We’re fond of mushrooms out here. All kinds. They are magical and wonderful and responsible for so much good in this world that they rarely get acknowledged for.
Did you know that though they were once classified as plants, fungi are actually more similar to us in one significant way than they are to plants? Plants famously breathe in Carbon Dioxide and breath out Oxygen. Conveniently we do the exact opposite. But, so do fungi!
They form an interconnected network under our feet and are responsible for helping plants and trees grow. They balance out nutrients in the forest, literally taking excess nutrients from one tree and sharing them with another tree in a more deprived patch of soil. It’s the ultimate example of “sharing is caring.”
Without mycorrhizal fungi, many plants and trees couldn’t get the water and nutrients needed to survive. On the other end of things, they are the reason that every twig, leaf, and branch that fall, and every tree that crashes to the forest floor, doesn’t just litter the earth forever, but instead break down to become food for insects and ultimately become soil that feeds the next generation of plants.
Without fungus, there would be no “us” for so many reasons. No habitat, no soil, no plants, so no food to eat or lumber to build fire or shelter. Beyond that, It is theorized that the reason mammals outcompeted the dinosaurs during the perpetual winter that existed in the aftermath of the asteroid back in the cretaceous period is due to the fact that fungal pathogens were able to decimate cold blooded reptiles, but not mammals. Reptiles rely on the heat of the sun to raise their body temperature high enough to kill pathogens like fungal infections, bacteria and viruses. Next time you see a lizard doing push ups in the sun, you’ll know what it’s up to…in addition to getting jacked for this season’s pool parties. Without the sun, it is believed that dinosaurs and other reptiles couldn’t raise body temps high enough to fight off pathogenic fungus in particular and were thus wiped out creating a big niche to be filled. Mammals being “warm-blooded” maintain a body temp high enough to do this without sun exposure and were able to fend off fungal infections and fill the niche left by the deceased dinosaurs.
What else do we have? Oh yeah, Oyster mushrooms can digest petroleum and have been used to help clean up oil spills. They can also break down toxic waste and process it into inert substances that would otherwise be contaminating soil and groundwater for the indefinite future.
Cordyceps, Reishi, Turkeytail, and countless other varieties of mushrooms have been used medicinally for 100’s if not thousands of years for the physical body and major psychological breakthroughs with emotional traumas have been documented since the 60’s in thousands of studies conducted throughout the world with the benefit of psychedelic mushrooms. Not to mention that a fair amount of the art and music so many of us have enjoyed since the 60’s has been influenced if not outright inspired by these magic mushrooms. Many spiritual traditions incorporate mushrooms into their ceremonies and have done so since pre-history. Even forest dwelling animals have been documented seeking out these mushrooms and becoming notably more playful after consumption.
Lastly, many mushrooms are true culinary delights. Some can be hunted in nature if you are well educated in what is safe and what isn’t. Some can be cultivated through a variety of means.
We gave up most of our mushroom growing efforts years back, but retained one. Our shiitake logs produce some fabulous mushrooms that are a culinary treat which are additionally known to contain anti-carcinogenic compounds.
We inoculate Sweet gum logs and tend them in the forest and occasionally get a big flush of beauties and yesterday was that day. I had the pleasure of being out in the woods in a light rain, collecting hundreds and hundreds of shiitakes for our signature seasoning. Smoked Sea-Salt and Shiitake. We clean and dehydrate the mushrooms, blending them into a fine powder, that we mix with Alderwood Smoked Sea-Salt to create a smoky earthy salt that can be a bit addictive.
We just ran out of our mushroom supply, so the timing couldn’t have been better for these to fruit.
If this process of growing sounds interesting to you, you can find shiitake growing kits online from a variety of sources in a variety of fashions. It could be a fun project for a classroom dipping their toes into science or gardening. So many fascinating conversations can be spun off and it’s a ton of fun to watch them grow.
Have a great weekend and keep your eyes open late on May 30th so you can see the Tau Herculids meteor shower if it actually shows. It’ll likely be after midnight, but it’s a new moon (dark sky) with some potential to be a meteor storm!!….It’s not a sure thing at this point but meteor storms are far more abundant than meteor shows, so if it comes to fruition, it will be incredible. I had the pleasure of seeing one 20 years or so ago and it was one of the most magical things I’ve ever seen. Fingers crossed.
Have a great weekend!