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Apparently someone is selling a chainsaw bar oil that has mushroom spores in it. It is stated as a vegetable based oil. And people are apparently actually purchasing this, not understanding what, exactly, it is, or the probable effects.
No, I have not used this. No, I do not intend to. I do not need to use it to understand the science surrounding it.
I am a loggers daughter. I grew up around chainsaws, and was using one by the time I was a teenager to "bump knots" (cut limbs from trees that were felled by my father, in his logging business).
Bar oil is put in a reservoir in the chain saw, where it is dispensed onto the bar as the temperature of the bar rises. It is designed to keep the bar cool and lubricated.
So, there are five problems with this oil - which tell me purchasing it is not a good idea, and using it may be a serious problem.
1. Mushroom spores require air, and water, to grow. They don't exactly germinate like seeds do, but they are like a seed in that they have similar requirements, for food, moisture, air, and warmth to initiate growth.
Oil coats the spores. The moisture in the oil may evaporate, but the oil itself will not. It is likely that it will STOP the spores from initiating growth, because the spore will remain coated in oil, and unable to receive the air and moisture it needs.
So in the first place, the entire concept of putting spores in oil is flawed.
2. Now, bar oil on a chainsaw lubricates the groove between the chain and the bar. It does not drip from there, you will rarely even notice the presence of it while handling a saw. When the machine functions correctly it does not actually get onto the saw teeth. Not sufficient to be detectible anyway.
So in the second place, if it DID work, it would distribute insufficient spores to be effective.
3. Ever used a chainsaw? The reason for bar oil is to keep the bar cool, but it is like an engine and engine oil. Even WITH bar oil, the bar can get quite hot. Most mushroom spores will die in excess of 100 degrees (a few higher, many lower).
That groove in the bar where the oil is dispensed gets plenty hot as that chain whirls around. The teeth also generate tremendous heat as they chew through wood, and most of that is transferred to the base of the teeth.
So... even if the first two issues were not a problem, the spores would die anyway, due to being cooked on the chainsaw bar.
4. This reason is the one that makes me tell people "No... it is NOT worth a try.".
Chainsaw bar oil is a variation on engine oil, which is formulated to dispense heat, and to NOT turn into glue at high heats.
Vegetable oil, on the other hand, will cause moving parts to seize at much lower temperatures. It is NOT designed to be used as a bar oil replacement. I do not know the formulation of the particular vegetable oil used, but I do know that vegetable based oils are not rated for high friction based heat applications. There are some IN DEVELOPMENT, but this is a LONG way from being usable.
Chances are, with a few cuts you would not notice a problem, but well into your project you'd run into trouble. And with use on hardwoods (where more heat is generated), or a chain that was not properly sharpened, you could end up with significant damage to your chainsaw.
So even if it dispensed spores as promised, it would still not be a good idea.
5. Your chainsaw bar oil reservoir has bar oil in it. It is petroleum based, not vegetable based. Your mycospore oil is now contaminated.
IF you put it on the bar, you over oil your bar, grease your chain, and that is not good because that slings oil where you do not want it on your chainsaw.
And if you put mycospore oil in the reservoir, then it will contaminate your reservoir, causing potential problems with the efficiency of your bar oil for quite a while. You can't exactly clean out the reservoir and get the vegetable oil out.
So IF it did work, it would still not be a good idea to use it on a piece of equipment that you ever intended to revert to its original purpose, and it would be very difficult to not mix it with petroleum oils.
Basically, flawed idea all the way around. OH, it sounds cool, and is one of those neat sounding ideas that will undoubtedly continue to catch people's imaginations and pocketbooks for a while if they fail to think it out, or fail to understand how chainsaws and mushrooms work.
But if you understand chainsaws, and mushrooms, you pretty much know this is NOT a good idea, and that somebody out there knows this and is making money from it anyway.
Save your money.
There are easier (and cheaper) ways to sow mushrooms.
Mushroom Spores can store for years dried. Commercial dried mushrooms are NOT suitable for a spawning attempt!
Our mushrooms are specially dried (using a process we developed), in conditions which are optimized by mushroom type, for maximum spore retention and viability. You get whole mushroom caps, or partial caps with sufficient spawn for sowing a good sized patch, or starting multiple containers.
There are several ways to extract the spores from the dried mushrooms. They can then be applied to appropriate substrates to create spawn, or applied directly into the mushroom habitat to naturalize them outside or in a container garden.
Dried Spawn is EASY to use! Just reconstitute in water, and either finely chop or use a blender, and pour the resulting spore and mushroom mixture over your substrate or onto the ground where they need to be sown.
Why dried spawning mushrooms instead of spore syringes? You get five important benefits:
- More spores. You get HUNDREDS of times the amount of spores that you'd get in a syringe... usually more! Most spore syringes have only a minute percentage of the spores from a single mushroom. A small amount of mushroom goes a VERY long way!
- Better genetic variability. If you are starting a mushroom farm, you want as broad a base of genetics as you can get, for better disease and pest resistance, better flavor and hardiness qualities. Excessive cloning weakens mushroom strains. By starting out with a more varied set of genetics, your mushrooms have the potential to strengthen, rather than weaken over time. Odds are that you'll get spores from more than one mushroom specimen.
- Lower cost. For the same price as a VERY low quality (high contamination potential) spore syringe, you can get a high quality supply of hundreds of times the amount of spores, with better viability and far better quality spores.
- Better Quality. Because we have not added water, antibiotics, or chemical substances, you have more control over the quality of the processes and end product.
- Longer shelf-life. Spores that are suspended in water are more fragile than dried spores. Dried spores are nature's native way of doing it. Little "seed" packets which are designed to survive until they have a suitable growing environment. Mushroom spores can survive for decades in the wild if they are in a cool (not cold), dry, and dark environment. Once they are wet, the shelf-life diminishes greatly, and they are more sensitive to temperature changes. A longer shelf-life means that you can use a portion of the spores from each mushroom for one round of spawning, and save the rest for later. Just store it someplace cool (generally between 50 and 60 degrees), dry, and dark.
- Visual Confirmation. You get to SEE at least part of the mushroom you are cultivating! If we send you pieces of Parasol Mushroom caps instead of Mature Paddy Straw Mushrooms, you WILL notice! If we send you a Pleurotus instead of a Chanterelle, you'll know! You'll be able to see it, smell it, and feel it. You don't have any of those options with spore syringes - there isn't anything to look at for macroscopic identifying features!
While not quite as quick and simple as spawning from fresh mushrooms, spawning from dried spawning mushrooms is an excellent cost effective method for getting a healthy start on a shoestring!
We have no restrictions on how you use these. If you want to create your own mushroom growing products from these, you are welcome to do so. Our mushrooms are not proprietary, they are meant to be grown, and to help YOU survive and thrive, however you choose to do that.
