A great health food supplement is only as good as the source material in which the ingredients come from and our story begins first with a little reishi history.
For thousands of years, the rare and revered “mushroom of immortality” could only be found in dense forests on remote mountains. The reishi mushroom’s growing habitat required a delicate balance of humidity, temperature, and nutrients provided by the soil and the wood-logs on which it grew on. As reishi prefers to grow in hot and humid conditions, good quality reishi is mostly found in Asia. Not only was it rare, the quality of wild reishi was inconsistent due to environmental factors such as disease and insect infestations which may have prevented it from growing to full maturity.
To add to the difficulty of finding good quality reishi, there are also many varieties of reishi. While classical herbal medicine texts state of six kinds of reishi (red, black, blue, white, purple, and yellow), there are actually 53 confirmed varieties. Of all the reishi strains, red reishi is considered the most health beneficial and the safest to consume. It was for these reasons and its rarity that red reishi was worth more than gold and reserved only for use by royalty.
It was not until the 1970’s when a group of Japanese researchers including Fumimaru Mayuzumi, the founder of Nikkei Co. and astute mycologist from the Tokyo Agricultural University, embarked on a mission to develop the best reishi mushroom cultivation method. Their goal? To grow high grade red reishi of consistent quality and in a natural environment. It was during this intensive research that the Mayuzumi family, the producers of Mikei, discovered their own Japanese red reishi strain and a technique for its cultivation on aged wood-logs in greenhouses, now known world-wide as natural wood-log cultivation. Because of the Mayuzumi family’s efforts, Japanese red reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is now commercially available.
Natural Wood-log Reishi Cultivation
- Natural wood-log cultivation of red reishi is first accomplished by grafting superior quality reishi fungi (Mayuzumi strain) onto aged oak wood-logs. The wood-logs are then placed in a heating chamber for a period of time to inoculate.
- The inoculated wood-logs are then placed in greenhouses in a rigorously controlled environment.
- The wood-logs are covered with nutrient-rich topsoil. The quality of soil and wood-log is crucial for the reishi to draw nutrients upon and grow into large, high quality reishi.
- Inside the greenhouse, a sanitized irrigation system must be used. Temperature, light intensity, and humidity are constantly monitored. The room must also be well-ventilated and blocked from direct sunlight.
- Red reishi begins to flush and grows gradually. Weeds may sprout and insects may appear, but no agricultural chemicals or pesticides are used.
- In the last stage of growth, spores break out from the underside of the reishi cap of the fruiting body and into the atmosphere. The reishi spores eventually settles and covers the soil with a reddish-brown color.
- The best harvest time is right after the sporing period. Each fully mature reishi mushroom is carefully cut by hand, collected, and then dried. The entire process repeats again for the next year’s harvest. Periodically the greenhouse soil must be left fallow to allow the nutrients to be replenished before the same greenhouse is used again.
The entire process of the natural wood-log cultivation method takes nearly a year. The pictures shown above were taken at the Nikkei Co. farm in Isesaki-shi, Gunma-ken, Japan in 2014.