This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
One of the industries of Japan is the cultivation of Mushrooms, which are exported in large quantities from that country, and some interesting information respecting them is given by Consul Robertson in his report on the trade of Kanagawa, lately issued. The best of the edible species of Mushrooms are known as "Matsutake " and " Shii-take." The difficulties attendant on preserving the former kind almost exclude them from the market for export; for not only do they decompose very rapidly, but even when successfully dried are nearly tasteless, and thus useless in cookery. The Shii-take species, however, have this peculiar excellence, that, though all but tasteless in their raw state, when they are dried they have an extremely fine flavor. The quantity that grows naturally on the decayed roots or cut stumps of the Shii tree is not sufficient to meet the demand for them; consequently much skill has been brought to bear on their cultivation, notably by cutting oft* the trunks of the Shii and other trees, and forcing the growth of the Mushroom on them.
Different varieties of Oak are most in favor for the cultivation of the Mushroom, the tree known as the Shii giving, however, the best results.
About the beginning of Autumn, the trunk, about five or six inches in diameter is selected, and cut up into lengths of four or five feet; each piece is then split down lengthwise into four, and on the outer bark slight incisions are either made at once with a hatchet, or the cut logs are left till the following Spring, and then deep wounds, seven or eight inches long, are incised on them. Assuming the first course to have been pursued, the logs, after having received several slight incisions, are placed in a wood or grove where they can get the full benefit of the air and heat. In about three years they will be tolerably rotten in parts. After the more rotten parts are removed they are placed against a rack in a slanting position, and about the middle of the ensuing Spring the Mushrooms will come forth in abundance. They are then gathered. The logs are, however, still kept, and are submitted to the following process: Every morning they are put in water, where they remain till afternoon, when they are taken out, laid lengthwise on the ground, and beaten with a mallet. They are then ranged on end in the same slanting position as before, and in two or three days Mushrooms will again make their appearance.
When the logs are beaten so heavily that the wood swells, Mushrooms are induced of a more than ordinarily large growth. If the logs are beaten gently a great number of small sized Mushrooms grow up in succession. In places where there is a scarcity of water, rain-water should be kept for steeping the logs in.
There is yet another plan. The cut logs are buried in the earth, and in a year's time are dug out and beaten as above described. The Mushrooms thus grown are stored in a barn, on shelves ranged along three sides, with braziers lighted under. Afterwards they are placed in small boxes, the bottoms of which are lined either with straw or bamboo mats. These boxes are then ranged on the shelves, and all approaches carefully closed. An even degree of warmth is thus diffused. The boxes ranged on the upper or lower tiers are constantly changed, so that the contents of each are thoroughly dried. Another mode of of drying is to string the Mushrooms on thin slips of bamboo, which are piled together near the brazier; the heat is well kept in by inverting a closely woven basket over them. Dried Mushrooms, which are much liked by the Chinese and largely consumed by the Japanese, retain their flavor for a great length of time, and thus bear transport to any distance very well. - Pall Mall Gazette.