I had no intention of looking for certain mushrooms. I figured the best policy was to stick to those that were known safe, and other than allergic type sensitivities, eat and sell only those mushrooms that were absolutely recommended edibles.
That changed one afternoon as I drove home following the first fall rains. Parasol type mushrooms EVERYWHERE. They were Chlorophyllum Molybdites. The Green Spored Parasol. Renowned for causing more mushroom poisonings each year than any other mushroom, simply because they can be difficult to differentiate from Shaggy Parasol mushrooms (the key is that Shaggies grow in the woods and near the woods, Green Spored grows in meadows, pastures, lawns, and other mowed areas).
In the interest of studying them, I gathered a few. And I learned some really interesting things.
- HANDLING Chlorophyllum Molybdites is sufficient to make you sick. I gathered them twice, about a week apart. I handled them with bare hands. Both times I experienced nausea and general weakness and fatigue starting about 18 hours after handling them, which lasted about 24 hours. This is RARE among mushrooms, I've handled many others since and no other poisonous mushroom has done this.
- Green Spored Parasols grown in lawns that have been treated with herbicides do not show strong green coloration to the gills. They may show none at all, even when fairly mature. Those grown on untreated pastures show the green spore color much sooner, and are easier to detect. Conclusion: Do not gather any kind of Parasol Mushroom from a lawn that has been treated, or which MIGHT have been treated, with herbicides - you need those green spores to show up to identify the mushroom.
- It is actually edible. Yeah. I tried it. In fact, there are reports from other people eating this and NOT getting sick from it. But there is a catch! Turns out, ALL Shaggy Parasol mushrooms are suspect. The ones recommended as good edibles ALL come with a warning - Make sure you COOK them thoroughly. Otherwise they cause digestive upset. That is all Molybdites does - it just causes SEVERE gastric upset (we are talking potential bleeding bowels here, not something you want to flirt with). So I hypothesized that whatever it is in the other Shaggy Parasols that cooks out, is probably the same thing in Molybdites. Just MORE OF IT. So COOK LONGER. I did. I boiled them for 20 minutes. Ate a small sample like I would with any first time mushroom - much smaller with this one since it had a higher likelihood of causing a problem. My husband had some too. No sign of anything. No nausea, no stomach upset, nothing. The rule about cooking is true of a LOT of suspect mushrooms - number one reason why some people get sick from something, and others do not, is insufficient cooking time. Typically boiling 10 minutes, or frying until crispy is sufficient. With Molybdites, double the boiling time, and frying until crispy is insufficient, it must be cooked additionally at a lower temp (so it won't burn). Helpful to know if you are ever in a survival situation, but still best to start with small amounts and work up, since no two people react the same to any mushroom.
- It has potential medicinal benefits. The thing that makes you sick is also an anti-cancer, anti-viral agent. Simply handling the mushroom is sufficient to do the job - of course, since it is also the thing that makes you sick, it is like a lot of medications with side effects. Not something you want to play around with unless you are in a situation where it is needed, and more reliable medical care is not available. I am NOT recommending that you treat yourself. Just providing information, which you are responsible to verify.
That was our first foray into foraging. Since then, I've encountered many mushrooms that are labeled with cautions in the guidebooks, or that many people fear eating, but which others eat with confidence. I have found value in consuming a surprising number of these.
An astonishing number of mushrooms considered to be fine edibles do come with warnings. Matsutake, Wine Caps, Blewits, Chicken of the Woods (L. Conifericola - grows on conifers, especially), Morels, Brown Beech, Hedgehog, Shiitake, and many others come with warnings to not eat them raw, or that they may cause sensitivities. So one of the only differences between some of the "suspect" mushrooms and "safe" mushrooms is that there is a general popularity of one, and no popularity on the part of the other.
Now... I am NOT hasty about consumption. I am not careless about it. I am in fact, very CAUTIOUS, and when a mushroom is listed as having a potential issue, I make DARN SURE I know how to avoid that issue before I dive in.
- I make sure I know for certain the color of the edible Amanitas, and the differences in Amanita look-alikes, so I don't make a deadly mistake.
- I make sure I taste test virtually EVERY Russula I find, and every single one, even if from the same patch, if there is ANY difference in appearance.
- I make sure that EVERY Agaricus that I find is smell tested. I have found 3-5 different strains of Agaricus Subrutilescens all within the same large patch, with phenolic ones nestled right next to savory anise scented ones. So I smell test them all.
- I make sure I know how to overcome any potential problems - by cooking, eating only caps, avoiding alcohol, etc.
But I have learned that many times, when a mushroom is suspect, there is a REASON why. And there is a METHOD to make it safe.
The number one reason for a mushroom to be safe for 90% of consumers and a problem for the other 10% is that it is not cooked sufficiently. Many unsafe compounds evaporate during cooking, and some amino acids convert when exposed to heat. Cooking well is the rule with ALL wildcrafted mushrooms.
Pleurocybella Porrigens (Angel Wing Oyster) is a mushroom I never intended to gather. But as we tromped through the forest one fall, during a period between seasons, there it was. An entire large Douglas Fir stump COVERED in the things. I had never seen it except in pictures, but I KNEW what that was. I instantly knew it was not Pleurotus Ostreatus. It just looks more transparent and ruffly. Next thing I know, we are gathering it and putting it in our basket.
Research indicates that this is another one that depends highly on cooking times - I learned this after I brought home the basket full, but BEFORE I ate any. It has an unstable amino acid - aminos convert under high heat, remember? So it requires sufficient cooking to ensure that it has converted. Since it is a thin and delicate looking mushroom, people tend to not want to cook it long - that is a mistake. Cook it well, and risks diminish.
The next reason for the "I ate it and it was good but someone else ate it and it gave them a belly ache." reports, is hybridization of mushrooms. Mycellium sort of mingles underground sometimes, and an unsafe mushroom can encounter a safe species of the same genus, and end up mingling. You can end up with a mushroom that KEYS as a suspect, but which has been overtaken by a mushroom that is NOT suspect. So you get conflicting reports about it. We have A. Placomyces that have been overcome by something that keys out to A. Tennuiannulatus. The Placomyces is now red capped, and smells of almonds, though the cap still has the characteristic black Placomyces markings. Yeah... it IS Placomyces, we gathered it in the dripline of a Hemlock giant one fall, and a few weeks later gathered the pink ones from the same spot - and could see whiter ones on the side of the patch away from where the Tennuiannulatus grows (pinker ones here, less pink ones in the middle, even less pink on the other side), and the pinker they are, the more almondy they smell. The pink color and almond scent are gradually spreading through the Placomyces patch.
Anyway, many mushrooms do that - and you may never see the types of mycellium that are interacting with one another, because they often bear at different times. So when you get a report of "poisonous but some people report eating this without problems", it is possible that their particular patch of the poisonous mushroom has been hybridized into something not quite true to species.
