This familiar food from the mountains is cultivated slowly on perfectly temperature-controlled mushroom beds.
At the foothills of Nanatsumori in Taiwa Town located just to the north of Sendai City, shiitake mushrooms have been cultivated on logs since ancient times. Hayasaka Seikichi is one of the farmers who have cultivated shiitake mushrooms for many years. Since switching to using mushroom beds in 1995, he has been producing shiitake mushrooms while taking steps to expand this industry, such as establishing the “Nanatsumori Mushroom-bed Grown Shiitake Mushroom Producers Association”.
According to Mr. Hayasaka, “Shiitake mushrooms grown on logs require wood logs cut to precise dimensions and made from trees that had been cut from fall to winter. As such, they are easily influenced by weather and environmental conditions, making spouting and harvesting amount unpredictable. On the other hand, shiitake mushrooms grown on mushroom beds in temperature-controlled greenhouses have the advantage of being available for harvest all year round.”
In the 20 greenhouses owned by the association, 130,000 mushroom beds are housed. The harvested shiitake mushrooms are shipped mainly to Sendai, Fukushima, Yamagata and Tokyo. "The growth quickens if it is too warm, so we maintain the temperature inside the greenhouse at 15 degrees. Growing them slowly at a lower temperature makes the mushrooms thicker and firm." Mr. Hayasaka says he can identify to some extent the mushrooms that will grow big and beautiful as soon as they germinate. He also says some even grow to be over 10 cm in diameter.
Despite his wealth of experience, he makes sure to attend a yearly workshop. He visits other shiitake mushroom growers across Japan and devotes himself to learning new techniques. "When the mushrooms grown on the beds first went to market, the quality of the mushrooms on the logs was better. But nowadays technology has improved, and I believe there is little difference in quality." Mr. Hayasaka expresses confidence that his endeavors will continue.