There’s a giant black cottonwood behind the house looming over our yard and the neighbor’s yard. It’s several times taller than the house and at least twice my arms span in circumference. I don’t dare measure precisely because it is covered in English ivy and I may have developed an allergy to that.
The neighbors with whom we share a backyard said that the cottonwood throws down spears, impaling the ground, during a windstorm. My roommate, the owner of the house, called a couple tree care specialists to lop of the longest, heaviest, most dangerous limps. So now we have a pile of cottonwood logs in the backyard.
Cottonwood is ideal for a variety of mushrooms, including oyster mushrooms. I bought a baggie of 100 blue oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus var. columbinus) dowel plugs from The Mushroomery at a farmer’s market.
To inoculate a log with the plugs, I drill holes two inches down into the wood. I space the holes six inches apart in rows every two inches. Then I hammer a plug into each hole. The Mushroomery says I should seal over the completed holes with beeswax to protect the spores from weather and insects. I don’t have beeswax so I’m substituting the wax from an unscented tea candle.
And that’s it. I just keep it out of direct sunlight and I’ll have delicious oyster mushrooms in six months to a year.
Well damn. That’s a long time. I’m hungry now. That’s even longer than tomatoes.
I’m giving inoculated logs to my friends as gifts. The directions say I can work with logs as short as two feet and small as four inches in diameter. That’s about as hefty a piece of wood as I can lug up a hill bungied to my bike rack or fit in a pannier.
I wanted to give a log to my friend whose father recently died. I can’t think of anything more symbolic of life from death than mushrooms growing out of a dead tree to nourish our bodies. Turns out he hates mushrooms.