Forest Grown Mushrooms a Superfood

Weekly CSA offering the northeast US shiitake mushrooms for health & healing


Many people appreciate the texture and unique taste of mushrooms without really knowing the full extent of their nutritional qualities. In fact, its easy to make the case that shiitake mushrooms are a superfood. Some of these amazing attributes include:

The proteins contained in shiitake are composed of 18 types of amino acids, including 7 of the 8 essential amino acids in a ratio similar to the "ideal protein" for humans. These mushrooms are one of the best sources of protein you can eat, especially for vegetarians/vegans looking to substitute animal proteins in their diet. (Resource)

Multiple studies conducted over the last ten years have demonstrated that an active component in shiitake called eritadenine "significantly decreased the plasma total cholesterol concentration, irrespective of dietary fat sources..." (Resource)

The polysaccharide lentinan, a (1-3) ß-D-glucan, is the compound most associated with cancer prevention properties of shiitake. In addition, lab experiments have shown that many of the trace components in shiitake provide blockages to tumor growth, and researchers have proposed that more than 100 different types of compounds in shiitake mushrooms may work together to accomplish anti-tumor results. (Resource)

The best documented health benefit, shiitake mushrooms are a unique supporter of the immune system. What is most interesting are that a number of studies have demonstrated the ability of shiitake to help prevent excessive immune system activity. At the same time, an equal number of studies have shown the ability of shiitake mushrooms to help stimulate immune system responses under certain circumstances. From a dietary perspective this means that shiitake appear to both give the system a boost when needed, and cut back on activity when beneficial to the body. (Resource)

"Shiitake mushrooms are an excellent source of three B vitamins (vitamins B2, B5 and B6), a very good source of one additional B vitamin (B2); a very good source of six minerals (manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, copper and zinc); a very good source of dietary fiber; and a good source of protein, magnesium, and vitamin D." In addition, fresh shiitake contain over 30 different enzymes. (Resource)

(Links to references for the above can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/AgroforestryResources)

Understory Mushrooms, based out of Mecklenburg, NY is selling weekly CSA shares of log-grown shiitake mushrooms this season, conveniently available alongside vegetable CSA pick up locations in Ithaca and Trumansburg, NY or mailed directly to your door!

Our season begins in late June and runs through early September.

Membership Benefits:
- A share of fresh, log grown mushrooms each week
- Weekly recipe, update from the farm, and mushroom facts
- Two quart mason jars of dried mushrooms for storage at the end of the season    
- Discounts on our spring workshops & other products we sell
- A few mushroom-related surprises along the way!

Choose from three sizes:
SMALL: 1/2 pound for $8/week = $96  (enough for one hearty mushroom meal)
MEDIUM: 1 pound for $12/week = $144 (enough to enjoy in a few meals)
LARGE: 2 pounds for $22/week = $264 (you are in mushroom heaven - ideal for                   vegetarians looking for quality protein)

If you wish to receive shiitake by mail, shipping charges apply.

Mushrooms are also available by pound fresh and by the ounce dried, with ample notice.

See our website for more details. Shares are limited! Sign up today.



Funding Granted for Research on Integrated Mushroom/Duck Agroforestry System

As mentioned in a post made last December, Work With Nature LLC applied for funding through Northeast SARE to support researching the feasibility of integrating meat duck production with cultivation of forest-grown shiitakes. We are please to announce we’ve been granted the funds to proceed with our research! Our rationale behind the need for this research was as follows:

(excerpt from grant)

“Log grown shiitake mushrooms are a growing interest of many Northeast Farmers. Barriers to entry include the labor-intensive nature of the process, frequent slug problems, and that laying yards are situated in woodland areas, often far from normal farm routines.

Integration of meat ducks into the laying yard brings more yields for the farmer on a single trip, promotes effective slug control, and better utilized forest ecosystems in the farm landscape. Ducks are an under appreciated farm asset with the potential to sustainably manage pests while providing high quality products for market. Little research has been done to demonstrate the potential for integrated duck farming in the Northeast.”

Our request for funding following on the heels of a wildly successful grant effort, “Cultivation of shiitake mushrooms as an agroforestry crop for New England,” a joint venture of the University of Vermont and Cornell University, which was funded in 2012. This project has thus far educated over 296 beginning and veteran farmers in 10 states and currently has 20 selected growers who are establishing and collecting data on log-grown shiitake cultivation around the Northeast. The response to this outreach effort has far exceeded the targets set in the grant.
download PDF

Project organizers recently released a beautiful guide for shiitake cultivation, which can be downloaded at the Northeast SARE website.

