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Mushrooms for food & medicine: discover spore magic with mushroom magnate Tom Magruder.

What hiker or home dweller hasn't happened upon wild mushrooms in the forest or yard and wondered whether they were deliciously, edible or deadly poisonous? BEWARE! Legend has it that the Buddha died by ingesting a poisonous mushroom that was given to him by a peasant believing it to be a delicacy. If the story holds true, even the highly enlightened can taste the afterlife by eating the wrong wild mushroom.

To avoid the potential risks of wild harvesting, while enjoying all the benefits of freshly picked produce, why not grow gourmet and medicinal mushrooms safely at home instead?

The high cost and low quality of factory farmed specialty mushrooms has home cultivation booming. Our Southern Mountains have so ideal a growing climate that some large-scale cultivators have relocated their operations here. We are fortunate to reside in the heart of Eastern North America's shroom belt.

Mushrooms are the reproductive fruit bodies of fungi. A single cap can produce well over a billion microscopic spores! Spores migrate, merge, and grow cellular hair-like filaments (called mycelium) that form masses and become new mushroom fruits.

Edible and medicinal mushrooms, such as Shitake, Oyster, and Reishi are saprophytic, wood decomposing fungi. They are first to attack downed or distressed trees. Their voracious appetite for sap-filled wood makes them ideal candidates for the first time grower looking to satisfy his or her own hunger.

In terms of nutrition, Gourmet and Medicinal mushrooms pack a healthy wallop. Shitakes, for example, are thirteen to eighteen percent protein and contain amino acids that are scarce in grains. They are also rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and fiber. Eighty-five percent water, they can be dried and stored indefinitely and make a feather-weight camping and travel food.

The unique medicinal properties of mushrooms have medical researchers hungry for discovery. Compounds from fungi are used to make hundreds of pharmaceutical drugs. Remember Science class and the story of penicillin? Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic properties of this mold by accident. It was simply a weed fungus that contaminated a Petri dish that was growing harmful staphylococcus bacteria. The "good" mold containing penicillin won out over the "bad" bacteria in a competition for the food supply. In the body, it does much the same.

For those of us more aligned with holistic forms of medicine, mushrooms rein in potency. Many mushrooms thought merely to be tasty food have been shown in studies to have surprising antiviral and immune boosting properties. Shitakes lower blood pressure and the bad LDL cholesterol. They also contain a polysaccharide called Lentinan. In Japan, this natural compound by itself is approved as an anticancer drug! Japanese researchers studying Lentinan published that it "was found to almost completely regress the solid type tumors of Sarcoma 180," apparently by activating killer "T" cells. A veritable medicine chest is waiting to be opened in your own back yard.

The cost savings in home cultivation are staggering. Store-bought mushrooms cost upwards of $10 per pound. For about the same price as two pounds of them, you can start twenty-five hardwood logs weighing ten plus pounds apiece. By some estimates, each log can produce its own weight in fruit over its multi-year lifetime, which roughly equals a year for every inch of log diameter. Do the math! Some strains fruit every spring, summer, and fall, making them a truly perennial crop.

These great reasons to grow your own mushrooms come with a catch. There is strenuous labor involved in cultivation on logs. Thankfully, the work is on the front end. Unlike traditional gardening, log-grown mushrooms require no tilling, no digging, no fertilizing, no debugging, and no weeding! Rest assured that your labor will bear fruit, for just like a homegrown tomato, a fresh picked gourmet mushroom has a yummy succulence that cannot be bought in a store.

Mushroom logs make excellent use of shady spaces that are unfit for veggie or flower gardening. Once started, they require little maintenance. Apartment dwellers will discover that they make great houseplants that are impossible to over-water! For all who have murdered houseplants or started a garden with enthusiasm only to watch it turn into an and desert or weedy mess, a mushroom garden might be just the compost.

try this
Mushroom Growing

Cut fresh logs from dormant trees appropriate for the type of mushroom
being cultivated. The most common technique for natural logs could be
described as the "Drill, Fill, Seal, Chill & Grill" method.

Drill rows of holes in the logs for inoculation using a high-speed
drill and properly sized wood-boring bit. Fill or inoculate each
drill site with spawn (sawdust containing mycelium) using a special
plunger tool.

Seal each inoculation site with food-grade cheese wax heated to a
liquid that is dripped or dabbed on.

Chill out after laying the logs in a shady area and patiently
waiting six to twelve months for spawn colonization.

Grill your fresh ripe mushrooms with a brushing of olive oil and
taste the succulent fruits of your labor!

Resources: Catalog Suppliers (for spawn, tools, books & videos), Field
& Forest Products (800) 792-6220, Mushroom People
(800) 692-6329, Fungi Perfecti (800) 780-9126 Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms by Paul Staments
Growing Shitake Mushrooms in a Continental Climate by M.E Kozak and J.

Tom Magruder is a gardening enthusiast experienced in the art of devouring gourmet mushrooms. He grows specialty and medicinal varieties at his home in Asheville, NC. Offerings include: homegrown organic shitake mushrooms, inoculated mushroom logs, mushroom garden installations, hands-on how-to workshops, and ShroomStands[TM] (rustic log plant stands that make mushrooms!). Tom can be reached at 828-296-1121 or
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Title Annotation:digging in
Author:Magruder, Tom
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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