The third reason why you run into "this is safe.. oh wait, maybe not... then again..." reports, is mistaken identity. I see SO many examples of mistaken identity online, with pictures that are simply NOT what they say they are. Mistaken identity is responsible for far more mushroom problems than people realize, and with mushrooms that are actually quite easy to identify if you pay attention to the key indicators for that species. The point being, when you get a conflicting report on edibility, make sure your ID is correct, and you will reduce the chances of having issues.
A fourth reason is that some mushrooms should not be consumed in large quantities OR with alcohol. Wine Cap mushrooms are one such mushroom - it is reportedly a delicious mushroom, but consuming it in large amounts, or day after day, can cause digestive upset. Many mushrooms do not interact well with alcohol. So if a mushroom is questionable, research to find out if there is not just a caution about edibility, but a REASON, or a GUIDELINE. In most cases, cooking time will ALSO affect these two reasons!
We gathered some Stropharia Ambigua one day. My first time seeing this mushroom. Lovely yellow caps with lace dangling from the edges. I picked a promising looking specimen and hauled it home to see if I could ID it (my only find on a fall day between seasons... but we also located an absolutely HUGE area where the elk and deer had been bedding down... a LOT of elk and deer, so the trek out was not a waste of time).
Got the mushroom home, and started trying to find a yellow capped mushroom that fit. I was not yet well enough versed with the various classes of mushrooms to even categorize it. I knew that the fragile spiky looking veil had to be important, and I KNEW it was not a yellow Amanita (a potential look-alike) because this one had very definitely gray gills. So I was searching using both the internet and software, and suddenly it clicked that I should try Stropharia because of the gray gills. Sure enough, the third one down was Stropharia Ambigua, and there was no mistaking it! But every account said, "Unknown", "Not recommended", "Inedible", or "Conflicting reports of edibility". Until I got to one rather in-depth article that not only told me that it IS indeed edible, but also gave me an identifying odor for it which TOTALLY confirmed the ID! Since it is a prevalent mushroom in some regions, it is worth knowing that it is in fact edible if prepared correctly, and the conditions that make it NOT safe to eat.
As I was reading the info on edibility, something else clicked. King Stropharia is known for causing digestive upset if insufficiently cooked, or if overindulged. Why wouldn't this one be the same? It may have a slightly lower threshold, but would follow essentially the same rules: No more than a moderate serving, and not two days in a row. That is actually a rule I use for MOST mushrooms that I am not highly experienced with, it just gets maintained with Stropharias.
I have also gathered Lepiota Aspera, which is ONLY toxic if consumed with alcohol. As safe as any other edible mushroom if no alcohol is served. Of course, it can cause a reaction a couple of days later if you have alcohol then. But the reaction is not fatal, it just makes you feel yucky. Since I'm a tea-totaler, I have no qualms about consuming this mushroom.
A fifth minor reason is that many mushrooms should only have caps consumed, not stems. Just a few have higher concentrations of certain elements in the stems. This is a prevalent enough reason that many mushrooms come with a "caps only" warning.
The last reason for reports of inedibility is fear due to insufficient experience. This is especially an issue with North American mushrooms. Many European mushrooms have been ID'd here, but others are not so certain. There are also varieties here that just do not have the long history to know what is and is not edible. Sometimes it just is not worth the risk. Sometimes edibility IS known, but the author cannot find it listed, so they write "unknown", or "inedible" just to cover themselves in liability situations. I find this a lot with Russulas and Agaricus, even though there is an easy way to tell with each what is and is not edible. Also, because of mistaken identity fears, many mushroom hunters label all of certain species as inedible - such as Amanitas, Blue Staining Boletes, etc, even though this is not accurate. Deeper research, and knowing the tests for edibility within a genus (when one exists... it doesn't always) is the key to ascertaining correct information regarding what is and is not safe with lesser known edibles.
The problem is that we have lost SO much knowledge of edible wild foods. In many cases where edibility is suspect, it is WORTH searching out that knowledge, so that it can be returned to the body of common use and reference. It is not worth taking random risks. But it IS worth taking the time to learn how to REDUCE the risks so they are reasonable.
- In general, if the mushroom is considered safe, with just a few reports of suspect poisonings, then it is likely that the poisonings were a result of insufficient cooking, or mistaken identity (mistaking a poisonous mushroom for a safe one).
- If the reports are that the mushroom is poisonous but there are a few exceptions to the reports, then it is likely an issue of hybridization or mistaken identity in the other direction.
As I said, I am NOT heedless. I am very cautious. But once I have thoroughly researched, and am certain of the identity of a mushroom (or know a solid rule for determining edibility where ID is ambiguous as it is with Russulas and Agaricus), I am CONFIDENT. You just can't eat ANY mushroom unless you are confident, but that does not mean you are a careless risk taker. It just means you do the necessary homework to make sure your confidence is well-founded.
I think part of the reason I have crossed those initial boundaries is knowledge. I now know more than I did when I set those boundaries. But I think part of it is also opportunity. When you are living more off the land, and depending on it more for your livelihood, you are more compelled to use what is available. And if suspect mushrooms are what is in season, you go out of your way to make sure that they actually are NOT worth the risk before you pass them by and let good food go begging.
Keep the rules for items that are new to you in mind:
- Gather them yourself. Make sure of where they are coming from, and when growing location is a key identifier, make sure you keep look-alikes gathered from different environments in separate corners of the basket.
- Be sure of your ID. If you are not sure of the mushroom ID, don't eat it. Bring samples home - various ages is possible, and always with the ENTIRE mushroom, including root base. Do the spore print, bruising test, smell test. Do a taste test if that is a key indicator and minimal risk. Whether or not you use KOH, or other solutions to test, or buy a microscope is up to you, but if you don't, then stick to mushrooms that can be ID'd or edibility checked without those items.
- If it is questionable, find out WHY, to see if you can reduce the risks.
- Eat caps only on any suspect or new to you mushroom.
- Cook the mushroom well. With any new mushroom, cook it well.
- Avoid alcohol with wild mushrooms. It conflicts with too many.
- Consume a small portion the first time. Wait a day or two before having more, and try a larger portion if you did not experience any problems from the first meal.
- If you prepare a mushroom that is toxic ONLY WITH ALCOHOL, then DO NOT SERVE IT TO GUESTS. Even if you warn them, don't serve it! Because closet alcoholics won't be honest about when they last drank, and won't have the courage to avoid eating it either. Since some can have effects for 2-3 days after consumption, you don't want to send your guests home with a time bomb in case they forget and accidentally take a drink, or start chugging the cough syrup.
- It helps to keep a piece of it on hand, or another specimen on hand, just in case you made a mistake. But if you follow the first few rules, you AREN'T GOING TO MAKE DEADLY MISTAKES.
- Please write about your experience. It helps other people learn more about how to safely eat what is available to them.