Our concept is based on the permaculture principle of stacking in time and space, as the annual yields of mushrooms and duck meat are stacked in time with the long-term yield of maple syrup and/or timber from a well-managed forest. By stacking complementary crops in one space, farmers can do work more efficiently and yield larger and more diverse products on less acreage.

Research will be conducted on a roughly 1-acre forested area that currently hosts the mushroom yard. This is a previously unmanaged forest with sugar maple dominating the overstory. Our operation currently has around 700 logs, and an additional 500 will be added in 2012 and 500 in 2013.

This trial will be conducted over two mushroom growing seasons (runs April through October), with the first season focusing on breed selection (2012), and the second season on system optimization (2013).
Design of laying yard
In 2012, we plan to set up three separate areas: two will trial different duck species, and one will serve as a control. Each plot will be about a quarter of an acre (see figure 3). Each area will have approximately 200 - 250 logs, which will be managed in 8 groups of about 20 logs per group.(Mushroom logs need 8 weeks of rest between soakings.)

Each week, we will soak a group from each of the three trial areas on the same day. After soaking we will conduct a slug count of soaked logs every day until all mushrooms have been harvested (usually 5 – 7 days aftersoaking). We will also weigh and grade mushrooms harvested each day, and photographing any noted damage to caps.

In each of the duck runs we will evaluate 20 Peking and Muscovy ducks. These are breeds selected for their good meat production, general tendency to forage, and low maintenance needs. We are keeping the breeds separate because duck breeds, and Muscovy’s in particular, tend to be aggressive toward other breeds. At the end of the season we hope to have good evidence to favor one breed over the other, whether it is because of temperament, foraging ability, weight gain, or a combination of factors.

If you are interested in keeping up with our progress on this project, we encourage you to “like” us on facebook, follow us on twitter, or simply sign up at right to receive e-mail updates.  

Our thanks to Northeast SARE, the technical support of Ken Mudge and Roger Ort from Cornell, and for members of the Northeast Mushroom Growers Network for providing feedback during our initial survey.
Inquiries can be directed to steve@agroforestrysolutions.com.


Active Forest Management for Carbon Sequestration, mushrooms, meat, & wood products

Published in the January 13th issue of Tompkins Weekly (download free PDF copy here)


Many people assume that the role forests play in combating climate change is simple; just leave the trees, and they’ll grow and store carbon as they mature. While the idea of keeping land forested is important to sequestering more carbon, the rate of carbon storage a forest is drastically affected by the management choices that farmers and landowners engage in. And in fact, there is good evidence that sustainably managed forests may offer more climate benefits than those left unmanaged.

In a report issued last fall, the Society of American Foresters offered the insights of an extensive review of more than 280 recent studies of forest carbon relationships and noted that, “Young, healthy forests are carbon sinks. As forests mature, they generally become carbon-cycle neutral or even carbon emission sources…decline varies but generally occurs in the first 100–150 years as tree mortality losses increase.”

Many of our local forests are under 100 years old, often the young regrowth resulting from the widespread abandonment of farmland over the last century. Forest cover in Tompkins County was around 19% percent in 1900, but the widespread abandonment of farmland has increased cover to over 60% today.

But this trend won’t last forever. As forests get older, the pattern shifts from growth to decay, which releases carbon. Since much of the forestland is first generation, active management is needed to maintain a diversity of ages, balancing the benefits of mature trees with the vigor of new growth. Spreading the harvest of trees over a longer timeframe and supporting regeneration of young seedlings ensures forests can continue to be good sequesters of carbon.

American Chestnut stump from civil war era
Age is but one factor in the equation. Forest health is another key element. Trees that are overcrowded, diseased, or stressed from other factors do not grow as rapidly as those that are given ample sunlight and moisture. Thinning out weaker trees has the effect of giving the healthiest trees an opportunity to grow faster and absorb even greater amounts of carbon.

Relieving stressors in the forest also means that outbreaks of pests and diseases are less likely to wipe out a forest, which rapidly increases carbon release to the atmosphere. As a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on ClimateChanges states, “Sustainable management practices keep forests growing at a higher rate over a potentially longer period of time, thus providing net sequestration benefits…”

To be successful, management opportunities need to be diverse. Current incentives for managing forests revolve mostly around timber harvesting, which often dramatically impacts the forest by removing many of the older and healthier trees that should be left to re-seed the next generation.  More localized, small scale, and economical drivers need development to encourage more people to get into the woods and manage for long-term health.

