of the woods is well worth it.
People have learned to cultivate these mushrooms because they are so popular. Cultivating them yourself is a great option because you will have them available to you throughout more of the year than if you were simply to forage the wild mushrooms.
It is worth noting that these mushrooms may not grow as well when cultivated as they do in the wild; they may be smaller or less well-formed, or it may take a lot of effort on your part for only a small harvest. Again, though, it might be worth it if you love hen of the woods mushrooms and are willing to put in the effort to grow them.
How Long Does it Take for a Hen of the Woods Mushroom to Grow?
The process of growing hen of the woods mushrooms can take a long time, especially at first.
Long before your mushrooms ever begin to appear, you will have to colonize a growing log with the fungus. After you do this, it should take at least 6 months of apparently doing nothing for the first signs of the fruiting heads to appear.
After the mushrooms begin to form, it will take several additional days for them to mature. Then, once you’ve harvested these initial fruits, it may take 6 weeks or more for the log to begin producing mushrooms again.
Again, these first fruits may be small and hardly worth the effort. It may take a couple of years, if not longer, for the fungus to really get established in your log and to start producing well.
How to Grow Hen of the Woods Outdoors
Hen of the woods mushrooms are usually grown outdoors, where the conditions are as close to natural as possible. To grow hen of the woods outside, follow these steps:
- You’ll need an oak log that’s about 6 inches in diameter and about 3 feet long. You can use a larger log as well, but you don’t want to go much smaller than this.
- Soak your log in cold water for at least two hours.
- Using a power drill and 5/16 drill bit, drill about 25 to 30 holes in your log, making them roughly an inch to an inch and a half deep. Spread them evenly over the surface of the log, making sure they are about an inch apart.
- Into each hole, use a mallet to gently hammer wood dowels that have been inoculated with the hen of the woods fungus. These dowels can be found online.
- Melt a pound of cheese wax and use a pastry brush to apply a first coating over each dowel; allow this first coating to harden, then apply a second coating. The cheese wax will help to seal in the fungus and seal out competing organisms that might try to get in through the drilled parts of the wood.
- Place the log in a shaded area outside, propping it up on bricks so the entire log has plenty of air flow.
- Water the log at least once every two weeks, up to once a week if your area is experiencing a dry spell. There is no need to thoroughly drench the log, but it should be kept moist.
- In about 6 months to one year, your first hen of the woods mushrooms should begin to grow. You can harvest them by cutting them off at the base when they are at least 4 inches in diameter.
How to Grow Hen of the Woods Indoors
Hen of the woods mushrooms can also be grown with some success inside, as you can see in the video below.
To grow these mushrooms indoors, follow the steps below:
- Buy or prepare a substrate that consists of 73 percent hardwood pieces, 23 percent coarse wheat bran, 1 percent calcium compound, and 1 percent sucrose. You may want to measure the pH after mixing this up; it should be between 5.5 and 6.5.
- Place this substrate in a cultivation bag, leaving a clearance of about 32 inches.
- Add in a hen of the woods spawn–sawdust or liquid spawns work best for growing these mushrooms indoors. Sprinkle it over the substrate and mix it in with a sterile utensil.
- Cover the substrate with 1 to 2 inches of potting soil.
- Place the cultivation bag where it will be away from direct sunlight and get plenty of air flow. The room should maintain a temperature between 60 and 70 degrees with humidity levels between 60 and 65 percent.
- Use a spray mister to water the substrate often, making sure to keep it moist at all times.
- When the mushrooms begin to grow, make sure they are exposed to small amounts of light. They still do not require direct sunlight, but they should not be kept completely in the dark, as small amounts of light will help them grow better.
- Growing mushrooms this way, they should begin to produce fruiting heads in about 3 to 4 months. Again, cut these off at the base of the stem, leaving the base in place so more mushrooms can grow from it.
Hen of the woods mushrooms can be cultivated at home with a little time and practice. If you love the taste of these mushrooms and would like to have them year round, why not try your hand at growing them yourself?