Blue OystersPosted: January 25, 2012
I went to a mushroom cultivation class today at the Urban Farm Fermentory and came home with a “log” of straw inoculated with spores of a Blue Oyster Mushroom.
It is all new to me…but E loves to eat mushrooms, (and truffles someday, I’ll bet!) so I thought, why not try growing our own?
At the class we learned about sterilizing winter rye berries in a pressure cooker, then, inside an air-sealed glove box, using a syringe to inoculate the berries with spores. Within a few days the spores will develop, and within a few weeks you have a jar full of mycelium – the vegetative part of a fungus – using the berries as a host. After the mycelium develops, the berries are packed, along with pasteurized straw, into a plastic bag poked with a series of small holes to allow the fruit – the Blue Oyster Mushrooms in our case – to emerge.
So home I arrived with the straw filled bag, which I am storing in the basement – a dark warm, preferably humid place. In a few weeks I expect (hope, may be more like it) the bag will become engorged with tiny white strands of mycelium. At that point I will bring it out into the light, and keep it plenty moist, and it should form a fruiting body: the edible mushrooms.
Fungi are a separate kingdom, distinct from both plants and animals, with an estimated more than 5 million species. With over 32,000 sexes of spores (don’t ask) only need two to combine to grow into a mycelium mat. Paul Stamets, in “Mycelium Running” describes a “2,400-acre site in eastern Oregon had a contiguous growth of mycelium before logging roads cut through it. Estimated at 1,665 football fields in size and 2,200 years old, this one fungus has killed the forest above it several times over, and in so doing has built deeper soil layers that allow the growth of ever-larger stands of trees. Mushroom-forming forest fungi are unique in that their mycelial mats can achieve such massive proportions.”
Seems like science fiction to me, but it’s just another part of the wild world of nature. Incredible. And edible. For the most part.