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About Mushrooms--Can they save the world?

Scene from one of the pots in my urban garden this morning -- Garland, Texas

What I don't know about mushrooms will fill volumes, but that doesn't prevent me from learning and putting forth the following challenge:  Before the end of 2014, members of Loving Garland Green will be growing mushrooms--if not at the Garland Community Garden, at least in our homes.  I don't know yet, until I examine our licensed area more carefully (as well as learn more about mushroom growing) if we have enough shade.

The root structure of mushrooms, known as mycelium, has been proven to have immense power for things such as boosting human immunity, cleaning up oil spills and guarding against outbreaks of disease. Even though they are not plants, but rather fungi, they are still worth investigating. Besides, like plants, many of them are edible and even nourishing. Shiitake mushrooms are known to boost immunity and lower cholesterol and white button mushrooms have antioxidants that can reduce heart disease. Oyster mushroom have proven successful in their use to clean up oil spills.  

Indeed, Paul Stamets, a mycologist who has spent years studying the power of the mushroom, tells folks the mushroom can "save the world."  He runs a company out of the state of Washington called Fungi Perfecti .  Stamets develops different strains of mushrooms. One of his trials showed that an oyster strain could reduce diesel contaminants from soil from 10,000 parts per million to just 200 ppm in about four months.  I guess those kinds of results are close to a miracle.

Microscopic cells called mycelium--the fruit of which are mushrooms--recycle carbon, nitrogen, and other essential elements as they break down plant and animal debris in the creation of rich new soil. Stamets has discovered that we can capitalize on mycelium’s digestive power and target it to decompose toxic wastes and pollutants (mycoremediation), catch and reduce silt from stream beds and pathogens from agricultural watersheds (mycofiltration), control insect populations (mycopesticides), and generally enhance the health of our forests and gardens (mycoforestry and myco-gardening).   His book provides much detail:  Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Save the World.

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Growing Mushrooms in Texas?

Yes.  Admittedly, unless you are very careful, they will likely not do as well in our climate as Mr. Stamets do in his damp Seattle climate, but as evidenced by the mushrooms from my garden this morning, we can grow them even here in Garland, Texas.

I looked up the instructions on e-how--a great Internet source for instructions on doing something you've never done before.  Here is a summary of the simple steps:

1.  Between one and three weeks after cutting a log, inoculate it with spawn.*

  • Drill holes in the log.
  • Pack the holes with spawn
  • Seal the holes with wax
    (You can also order logs that have already been inoculated.)

2.  Leave the log in the shade to colonize.  This process can take from several months up to a year.

3.  Induce fruiting.

  • Soak the log in cold fresh water 12 to 18 hours
  • Replace in shade.

4. Check for fruiting daily.  Cut them off with a knife when ready.  Inoculated logs can produce several crops.

 

*  Shiitake Mushroom Spawn

Mushroom Spores Grow Kits

Grow Your Own Oyster Mushrooms

Monday, April 21, 2014