Agroforestry practices provide real potential to involve farmers and foresters in a cooperative effort to engage in good management while growing crops for a multitude of income streams. Of these practices, two in particular are being promoted as promising new forms of agriculture: silvopasture and forest farming.

Silvopasture combines forestry (Silvo means “forest”) with rotational grazing of livestock, which benefits the trees, the animals, and the farmer. The practice including thinning appropriate forests to about a 50% canopy cover and growing native perennial grasses in the understory, which are grazed by animals and then allowed a rest period. (see previous blog post)

The resulting system provides a sustainable source of meat in the short-term and also can yield a multitude of wood products including firewood, timber, mushroom logs, fenceposts, etc. Alternatively, nut trees could be planted for a food yield. Good rotational grazing practices have also shown to bolster carbon sequestration in soil, which means this system could be an incredible carbon sink.

Forest farming is a practice of cultivating forest crops such as mushrooms, medicinal plants, and fruits under an existing forest canopy. Of these practices, the most developed in the Northeast United States is cultivation of edible mushrooms, most notably shiitake. Trees thinned out to improve forest health are inoculated with mushroom spawn and each log yields 8 to 10 pounds of mushrooms over its lifetime, with each pound fetching $10 - $12. (more: Mushroom classes and Mushroom CSA)

Systems like the above mentioned give farmers and landowners direct incentive to manage their forests and thus support carbon sequestration, along with numerous other benefits that forests provide, including regulating temperature and wind flows, providing habitat for many species, and preventing soil erosion. A sustainable future land use must include tree-based systems as a way to counteract climate change.

Steve Gabriel grew up in Tompkins County and has had a lifelong interest in forests. He currently promotes agroforestry practices through Work With Nature, LLC, where the mission is to design and develop forest-based agriculture systems to preserve and enhance northeastern forests and support farm economy. He can be reached at www.workwithnaturedesign.com, where sources for this article may be found.


Learn edible mushroom cultivation this spring

many classes are hands-on

NEWFIELD, NY -- Work With Nature, LLC is pleased to announce a series of Mushroom classes to be offered March through June in the Northeastern states of New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

The classes all focus on different elements of mushroom cultivation and the link of mushrooms to healthy forests, soils, and people. Host sites for the eleven classes include Cornell Cooperative Extension offices, permaculture
demonstration sites, and a range of local farms.

Workshops are being supported by the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute and the Northeast Mushroom Growers Network.

Oysters consuming oil (Source: Fungi Perfecti)
Mushroom cultivation and wild foraging have become increasingly popular in recent years as growing interest in the organism has led to a range of discoveries, from the compounds in shiitake mushrooms that prevent cancer to
the potential for oyster mushrooms to comsume oil from spills to the recent
discovery by a team of Yale students that the fungus Pestalotiopsismicrospora is able to decompose plastic trash.

stropharia rugosa-annulata
Recently, work by researchers at Cornell University has demonstrated the economic potential for farming Shiitake, which are  grown on hardwood logs and soaked to force fruiting. Research has established the most suitable northern hardwood species for cultivation (Oak, Sugar Maple, Beech, Ironwood), the proper cultivation methods, and the estimated yields from a well managed operation. A high value food and medicine crop, shittakes retail at $12 to 16 dollars a pound if grown outside naturally on logs.

Workshops are facilitated by Steve Gabriel, who has been cultivating and experimenting with forest grown mushrooms, maple sugaring, and other agroforestry practices since 2006. Participants will learn several cultivation methods for multiple species (shiitake, lions mane, oyster, and stropharia) that are practical on both a home and small commercial scale and appropriate for all experience levels.

For more full class descriptions and registration info visit the classes page or call (607) 342-2825. Visitors to the website can also sign up for a weekly blog with mushroom stories, research, and recipes. (see the sidebar on the right!)

Dates and locations:


CCE Steuben County, Bath, NY: March 24
SUNY Ulster County, Kingston, NY: April 28
CCE Hamilton County, Piseco, NY: May 19

Brooks Bend Farm, Montague, MA: April 21
Three Sisters Farm, Sandy Lake, PA: May 12
Rochester Permaculture Center, Rochester NY: May 13

Anderson Farm, Mecklenburg, NY: May 5th & 6th

Little Farm of Paradise, Hampton NY: May 20
Shannon Brook Farm, Watkins Glen, NY: June 10


Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, VT: June 2
Twin Ponds Retreat, Brookfield, VT: June 3

Steve Gabriel, Work With Nature LLC