Blue Oysters

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.

5 Comments on “Blue Oysters”

  1. Patti Jo says:

    It was a great class, wasn’t it? I thought Dan presented the info very well…..can’t wait until the next one in March!

  2. auntie baPs says:

    oh, man oh man. this is a holy hallelujah posting. i am crazy for all this science mystery and magic. and this process is beyond cool. i LOVE that you will be mushroom farming there in maine, down in the cellar and up by the cookstove. this is something i could seriously sink teeth into……there is a new book on fungus, is it the one you mention, or another one. the author was on science friday on NPR last friday. and it was utterly fascinating. one of those times where i didn’t want to turn off the car because i didn’t want the interview to be cut off. thank you for ever expanding our universe of fascinating explorations. 32,000 sexes????? this i need to understand….

  3. ann bragdon says:

    very cool, keep us posted!

  4. Norma says:

    Let us know how smoothly it goes; I’d love to grow my own. Did you know we animals are more closely related to fungi than we are to plants? That’s got to mean something …

  5. Annamarie Behring says:

    WOW! I am very impressed.

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