Fungal Fervor

As some of you have probably already guessed, I have developed quite a passion for mushrooms. Cultivating, foraging, and of course eating them. After going to a series of mushroom-related workshops at the CFSA conference last year, all of which were given by Tradd Cotter of Mushroom Mountain, I felt inspired to try my hand at cultivating these mysterious organisms.

Mushrooms, I learned, exist at the interface between the living and the dead.  Mushrooms and mycelium break down dead and dying organic matter and turn it into fertile soil, ready to support new life.  They are nature’s recyclers, and are also capable of sequestering hard metals and disarming toxins. Fungi are an essential part of the ecology of our planet, so I felt compelled to get to know them, and learn how to harness their amazing potential for the benefit of our gardens.

At one of the workshops we learned that oyster mushrooms will grow on almost anything, including spent coffee grounds and filters. Being that I think blue and purple vegetables are far superior to all others, I ordered some blue oyster spawn and started collecting coffee grounds and filters from Cafe Helios. I mixed the spawn in with the coffee grounds and scooped the mixture into recycled plastic jugs that Helios receives their dry goods in. Within days I could see the white fuzz of the mycelium starting to grow, consuming the coffee grounds. That was in mid-January, and by mid-March this is what they looked like:

Weird……I know. I watched them closely, checking their progress daily, and making sure no mold attempted to take over. After a while I was getting impatient. Everything I read said that they should have fruited 2-3weeks after I inoculated them, and by this time it had been over two months.

And then Magic happened:

All that happened over the course of 5 days. They were the first thing I looked at when I got up and the last thing I looked at before I went to bed. They were growing by the hour. As you can see their blue tint did not last, and I am not sure why. Also, two days of growth are missing from the slideshow, because I heard that morels (the most prized of all wild mushrooms) were in season.  Did I mention that I’ve got mushroom fever?

I woke up Saturday dreaming of mushrooms, so I ditched all my plans of doing taxes and cleaning house, and spent the entire weekend foraging. I was well rewarded.

While foraging, I was so focused on finding morels that I lost my dog’s leash, my hat, and my way around.  While wandering through the woods trying to figure out where I was but mostly looking for mushrooms, my dog found her leash, and then I recognized where I was again. My hat belongs to the forest now.  My husband came along for the hunt on Sunday, and I could see the glint of mushroom fervor in his eyes. That glint grew to a radiant sparkle when we had our supper of morel and pancetta pizza.

Morels are one of the easiest mushrooms to identify for beginners, and the tastiest,  but there are harmful look-alikes.  If you are interested in foraging I can’t stress enough the need to educate yourself on harmful varieties, and go with an expert for the first few forays.

Mushrooms are truly incredible organisms once you get to know them. I look forward to many delicious years of learning.

~Melissa

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