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Chicken of the woods, also known as ‘chicken fungus’, is an edible species of mushrooms that tastes incredibly similar to chicken meat which earned it the name ‘chicken of the woods’. This mushroom species is easy to recognize from its yellow and orange colored fungal brackets that overlap each other and grow in clusters. You’ve come to the right place if you are interested in learning to grow chicken of the woods indoors.
In the outdoors, you will encounter chicken of the woods growing high up on a tree because it is heart rot fungus. As a heart rot fungal species, it grows and sucks nutrients from wood that results in a brown heart rot to appear. Since it is a parasite, the chicken of the woods may cause its host tree to die or at least wither and get weaker.
Why should chicken of the woods mushrooms be grown?
Chicken of the woods is a mushroom species that really does taste like chicken!
Try cutting a few piece of this mushroom, dip them in egg batter, and roll them around in finely diced breadcrumbs. Next, ask your friends and family members to give them a taste. They will not be able to tell the difference between chicken of the woods strips and real chicken strips!
Chicken of the woods mushrooms are also a fantastic source of protein! If you are vegan, you will want to consider incorporating them in your diet. You can use them to make chicken patties, chicken sandwiches, or chicken crepes. They are a cruelty-free source of proteins, antioxidants, and nutrition.
If you do not enjoy the taste and texture of mushrooms, you might want to change your mind after you have tasted chicken of the woods!
Steps to Growing Chicken of the Woods Indoors
You may have heard of mushroom cultivators growing chicken of the woods in growing bags in basement shelves or in petri dishes in laboratories. Unfortunately, there is not much documented research on large-scale production of mushrooms in a strictly confined environment. While these methods are practical, cultivating mushrooms in hardwood logs and sawdust blocks is the most reliable means of growing chicken of the woods. In order to grow and flower, chicken of the woods you only need the following:
- Nutrient source
Unlike plants, mushrooms do not need sunlight because they do not have chlorophyll. Keeping them in shade will help the mycelium spread out its fiber-like hyphae to absorb nutrients from its host. Keep reading to find out how you can grow chicken of the woods indoors!
Inoculating logs for spawn
Cut out a hardwood piece of log
Chicken of the woods is known to grow best on oak trees, but you can use any hardwood species to cut out a piece of log such as ironwood, maple, tulip poplar, river birch, cherry, honey locust, or black walnut. The best time to cut your log is during winter when the trees are dormant.
Make sure that the wood you choose is:
- Free of diseases and infections
- At least 3 feet in length
- 4 – 6 inches in diameter
The bark needs to be intact when you extract it from the tree. Make use of hardwood that is fresh. It is recommended that you cut out your logs from a tree that has recently been felled or has not been dead for longer than a month. Pieces of logs that have been sitting around in the wild for a long time will have already attracted enough fungal spores. Your chicken of the woods mushroom spawn does not want more competition!
Drill holes in your log
Next, you will want to drill holes in your log to begin the process of inoculation. To drill holes, you will need a multi-purpose 5/16” drill bit. You can begin by drilling holes that are two inches away from the either end of your log. The distance between drilled holes should be at least six inches or more. Your holes will need to be drilled in rows, so the total number of rows depends on the width of your log. For reference, not that a piece of log with a radius of two to three inches will typically have three rows of drilled holes for inoculation.
Note: Do not drill too many holes as it can discourage healthy growth of your chicken of the woods mushrooms.
Introduce your chicken of the woods spawn
You can order chicken of the woods spawn online or buy them from a local store.
Insert the spawn plugs inside the holes that you have drilled and tap them to ensure they are lodged deep enough. Next, cover each hole with melted wax.
Doing so will help your spawn from getting dehydrated and keeps insect infestations at bay. It is recommended that you use cheese wax as it remains soft and flexible, even in the winter seasons. Cover the ends of your log with wax. If you notice signs of damage or deep cuts around the edges of your log, you will want to cover those with wax too.
Harvesting Chicken of the Woods
Keep your logs in shade to help them incubate. Just make sure you deep water them once every few weeks, especially if you live in a dry climatic zone. Your inoculated log will produce mushrooms after one year and each log will last you for the next five years!
Delicious chicken of the woods!
Growing chicken of the woods indoors is easy!
Just remember the following commandments when taking care of them:
- Place the logs in a shaded area
- Keep them moist
- Do not use the same log for more than seven years