Be careful. But learn WHY items are classed as they are. Then you can be confident about your own set of safety rules, no matter where you determine the line should be drawn.
Some say there are over 150 species of Agaricus mushrooms. Some say there are more. Mycologists are not sure how many there are. Efforts to identify them end up in a maze of confusion since a given Agaricus can key 90% to seven different species and not completely match anything documented!
I have my own personal theory about Agariuses. It is borne out by some preliminary evidence in the wild where we have been gathering mushrooms.
I think there are a few Agaricus species, with key features.
- Brown Caps
- White Caps
- Gray Caps
- Phenolic Scented (or other Chemical Smells)
- Non-Aromatic (no particular identifying odor)
- Almond Scented
- Anise or Savory Anise Scented
- Fruity Scented
The ONLY part that is important to YOU, is the smell. If they smell good, or nondescript, they are generally good, or nondescript. If they smell bad, they are bad. A lot of GOOD ones will smell BRIEFLY like sweet ink, and then develop an appealing odor. They are good ones. If the stink stays, it is bad. If it starts bad (for 30 seconds to a minute, no more) and then turns good, it is good, BUT requires cooking.
All the rest - yellow staining, red staining, orange staining, fluccuse stipe, smooth stype, cogwheel veil or skirt veil or absorbing veil or evanescent veil, cap shape, stipe shape, size, etc, DON'T MATTER (yellow staining is usually an indicator of the presence of chemicals, but the smell is still the determiner of edibility). I think they are just genetic variations that are completely irrelevant. Because what happens to Agaricus mushrooms is something that MAKES all this irrelevant.
Agaricus are either EDIBLE, or NOT EDIBLE. The smell is what tells you.
Now, some Agaricus are listed as making some people ill, others not. Generally, this means you need to cook that mushroom well if you choose to try it. Much of the time, that is WHY some people experience digestive upset from it and others do not. The rest of the time it is just mistaken ID.
So what is happening out there with Agaricus ID? Why is it that you can always key them 90% to something, usually MORE than one something, but rarely 100% to ANYTHING? And why is it that most descriptions are filled with things like "anise or almond scent" (when they are VERY different smells), and "may or may not bruise yellow", and "stem may be smooth or fluccose", or "stipe may be equal or bulbous"? Why is it that if you find three different descriptions of a single Agaricus mushroom that NONE of them will agree on what that mushroom is supposed to look, smell, taste, and react like?
To answer that, I have to tell a story.
We went into the woods about five times before we spotted our first Agaricus (well, other than Meadow and Horse Mushrooms, which I had become familiar with years before). It was at the base of an aged giant... a Hemlock Tree. I was fairly inexperienced with the genus at the time, but was excited because I knew it was an Agaricus! The brown detached gills and partial veil lingering on the stem were dead giveaways.
I picked two, and brought them home to key them. They keyed quickly as A. Placomyces. Poisonous - with the classic indicators. The base stained yellow, and the mushroom was distinctly phenolic in smell.
A few days later, in another area we found another one. The cap was less grainy in appearance, the color transitions smoother. Otherwise very similar. It keyed quickly as A. Moelleri. Same smell, same cap size, so similar in color and appearance that half the ID'd photos online mixed up A. Moelleri and A. Placomyces indiscriminately, and some said they were the same species.
I recalled that I had read descriptions of both Agaricus Bisporus, and Agaricus Brunnescens several years ago, and had keyed the mushrooms in the grocery store to them - this when I had noticed that they carried two decidedly different species of Portobellos, and I knew that Agaricus Brunnescens had been the original Portobello, until the brown Agaricus Bisporus (same species as the white button mushroom) had taken over in most commercial markets. Certain seasons of the year though, in some areas, Agaricus Brunnescens is still grown since it performs better in some climate conditions.
So I KNEW that they are two different species. I could SEE the difference.
But recently, many online scientific sources now state that A. Bisporus and A. Brunnescens are the same species and one is an older name for it than the other. NOT SO! They are distinctly different! Of course, if you just READ the descriptions, you will not be able to tell that this is so! But if you LOOK at the mushrooms, you can tell immediately that they are not the same species.
A. Brunnescens has a smoother cap coloration, and often a minimally lighter cap color. The stipe is a tiny bit broader. The cap is a very little bit thicker, and WHITER all the way through (Bisporus seems to color gray from the gills much sooner), and Brunnescens stains red more than Bisporus. But most tellingly, Brunnescens has PALE PINK GILLS in the button stage. They do not significantly start to darken until the veil breaks. Bisporus has pinkish gray gills that turn to dark gray to brown gills in the button stage - they start out the same, but Bisporus turns much more quickly, and will be darkened before the veil breaks.
So even among KNOWN DIFFERENT SPECIES, there is a great deal of confusion about what is what! Frankly though, the most important thing to know here is that they both taste about the same and are equally edible. Other differences matter to some people but not others (principally growers and transporters of the mushrooms).
I have seen commercial mushrooms that are decidedly somewhere between the two species. They key out with some features of each.
So we also have scientists who are describing mushrooms, and then another person comes along and says, "Oh, I found that one too, only it wasn't like THAT, it is like THIS." And they change the description because they could not get it to stain yellow, or the stem was smooth instead of fuzzy, or the veil had cogwheels on it or something.
To continue with our story (in which we give the explanation to all of this).
A few days after that second inedible Agaricus, we stumbled on a RED-BROWN capped Agaricus. It keyed out 95% to Agaricus Subrutilescens. Only problem was that the smell was nondescript - but some sources said Subrutilescens smelled Almondy, some said not, some said Anisey, some said not, some said Fruity, some said nondescript. No one agrees on what Subrutilescens smells like. They only agree that the cap is some shade of winey or reddish brown. These were definitely reddish brown. And Subrutilescens does not stain. Or so 80% of the sources said, and ours did not stain.
After about a week of gathering these, we found one one day that was distinctly different! It smelled of Almonds, was smaller with a thin stem, bruised yellow, and had an underlying phenolic smell that disappeared quickly. It keyed to Agaricus Tennuiannulatus. Of course, later it also keyed to about 80% on four other small Agaricus mushrooms... But we stuck with Tennuiannulatus, partly because by then we had finally learned to say it without tripping over it.
And then things got really crazy. It rained. And rained. And RAINED. I woke up with the Pooh song in my head one night, "And the rain rain rain came down down down, and rushed right into Piglet's...". We gathered mushrooms in the rain, and the mud, and the muck. And the rain kept on coming.
I went out one day and gathered Agaricus mushrooms from several areas, and when I got back, it was clear that I had TWO DIFFERENT KINDS in my basket. One was larger, firmer, and had an odor that kept drawing me back to identify it... I knew it, I just could not place it. The longer it lay there, the stronger the odor became.
