Birds do it, Bees do it…

Let’s do it — let’s eat Mushrooms!



While humans might be the only species known to pen lyric and verse in the devotion of mushrooms, let’s not assume that other critters aren’t equally full of song when it comes to discovering a particularly good crop of fruiting fungi!

If you’ve ever taken a picnic in the Boreal forest, you’re probably familiar with the good ol’ “camp robber”, the Canadian Jay (A.K.A. whiskey jack, grey jay, or if you’re fancy, Perisoreus canadensis). These loud and uninhibited cousins to the common crow are one of several wild bird species known to eat mushrooms. Field guides generally note fungi as one of the many food sources “scatter cached” for winter use by these clever avians, and while we have yet to observe it, Seattle-based blogger Leslie Seaton thinks they may have interrupted a foraging session! Check out their beautiful photos at this link. These jays have even been observed eating slime mold (which now forms its own scientific family separate from fungi, but were folded into a common fungi/lichen/slime grouping for a long time). Sounds tasty, right?

[Important note: don’t actively feed mushrooms to birds. Wild birds know what they should and shouldn’t eat, but domesticated birds accustomed to taking food from humans may be unaccustomed to a particular mushroom species and could experience negative effects].

Those who visited us at the Farmers Market in Annapolis Royal last summer may have gotten the chance to handle and observe the unique and gorgeous qualities of a large Red-Belted Polypore conk. We were lucky enough to find sitting next to a well-rotted stump in a local forest, and whether it was the act of snow accumulation or wild beastie intervention, this conk was no longer growing and had ample time to sporulate (i.e. re-seed itself in the local forest ecology), before we brought it home.

a couple of charming specimens

a couple of charming specimens

One of the fantastic things about this particular species is that its mycelium grows primarily in aging pine trees, providing unique immune-system modulators to bees seeking to improve hive health. As the tree decays, the soft wood makes an inviting home for wild bees (making it a potential “honey tree” and food source for local bears!). Not only is it an awesome example of the interconnectivity of life, from large mammalian predators down to microscopic fungal thread, but a population of bees with access to this natural medicine has a greater chance of surviving in an increasingly toxic, barren landscape — supporting both well-pollinated food (and other plant) crops and a more diverse ecosystem of wild plants that depend on insect pollination to flourish.

Of course, we’ve already discussed some of the holistic/spiritual (some might suggest “recreational”) uses of psychedelic mushrooms by creatures great and small. But what do all of these things have in common?

In addition to being tasty and full of nutritional benefits, fungi contain enzymes, acids, and other compounds that bear remarkable similarities to naturally-occurring components of other biological systems (living bodies) throughout the web of life. Time and time again, modern science “discovers” benefits to using mushrooms for health that have been foundational to folk and wild medicine-gathering practices for aeons.

Seasonal changes can send vulnerable bodies into self-defense mode, and there are numerous ways using mushrooms can aid in this process. Until this year’s torrent of delicious fresh seasonal fruiting bodies emerge from their wooden and earthen homes, Mushroom Tinctures can provide a steady supply of their health-promoting elements. Preserved in a water- and ethyl-alcohol base, useful aspects of Turkey Tail, Reishi, and Chaga mushrooms can be consumed easily and effectively.

A quick reminder:

Chaga, Turkey Tail, and Reishi have been vastly studied and share numerous health-promoting aspects, including anti-inflammatory, anti-oxident, anti-tumour, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. All of these species are considered Immune tonics.

Additionally, Chaga and Reishi are documented as having positive effects on blood sugar regulation.

Chaga and Turkey Tail are noted for their positive effects as Kidney tonics, while Reishi is best at supporting the Liver.

To learn more about these tinctures, click here!

Hope to see you at the Festival Clare-té on April 2nd! [Please note this correction to a previous post: we will have a limited number of autumn-innoculated grow-your-own [GYO] Oyster mushroom logs on hand at the Festival, and will take pre-orders for GYO Shiitake logs at that time].

Until we meet again, stay mushy!

[As always, all statements made in this blog and on any site or mailing associated with Fundy Spores are not to be taken as medical advice. We are wild crafters and mushroom cultivators, not doctors. Before beginning any new health-related regime, seek the opinion of a medical practitioner you trust.]

As one Golding character said to the other, “I’ve got the conch!”

Today we’re looking at conch (in North America, usually “conk”) fungi. Often shelf- or hoof-shaped, hard/woody, smooth and sometimes cracking, they’re typically polyporous, not usually edible, but generally health-promoting. These perennial mushrooms stand out for sticking around even when the weather is unfavorable to the formation of more sensitive fruiting bodies.

Some of the most famous mushrooms used for medicine, like reishi, belong to this group. Folks in North America might be surprised to learn the common Red-Belted Polypore (fomitopsis pinicola) is also a potent traditional treatment for several conditions.

IMG_0347polypores over water IMG_0348

– Powdered and mixed with water, the resulting paste has been used to slow bleeding from wounds

– When boiled for at least an hour, this decoction can be taken as a daily tonic to aid against digestive-system inflammation. There is some reason to believe it may also act as a preventative against cancer/tumours.

While certainly beneficial to humans in these specific ways, conks play much wider-reaching and important roles in the health of our entire ecosystem. Like many other wood-rotting fungi, the mycelia of f. pinicola are destructive to their hosts; by bringing down large conifers, they open the forest canopy and allow smaller trees to flourish. Amazingly, they are also claimed to degrade pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides in the surrounding environment.

Promising recent research shows a very significant connection between the presence of these mushrooms and the extension of life for worker bees, promoting colony survival through viral payload reduction.

That’s right: the same mushrooms that boost humans’ immune systems also benefit the immune systems of other animals, including bees – with the entire food web relying on the presence of pollinating insects, there can be no doubt as to the interconnectivity of all life, including these mysterious, glistening, red-belted conches.

red belted polypores

Just for fun, here are some photos of other conk fungi observed over the last few weeks in the Acadian forest.

fomitopsis pinicola?IMG_0555