Shiitake (Lentinula Edodes)

Common Names

One of the most common of the gourmet mushrooms species is the “shii mushroom.” It is called the shii mushroom because it is known to derive from the shii tree. It is commonly known by its Japanese name, the Shiitake.

In the scientific world, the shiitake is identified as lentinula edodes. Shiitake also carries other nicknames like, golden oak and the black forest mushroom.


The cap of the shiitake is colored dark brown and rounded at the top when they are newly formed. But the color fades and the cap flattens out as the mushroom ages and dries. The gills of the shiitake are generally white, but they can brown if damaged or bruised.


The shiitake mushroom originated in Eastern Asia. Countries like Japan, China and Korea were the first to discover, cultivate and use mushrooms for their medicinal benefits.

It is unknown who first cultivated shiitake; however, the first record of shiitake cultivation occurred in China by Wu Sang Kwuang during the Sung Dynasty (960 AD – 1127 AD). The ancient method of inoculation used by Wu Sang Kwuang was to place freshly cut shii logs next to older logs that were already producing shiitake mushrooms.  The spores from the mushrooms fruiting on the older logs would land on the fresh logs, and inoculate them.  In order to encourage the inoculated logs to fruit, Wu Sang would soak the logs in water, and upon removing them from the water, strike them with a heavy mallet. 


Shiitake, much like other mushroom species, grow at the base of decomposing hardwood trees. The shii tree, Asian oak tree and Asian beech tree have been known to produce shiitakes for centuries.

Natural Cultivation Methods

When using the hardwood log cultivation method, shiitakes grow best when cultivated on non-aromatic broadleaf logs such as alder, beech, birch, cottonwood, eucalyptus, ironwood, oak, poplar, sweetgum, and willow.

When grown on hardwoods that are quickly decaying, they might only fruit for up to three years. But, if cultivated on dense hardwoods, shiitakes can fruit for as long as six years!

Fruiting Cycles and Yield Potentials

You can also grow your own shiitake mushrooms using a block of inoculated substrate. We sell ready to grow inoculated substrate.  We call our substrate the Mushroom Shack Mushroom Farm. The Shiitake Mushroom Farm has a fruiting cycle up to 3 months.

For every five pounds of sawdust (the typical amount contained in one of our Mushroom Farm Kits), the substrate block will produce 1-2 pounds of fresh mushrooms per flush. The Farm will fruit (produce mushrooms) every 2-3 weeks for as long as 8-12 weeks (provided instructions are followed correctly).


The best substrates to use indoors when producing shiitake mushrooms are alder, ironwood, poplar, oak, and sweetgum. When producing shiitake mushrooms indoors you want to use sawdust, chips, rice, or rye bran along with gypsum to get the most out of your indoor kit.

Alder and poplar do not support outdoor growing very well. Oak is usually the most preferred product to produce the largest volume when cultivating shiitakes outdoors.

Medicinal/Nutritional Properties

The shiitake is well known in Asian countries for its anticancer properties. Shiitakes contain a polysaccharide called lentinan, which is used as an agent in anticancer drugs in Japan.

The shiitake is beneficial for other health related issues as well. They are anti-tumor, anti-viral, antibacterial, they help to reduce blood pressure, help reduce blood sugar, help reduce cholesterol, boost immune systems, good for kidney and liver health, and help to reduce stress.

Cooking with Shiitakes

Shiitake is not just an aid to your nutritional needs, but shiitake can also be added to a wealth of recipes. Shiitakes are also an excellent meat substitute for vegetarians.