ANISE! It was Anise... with a savory overtone. This mushroom was reddish, but also had a bit darker brown cap. And the gills were much paler pink for the stage of development than the caps of the ones I had been picking had been.
One afternoon, for about three hours, the sun burst through. Then the sky went back to sulking and then out and out sobbing.
And one patch where we were picking went nuts. I picked a bunch of Agaricus - all red-brown topped, all looking exactly the same in the woods... almost. Even in the woods, I could see differences in the stipes, in the color of the gills (some were more peachy, some salmon, some grayish in the young caps), and a lot of difference in the depth of brown scales and the pattern of red undertones on the cap. Skirts were different too.
I knew I had at least three, maybe more varieties here.
When I got home I started examining them trying to classify them. Trying to even GROUP them. Some stained red under the gills, some stained barely red or barely yellow on the stipe, some smelled briefly of phenol then of savory anise or even fruit. No almonds... But all kinds of differences.
I eventually gave up, and just classified them as edible or not. Only a few were tossed as potentially inedible (phenol smell stuck around too long). The rest were either dried or eaten for dinner. No subsequent effects.
I wondered what was going on in those woods! Just a small patch of woods, maybe 2 acres, with so many different varieties of reddish brown topped Agaricus! But so MANY variations, and NO WAY to key any of them - none of them keyed more than 90% to anything, and something was always wrong to key them 100%.
A week later, the solution was provided. Back at that hemlock tree where we saw the first woods Agaricus - Again we find, right on the dripline of that old hemlock, exactly in the same position as those first mushrooms, more Placomyces. But it no longer keys as Placomyces!
This time something is different.
Beside the Placomyces were five small Agaricus mushrooms. Very small button mushrooms that unfurl into about 5 cm caps. Very reddish caps. Stems and caps that smell deliciously of almonds. These key out to Agaricus tennuiannulatus.
It has been a while since I picked and examined the Placomyces, and the colors seem different today (more reddish and brown to the cap, though the overlying coloration is still distinctly black and not brown). So I pick one and break the stem. And sniff the stem. This is a phenolic mushroom... and it now smells of almonds! Placomyces that smells of almonds!
There are two more of the Placomyces, one about 2 ft further away from the smaller almond agaricus mushrooms, which is HALF reddish on the cap, half not, and smells equally of almond and phenol. And further away still, a classic Placomyces which has no red to it, and smells strictly of phenol.
The logical conclusion is that the nearby smaller Agaricus mushrooms are affecting the Placomyces. In fact, the closer the Placomyces are to the Mystery Agaricus, the more they smell like almonds.
If we extrapolate in logical directions from here, it is reasonable to suppose that many (if not all) Agaricus species are capable of hybridizing. So the woods may be full of mushrooms that look identical, but which are in fact NOT the same species, just variations on several intermingled species. This would account for the inability of anyone to find an exact match for most Agaricus, for the varied descriptions, and for the wide variety of mushrooms within a relatively small ecosystem which look identical on the surface but which are, in fact, all very different.
The woods in which we hunt mushrooms ARE sort of special, in that they are a haven for wildlife, which come from miles around for water, meaning that there is a higher than average distribution of spores from animal dung. But they aren't THAT special, and if it is happening in those woods, it is happening in other woods too. This is just a slightly concentrated example of what is happening elsewhere on a much more distributed scale.
The examples in those woods has lead me to conclude that much of the time, trying to key a brown, white, or gray Agaricus is likely to be futile unless there is a distinctive feature such as the absorbing veil of the Meadow Mushroom, or the large size and distinctive smell of the Prince (who is a much mis-identified mushroom also). (Wow... the last half of that last sentence could have been lifted from a bad Historical Romance!)
The trick is to determine EDIBILITY. And that is pretty easy! Forget trying to tell exactly what long and unpronounceable Latinized name to attach to the fungus in front of you. Just smell it and figure out if it is edible or not. Once you know that, you know as much as anyone would know if they DID identify it!
But... and this is IMPORTANT!
MAKE SURE YOU DO AN EDIBILITY CHECK ON EVERY AGARICUS MUSHROOM YOU PICK!
Do not assume, that just because they were growing side by side, that they are the same mushroom! Do not assume that all of them in the grove you just raided are either poisonous or edible! We have found yellow staining phenolic brown capped Agaricus growing right next to red staining savory anise scented brown capped Agaricus mushrooms, with non-aromatic non-staining brown capped ones scattered in between! Our basket may be full when we come home, but EVERY SINGLE MUSHROOM has to be examined and screened before it goes either in the pot, on the drying screens, or in the garbage.
Personally, I am not crazy about the flavor of Agaricus mushrooms. They all seem to end up tasting just like white buttons when they are cooked. Very mushroomy, brownly fungusy. And I have never particularly enjoyed that flavor, and have never AT ALL enjoyed the texture of mushrooms (nasty slug things). But I hide them in my food anyway, because I need the health benefits of mushrooms. Agaricus are easy to hide, and once you know the key to safety, they are a relatively safe wild mushroom to hunt and consume.
I am far from an expert on either mushrooms, or nature, and certainly not an expert on Agaricus mushrooms (I kind of doubt there is any such thing). The rules for edibility are the ones I use which have stood me in good stead, and never made me sick (or anyone else eating at my table).
But I still advise you to take what I say cautiously. Get a few more opinions before you decide to take my rule and adopt it as your own.
Mycorrhizal mushrooms have to be some of the MOST misunderstood mushrooms out there! I don't know how many myths I run into that just seem to be taken for granted as truth, by both amateur and professional mycologists, as well as hobbyist mushroom hunters. So let's see if we can clear things up a bit, ok?
Mycorrhizal mushrooms are those that are symbiotic with plants (often trees). They have a mutually beneficial relationship with the tree - the mushroom helps convey certain kinds of nutrients to the tree, through the roots, and the tree reciprocates to the mushroom with other types of nutrients.
This type of mushroom is very poorly understood. There is not a lot of actual study going on that really tries to understand what is going on in the forest, and what the limitations of these mushrooms happen to be. Rather, the research seems to be concentrated on either the commercialization of the mushrooms (using techniques formed around incorrect assumptions), or upon trying to find a way to grow the mushrooms on industrial waste or commercially produced nutrient extracts. Not much understanding coming from either of those sources!
So what are the myths, and what is the truth about Mycorrhizal mushrooms?
- Mycorrhizal mushrooms require trees - False. They do require plants. They do NOT all require trees.
- All mushrooms of a single genus will require the same grouping of plants (ie: trees, bushes, etc) - False. Not all mushrooms of a single genus are dependent on the same kind of plant.
- Mycorrhizal mushroom mycelium won't grow in the soil - False. Some mycorrhizal mushrooms can grow and flourish just in compost - but they do require plants to fruit.
