How to Grow and Use Reishi Mushrooms
Answered by: Richters Staff
Question from: Robert M. Kaplan
Posted: Before April 1998

What is required and involved in the growing and harvest of this wonder mushroom? How is it consumed: fresh or dried?

The bible on growing mushrooms is Paul Stamet’s book "Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms." It has a 15 page chapter on the ‘ling zhi’ or ‘reishi’ mushroom. It covers all aspects of culture: culturing spawn, Chinese-style buried log cultivation, Japanese-style shaded log cultivation, and cultivation on sawdust blocks.Richters sells live colonies growing in sawdust blocks. These can be grown indoors or out quite successfully. They need high humidity, warm temperatures and light.

There are two types of reishi and both grow from the same live colonies. The first is the ‘antler’ type shown in the Richters catalogue. The second is the ‘conk’ type, similar to the conk fungi that grow on trees in forests. Whether the colony develops antlers or conks depends on the growing conditions. The antler type develops when the carbon dioxide gas level is high and ambient light is low, while the conk type develops at lower carbon dioxide levels and higher light. By keeping the colony enclosed in a plastic bag, it is possible to get the antler type, while slitting the bag yields the conk type.

For conk formation you need a warm, humid environment, about 21-27 degrees Celsius (70-80 degrees Fahrenheit) and 95-100% relative humidity. Antler formation requires slightly cooler temperatures, 18-24 degrees Celsius (65-75 degrees Fahrenheit). Either way it takes 2-4 weeks to get a harvest.

Which type to grow? That’s up to you. Both are used. The antler type is less bitter than the conk type, and its wonderfully variable growth forms appeal to many as a form of art. Commercial producers grow the conk type because more biomass is produced.

The mushroom is edible but probably too bitter for North American tastes. It is most often consumed as a tea for its medicinal properties. It is used to treat cancer, chronic fatigue, liver degeneration, blood disorders and more. Much of its medicinal value is attributed to its potent immune- modulating properties.

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