Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms in the world, not only for its delicious taste but also for its health benefits such as potentially aiding the natural renewal process of the skin, activating the immune system and preventing sclerosis of the arteries.
So who wouldn’t want to eat a heap of Shiitake mushrooms right!? It’s just such a shame that growing them is such a long and quite labour intensive task. They are generally grown on hardwood logs, whereby the log needs to be inoculated with shiitake mycelium or spores, which allows the hyphae to grow throughout the log. Fungi farmers have to submerge the logs for 1-2 days in water and then mechanically beat the logs, which is supposed to stimulate the shiitake into its reproductive phase of growth to produce those scrumptious mushroom caps.
But just wait, listen to this… it has long been known that atmospheric electricity i.e. lightning can boost the growth of plants, insects, rats (…ew) and now even mushrooms! Research is being undertaken by Japanese researchers in Iwate University, Japan to show the effects of artificial lightning strikes on the growth of Shiitake mushrooms and their results are quite promising.
It is believed that the extreme and rapid rise in temperature caused by a lightning strike causes shock waves to travel to and vibrate through logs where Shiitake mushrooms are growing. The shock wave moves the hyphae and stimulate the production of fruiting bodies – much like the mechanical beating by farmers.
In previous studies the researchers saw significant increases in yield when they artificially ran a direct current through the Shiitake log. However, it is known that lightning strikes can even stimulate the growth of mushrooms from miles away!
Therefore in a more recent study the Japanese researchers also proved that the lightning doesn’t need to strike directly on or next to the mushrooms to have a significant effect on the growth. They generated currents further away from the Shiitake log and still saw a significant increase in fruiting body yields. It was hypothesised that it is not only the electricity that stimulates the growth of the mushroom directly but the effect on the surrounding environment that also helps to stimulate the mushroom growth!
The team of scientists are now working to adapt their methods and equipment for integration in to the fungiculture industry. They wish to develop an affordable and compact machine so that many countries around the word can utilise their technology... Shiitake mushrooms for everyone!!!
Rahman, M. A., Abdullah, N., & Aminudin, N. (2016). Lentinula edodes (shiitake mushroom): An assessment of in vitro anti-atherosclerotic bio-functionality. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences. doi:10.1016/j.sjbs.2016.01.021
Cosmetic Benefits of Natural Ingredients: Mushrooms, Feverfew, Tea, and Wheat Complex. Whitney P. Bowe MD. Journal Of Drugs in Dermatology 2013. SUNY Downstate College of Medicine, Brooklyn, NY
Photo by: Frank Cone