- Mycorrhizal mushrooms have to start life with the tree so the tree does not develop mycorrhizal relationships with other mushrooms first - COMPLETELY False. Mycorrhizal relationships are not exclusive, and different mycorrhizals will establish on a tree at different times in the life of the tree. Mother Nature deposits spores in manure, which leaches down into the soil over the roots of trees at all stages of development. Mycorrhizals may be introduced at any time during the life of a tree (or other plant), though many will not bear well on young trees.
- A tree can only support a single kind of mycorrhizal mushroom - False. We have found two kinds of truffles and Suillus mushrooms growing on the same tree, and even fruiting at the same time. Mycorrhizals are not all the same, and typically the older a tree, the more varied the mycorrhizal relationships will be.
- Some mycorrhizals like chanterelles take a long time to fruit because they have to develop a lot of mushroom mass to fruit - Only Partly True. It is not the mushroom mass that is so critical. It is the root mass of the tree upon which the mycorrhizal depends. The mushroom DOES have to penetrate a large amount of root mass, it is true, but it also requires a tree of a certain size and root spread to support fruiting of the mushroom. To hasten the process, chanterelles may be sown onto multiple trees within the same vicinity.
- Some compost mushrooms are parasitical on mycorrhizal mushrooms - Generally False. Most compost mushrooms accused of parasitizing mycorrhizals are actually symbiont with them. The productivity of both mushrooms is higher when they co-exist and intermingle resources.
- Mycorrhizals (especially truffles) do not grow in forests with a high nitrate content, so you must never fertilize the trees on which they grow - Partially False. While high nitrate content will reduce fruiting of many mycorrhizals, not all fertilizers are high in nitrates! Light scatterings of manure (just like you find in a forest with healthy wildlife) will actually aid in the health of the plants and the mycellium, and will lead to larger harvests, and a longer life span of harvests.
- If you are hunting truffles, there is no difference in truffle quality between using a dog or pig to locate the truffles, or in using squirrel or deer digging signs as a means of locating truffles - ABSOLUTELY False. Now, while a person can FIND truffles just as well either way, there is one SIGNIFICANT difference. When you are using wild animal activity as a means of indicating where truffles are located, THEY BEAT YOU TO IT! The animals who dug an tunneled already GOT the ripe truffles! There is nothing left for YOU, except unripe, and mostly immature truffles.
- If you are digging truffles you must place the duff back where you removed it, or it might hurt future production - False. If you stop overanalyzing things and assuming that people must NEVER BE PART OF NATURE, then you realize some very interesting things, which tell you immediately that you do NOT need to replace the duff, and if you do, there is no need to be neat about it. Truffles are the fruit of a fungus... that fruit exists for the purpose of spreading spores. It does this by getting SMELLY, so that animals DIG IT UP, and EAT IT, then spread the spores in their dung. It is ADAPTED to having the duff savagely dug up by a huffing elk or an impatient deer, or a hyperactive little squirrel, or even a ruthless pheromone seeking female pig. Trust me... they don't replace the duff! We can assume that since truffles seem to bear over and over WHERE THE ANIMALS DUG LAST YEAR, that moving things around is actually HELPING the fungus, not hurting it. This is exactly what it is designed to thrive in.
- You must never take too much when harvesting, or it will hurt production of the patch of mycorrhizals - False. Remember why mushroom fruits exist? They exist to GET EATEN, so that spores may be spread around. Now... it might slow the spread of the mushrooms through the forest, but it won't hurt that patch ONE BIT. This is what it lives for - to produce fruit that is taken somewhere else.
- If you dig too deep when removing mushrooms, you will injure the mycellium and hurt future harvests - False. I also hear people say you must cut the mushrooms to avoid injuring the mycellium. People who say either of these things DO NOT UNDERSTAND FUNGUS. Mycellium is fungus. Each cell is capable of replicating itself to become an entirely new organism. Removing part of it does not even damage it! The parts that are left just keep on functioning as though nothing changed. It isn't like ripping off an arm or something, where a specific function is gone. It is like picking a strawberry from a strawberry plant - no injury occurs, no damage is done, and the plant got what it intended to get when it produced the fruit. Mushrooms are picked TO BE REMOVED. So you pull a mushroom from the ground, and it will break WHERE IT IS SUPPOSED TO BREAK. If you dig up some of the soil with mycellium in it, the fungus will continue to grow and fruit, and will eventually infiltrate whatever ends up in the hole you made by digging out the fungus. Unless you reduce the mycellium mass SO MUCH that it no longer has enough to fruit, you aren't hurting it. Even if you dug a trench across the mycellium bed, and then put the dirt with the mycellium back in it, the fungus would quickly repair connections and go on with the business of being fungus.
- Mycorrhizals will only bear on a tree for a short time, and then the tree has to be replaced with a new one that has been inoculated with the right kind of spawn - False. As long as the tree is healthy, the mushrooms will continue to fruit on the tree. Fertilizer (as mentioned above) helps keep the environment healthy. Now... a manmade ORCHARD may have a problem, if the trees get too large. Pruning to keep good space between the branches can really help, because some mycorrhizals fruit INSIDE the dripline of the tree, some fruit ON the dripline, and some fruit on the root tips OUTSIDE the dripline. If the trees end up with branches touching, then it can significantly reduce production of mycorrhizals that produce ON, or OUTSIDE the dripline. Size of tree, health of soil. Otherwise, carry on, mycellium!
- Mycorrhizal mushrooms are the only kind that form symbiont relationships with plants - False. Many mushrooms that are classed as compost mushrooms, or wood decomposers will form symbiont relationships with plants. They are simply not OBLIGATE mycorrhizals (they do not require this relationship). But most plants do best with mushrooms growing near them, and most mushrooms do best with plants growing near them. Indeed, this is one way to help control insects and soil microbe balance.
So how do we know all of this? We watch. We observe, take notes, and test our theories. This is how Mother Nature works!
Mother Nature is pretty smart, and the key to understanding Mycorrhizals is to observe what is actually happening with them in the wild. They are not the delicate fussy things that we think they are. They are resilient, flexible, interacting and reasonable life forms. Once you see them in nature, they make more sense!
Every kit out there tells you that it will last for 4-5 fruitings, and then you have to buy another kit. A FEW companies will own up that you can toss the spent kit into a compost or sawdust pile and continue to harvest mushrooms seasonally outside. What they don't want you to know though, is that you CAN keep them going indefinitely.
Actually, I think most companies that sell mushroom kits DON'T EVEN KNOW THIS.
There is really only one reason why mushroom kits run out and stop fruiting.
Lack of Nutrients.
The mycellium grows through the media - the sawdust, log, or compost (you WEREN'T using toilet paper, or coffee grounds, or industrial waste, were you?). It consumes nutrients as it goes. It fruits abundantly as long as the food is abundant. When it starts to run out, the mushroom will desperately fruit another time or two - a few last gasps at reproducing itself before it dies. If you don't offer it more food, it will die.
So... how do you offer it more food? How do you get MORE mushrooms from that bitty kit in the first place, and how do you get it to KEEP bearing even after the original kit is finally used up?
There are two strategies that you can use. One keeps it bearing longer, the other converts it into a new mushroom kit.
Let's cover getting MORE out of that kit to begin with. This trick works BEST with compost mushrooms, but will ALSO work with log or sawdust mushrooms.
- Make a gallon of manure and compost tea. You need composted manure, and you need finished compost (DO NOT BUY MUSHROOM COMPOST! This is just compost that mushrooms have already used up, that isn't usable for this purpose.). Mix about 1 cup of manure with about 9 cups of compost. Stir it around with a wooden stick or a trowel until they are blended. Put ONE CUP of that into ONE GALLON of water. Stir it well. Let it sit overnight. The solids will settle to the bottom and you'll have some grungy looking water. THAT is manure and compost tea.
- After your mushrooms fruit for the first time, when the last of them have been picked and the mycellium is resting, water well with the manure tea. For compost, soak it TWICE - once as soon as you know the fruiting is done, and then again about three days later. For logs or sawdust, water as much as STAYS ON OR IN IT. Do that DAILY for about a week, right after you know that the fruiting is finished.
- Do this after every flush of mushrooms. This will extend the life of the kit quite a bit - the extent to which it does so is dependent on a lot of factors. But you'll get larger flushes after the first one than you would otherwise, and you'll get more of them.
Ok, so we've increased your mushroom production, and we've extended the life of your kit. That alone is pretty valuable, and all for the price of a bag of manure and a couple of bags of compost (even cheaper if you grow your own!).
Eventually, the kit will start to produce smaller flushes, and you'll know it is reaching the end of life in spite of regular feeding. At this point, you are going to expand it into something else, so it gets a whole new life.
For Compost mushrooms, you need Half-Finished Compost. That means it is rotted, but you can still see what it used to be (you can still see mangled grass, leaves, wood fibers, etc). You want the compost to have between 5 and 20% manure, depending on the type of mushroom and the type of manure. Horse manure seems to be the preferred manure in the industry (in part because it has a high amount of undigested vegetation), but a blending of about 1/3 chicken and 2/3 rabbit or goat will also work, as will a mixture of about 1/10 chicken and 9/10 cow manure. If you are using a blend, use half what you would of horse manure. Compost the manure and vegetation for about 2 weeks, turning about every other day.
For log mushrooms, you need sawdust. Most grow on hardwoods. A few grow on conifers. Make sure you know what they grow on before you proceed - your sawdust type should be right for the type of mushrooms you are growing. You need a good sized pile if doing it outdoors, or a large bin FULL if doing it indoors (it will compact down). If you use a bin, it helps to have TWO - one with small holes drilled in it for drainage, the other to set it in to catch the drainage.
Break up your kit (sawdust or compost), and mix it into the compost or sawdust. If you have a log kit, you CAN cut it up, but you can also just BURY the log into the sawdust. Wet it all down, and keep it moist over the next few weeks. You should see it start to grow if you dig around in it.
Now, that compost will fruit just like your original kit. When it starts to wear out, repeat the expansion into a new bin - or expand it into two or three bins.
The sawdust will fruit just like your original kit, BUT, you can also add a log or two, and then replace those logs periodically, to keep it going indefinitely. You can take sawdust out and start another bin or pile with more new sawdust. You can add logs, then move them once they are full of mycellium. If you add more sawdust once a year, the pile will keep going, and you can keep the whole thing going and producing for years. If you need to reduce the pile, then you can create a new one and put one of your mushroom LOGS back into the new pile to propagate more mycellium into the new pile.
As long as you keep feeding it, it will continue to grow. Compost and manure tea makes it so you don't have to change things out as often, and changing out your substrate (growing media) keeps it going permanently.
Now, you probably WILL get rogue mushrooms in there. But it won't displace your good edibles. Just ignore the rogues. You WILL get mold. It won't hurt anything. Ignore it, unless you get a nasty parasitical mold or fungus that overtakes your mushrooms before they can be picked (then you need to start over). Most of the "contaminants" are not harmful and won't interfere with good harvests and keeping it going.
Do NOT use sterilized compost or sawdust. You WILL get some grasses and weeds growing in them. Don't worry about it, they actually help the mushrooms thrive as long as they don't overtake the bin or pile - keep them low enough so you can see the mushrooms easily.
As long as you do NOT use sterilized materials, this method will work and you don't generally have to worry about the other things that come up.
Have some fun with it, and enjoy the mushrooms!
One of the most frequent contacts we receive is from people with no experience growing mushrooms, who ask us about growing Porcini, Chanterelles, and Morels. We get this request so often, from people who do not know what the word "mycorrhizal" means, that we have chosen to put a reply to them here.
1. The most amazing wild mushrooms are mychorrhizal. This means they form a symbiotic relationship with trees, and sometimes have other dependencies as well, for a specific forest environment. You can't easily box them up and tote them into your livingroom to enjoy fresh mushrooms whenever you want. When we ARE able to produce kits for them, they'll have to include trees, bushes, or other plants, OR, they'll be kits that have to be used outside in a specific type of environment. Mycorrhizals also take a LONG TIME to reach a point of maturity where they will actually fruit.
Translation: Porcini, Chanterelles, and Morels are HARD TO GROW. Truffles are even harder.
2. Start with something simple. The easiest mushrooms to grow are grown on logs or in sawdust kits. We suggest that you start with Oyster Mushrooms. They are pretty much the easiest to do. Buy a kit. Doesn't matter where - you want simple for now. Learn about mycellium, pinning, and fruiting. THEN think about growing something more difficult.
3. There are tons of mushrooms that can be grown on logs, or in compost. Those are the easy ones. You can have a good mushroom business with those, IF you are smart about what you choose for your area, and how you market them.
4. Have fun with it. Yes, you have a lot to learn. But learning this stuff can be fun, so enjoy it!
When you are ready, come back and ask us again about mycorrhizals. Chances are, we'll have something amazing for you then, even if it isn't exactly what you thought it would be.
Anymore, it seems that the mere mention of medicinal substances that are not dispensed by a doctor is cause for criminal charges. The myth has been perpetuated that herbs are dangerous, and that anything that has any kind of health benefit has to be screened by scientists and approved by the FDA before you are allowed to suggest that it might have benefit. Anything that CAN be proven to have a benefit is rushed off to be dissected, extracted, concentrated and adulterated, and the original food item is quickly taken out of circulation and banned from being sold. After all, if it DOES help an illness, you can't possibly trust people who do not have a medical degree to use it - even if it is a food they've been eating all their lives (unless of course it is some kind of industrial food production waste product like Oat Bran that the grain industry wants to shove into a price increase - in that case, they'll devise "supportive evidence" to show what a good idea eating it is, when in fact the testing showed that whole oats helped, not that tossing oat bran into your bread was a magic answer). I am, admittedly, a bit of a cynic.
Historically, it was known that pretty much all foods had some kind of benefit. Not because they had any magical properties or special medical value, but simply because they were foods that helped encourage the body to heal or to stay well. Chicken soup for recovering from the flu, or when you had a cold. No magic there, nothing suspicious, just good nourishment that was easy to digest, and that provided the nutrients that people who had just been ill were most likely to be low on. Of course, nobody analyzed that, they just knew that chicken soup felt better when you were recovering than steak and potatoes. When scientists did finally analyze that (almost certainly at the behest of the chicken soup industry - studying no doubt, homemade chicken soup, in an effort to promote the canned soup industry), they found that there is valid reason to suppose that chicken soup may aid in recovery from colds, flus, and stomach bugs. But then, Grandma knew that all along, only she didn't need a canned soup company to tell her so, or to provide the soup in question. She knew because her mother fed her soup when she was sick, and taught her how to make it so she could care for her own family.
People used to eat mushrooms. They gathered them in the wild, and taught their children how to do so. They ate them because they were "free food", easily gathered when one was out and about, often when doing other things such as gathering berries or firewood. Mushrooms sold at the markets were also relatively inexpensive, gathered by peasants who needed some extra cash, and sold direct to the customer, without a middle man taking the majority of the profits.
They knew that some mushrooms helped certain conditions. Mushrooms were gifts of God, like herbs and berries and roots, to be used with wisdom and thanksgiving, and which could help when one needed to treat a certain illness. Of course, there was a lot of folktale mixed in with the genuine pearls of wisdom, but it was accepted that mushrooms could have powerful healing capacity when used properly.
Mushrooms in general (with the exception of the "white pretender", the commercial White Button Mushroom - incidentally a manmade food) have a range of benefits, to one degree or another. Most edible ones help with healing skin, avoiding problems such as ovarian cysts (and PCOS), or uterine fibroids. They also helps your body to alleviate damage done by chemicals to your intestines, circulatory system, pulmonary system, and skin. Most mushrooms, to one degree or another, possess these benefits. Many have other benefits as well, from small to great.
It isn't that they have "pharmacologically active" components, so much as that they have nutrients in an absorbable form, which much of the food which we eat is lacking. They do these things for us because they provide the nutritional support for that to happen. Most of the food we eat is chemically embalmed or destroyed completely by heat. Mushrooms are often eaten fresh or prepared fresh, or used dried, both methods preserving the active elements which support good health.
Some do have amazing capacity to heal or mitigate the various conditions that beset us in life.
So do other healthy foods and herbs. Good, whole, clean foods, all have the capacity to heal the body in one way or another. I think that it is not mushrooms particularly that we need to heal our ailing populations, but merely clean and fresh food, enjoyed with the bran on, skin intact, germ in place, fat balanced, and yolks in. When we denude our food, castrate and decapitate the wholesome grains and vegetables, sterilize out all the healthy probiotics, and then chemify everything with poisons, it is no wonder that food now hurts instead of healing us.
Fresh food contains elements that scientists cannot even begin to analyze. They gather around their microscopes, identify the most visible elements of nutrition, and completely ignore the less visible ones. They are the micronutrients and compounds which are responsible for not just keeping us alive, but for regulating the body so that things stay in balance. They help us maintain healthy weight, keep from having chronic headaches, reduce fatigue and asthma, regulate blood sugar and metabolism, keep our hearts and veins healthy, slow the age related degeneration of the brain, keep the immune system strong in fighting disease while reducing instances of auto-immune illness, and they help our bodies heal and compensate for the damage that the chemical exposures in this world inflict on our bodies.
Good food always does that. Mushrooms do most of what they do simply because they are good food. No magic there. No threat to the medical profession there, unless they are so scared of people getting well that they fear for their job security and WANT more sick people.
Mushrooms are one of the last foods you can buy that is gathered in the wild, and which is frequently sold by small businesses direct to the customer.
One might say that it is more accurate to claim that a mushroom a day keeps the doctor away than to claim the same for apples. And that still isn't strictly true - you'll still probably need the occasional visit for serious illness. But a mushroom a day might just keep you from having to carry a day planner to schedule your medical appointments.
When we note at the bottom of the page something that a mushroom might be good for, we are basing that on research, historical evidence, traditional usage, and logical conclusions based on our knowledge of that particular mushroom and its nutritional make-up. But don't take our word for it - do your own research.
We only carry mushrooms that are considered to be clearly edible. If we find reports of allergic reactions being more common, we may carry it and post a warning. If there are confusing stories about people potentially becoming ill from it, with intestinal distress, or other serious after-effects, then we won't carry it, because we believe that there are enough safely edible mushrooms that we don't need to dance on the edge of the knife. In spite of that, you still may have an allergic reaction to a mushroom, or you may have a problem because of other factors in your body that are different than the general public. Again, do your own research and don't take our word for it.
And by all means, if you have a serious medical condition that might be negatively influenced by consumption of a mushroom that is classed as edible, please check with your doctor.
Growing mushrooms is done for many reasons. Some people enjoy the satisfaction of producing them instead of buying them. If you are wise, you can raise them more cheaply than you can buy them, and you can keep them going indefinitely.
You can also control the way in which they are raised. You can ensure that they are not treated with chemicals, washed in chlorine, or exposed to other nasty contaminants that might cause problems for you if you have sensitivities.
And of course, you can select just the right mushrooms, for just the dish you have in mind.
But mostly, because growing things gives you a sense of accomplishment that nothing else does. It is especially nice when you know that you won't have to pay for mushrooms again unless you want to. They are a good source of protein and many needed nutrients, so they'll help you be more self-sufficient even if you are enduring difficult economic times.
They take very little space in most cases, so they can be grown even when you don't have room for a garden in your yard. You can even grow them when you have been forbidden to have any other type of garden. Culture is fairly clean and portable, so you don't even have to have a dedicated spot for it.
Mushrooms can be very expensive, and even one mushroom kit can pay for itself on the first fruiting. If you are having trouble finding a reliable supply of a rarer type of mushroom, growing it yourself means you'll never be held hostage to the local store for price or poor quality ever again.
You can also prepare fabulous gifts for your friends and family. Homemade mushroom kits, dried mushrooms, frozen stuffed mushrooms, specialized seasonings packed in a decorative bottle, or special homemade mushroom mixes packed in a nice jar or bag.
Once you have a mushroom kit working for you, you have the ability to expand it into as large a production as you want. You can share with family or friends, or earn from the sale of mushrooms or mushroom spawn or kits. Once you get started, you have choices.
Be warned though. Some people seem to have a predisposition to becoming addicted to the culture of mushrooms. We think it is a healthy addiction!