Spring is in the air (and so are fungi)!

When we think of mushrooms, some of us think immediately of rich earth in dark and moist environments from which little white caps mysteriously emerge. Others  imagine green pastures or rice paddies populated by large animals, from whose dung mushrooms spring forth. Lush, multicoloured forests with dense leaf litter and an abundance of moss might be your picture of a mushroom’s paradise. While the presence of water for the growth of fruiting bodies might seem obvious, considering that in some cases water comprises nearly 90% of their weight, have you ever given thought to how much mushrooms rely on air?

Rather than producing seeds like a plant, fungi release microscopic spores to the air, relying on the breeze to carry the stuff of their next generations to new places. In stagnant environments populated by a large number of fruiting fungi, some people experience breathing difficulty due to the high volume of spores produced, or by characteristics specific to certain species (some molds, for example).

The flip side to this is that like humans, mushrooms take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide; if submerged in water with no escape a mycelial culture will, essentially, drown. With these things in common between our species it’s no surprise that some mushrooms contain the building blocks for healthy breathing!

Reishi mushrooms are one of the world’s most famous wild (and cultivated) medicinal fungi. Although there are some localized differences between species, many mycologists consider the family of “varnish shelf” mushrooms (which includes Ganoderma lucidum, G. resinaceum, G. oregonese, and G. tsugae) medicinally similar. DNA analysis has suggested a very close relation between the Hemlock Reishi (G. tsugae) which is the most common member of this group found in the forests of eastern Turtle Island (and is the wild mushroom we use in our health-promoting tinctures) and the G. lucidum mushroom commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

According to Robert Rogers, author of “The Fungal Pharmacy”, reishi has a “special affinity” for the lungs. He notes that reishi is very effective in treating chronic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, and other allergy-related respiratory conditions.

Dr. Cass Ingram remarks that among its wide range of health benefits, Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)  it is well known in Eastern Europe for being effective in treating bronchitis and lung disease.

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) mushrooms are also traditionally used to treat infection and inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. We’ve received feedback that our turkey tail tincture is especially effective in clearing sinus congestion, allowing for improved breathing through the nose.

In Holland, Turkey Tails are called elfenbankje -- "fairy bench" mushrooms!

In Holland, Turkey Tails are called elfenbankje — “fairy bench” mushrooms!

Speaking of noses — taking deep breaths while hiking in the woods can sometimes reveal a particularly “mushroomy”-smelling locale, in which we may be lucky to discover them in abundance.  Some among us are even attuned to the scents of particular mushroom species, and can successfully forage edible and medicinal wild fungi using these cues (animals with even more sensitive schnozes, like dogs and pigs, have been known to snuffle out truffle fungi even through layers of soil!).

So you see, breathing helps us find mushrooms, and mushrooms can help us breathe — just another example of inter-species mutual aid, on a growing list of the fabulous features of fungi!

Does the thought of finding interesting, useful mushrooms put a spring in your step? Contact us to organize a guided mushroom excursion on your woodlot or locally-accessible public forest (rates vary).

Birds do it, Bees do it…

Let’s do it — let’s eat Mushrooms!

chomp!

chomp!

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.]

Lookout Wolfville!

Hey All!

Get your mycology on at the Wolfville Farmer’s Market this weekend — we’ll be there sharing a table with the lovely soapmistress of Nova Scotia Soapworks Studio (if you’re lucky, they’ll have some fabulous Chaga infused soap in stock, just one in their amazing line of herbal-blended bath bars!)!

This will be our first time with a table at this market, so come check us out (and tell your friends!) — as we move indoors for the colder weather, perhaps a wild mushroom tincture is just the thing to help strengthen your immune system against seasonal infections and winter stress! Looking for a gift for a friend (or want to treat yo’self)? A handmade hemp necklace with a swirly one-of-a-kind mushroom charm might be just the thing!

Mushrooming has been completely bonkers this season: we found a Chanterelle on Oct 30 (whaaa?!?), have spotted some gorgeous Late Autumn Oysters (Panellus serotinus — they only pop out after a frost!) and this week, some tasty-looking Field Mushrooms (Agaricus campestris) appeared on a friend’s lawn!

Late Autumn OysterAutumn Oysters erupting from an alder stand, Nov 2015

Ever-exciting and constantly surprising,  magnificent mushrooms are all around us —  though there’s plenty to see on the forest floor, let this bodacious Bear’s Head Tooth remind you to look up every once in a while!

Bear's Head ToothHericium Americanum sprouting about 7 feet from the ground, on beech

See you at the Market!

When is a “chanterelle” not a chanterelle?

Hiking in a local ravine today afforded a lucky chance to see some huge Scaly Vase Chanterelles growing right on the side of the path! scalyvase1 Unfortunately NOT recommended for eating (they contain α-tetradecylcitric acid, apparently), these fascinating specimens share some characteristics with the highly-treasured  Cantharellus cibarius (your apricot-scented “golden chanterelle”) : vase-shaped, somewhat orangey, and with definite ridges as distinct from gills, the real showstoppers are the (you guessed it) scales. scalyvase3  Debating classifications and names of fungi seems to be among the biggest wastes uses of mycophiles’ time: as it turns out, despite their common epithet, these mammoths should really be called Turbinellus floccosus (floccosus comes from ‘floccus’, latin for “flock of wool”).

scalyvasewithtwoonie

(see how big they are?)

The Scaly Vase isn’t known for having much of a scent, and these were no exception. They’re mycorrhizal under firs and grow throughout the continent, with bioregional variations.

It’s been a rather dry summer, and these are among the very first non-perennial fruits to be spotted locally — it’s possible the amazingly cool, humid air alongside the river in the ravine contributed to their presence. Near the Scaly Vases were some well-munched Russula-type mushrooms. Another species known for giving humans digestive grief, the slugs had a field day with these ones!

russula1 russulaslug Until next time, happy shroomin’!

Grow-Your-Own Shiitake Mushroom Logs!

Now Available from Fundy Spores!

Grow-Your-Own Shiitake Mushroom Logs

Relate to a whole new dimension
of your garden:
Cultivate Shiitake Mushrooms at home!

Shiitake log on pile of logs

Homestead-Grown vs. Grocery Store Mushrooms

Commercial shiitakes are often produced using blocks of compressed sawdust.

Natural logs make more complex and nutritious food available
to the growing fungi, resulting in healthier and better-tasting mushrooms!

The Specs:

Wood Type:
While these mushrooms will grow on a variety of hardwoods, our sustainably harvested shiitake logs are cut at our homestead from fast-growing and locally abundant alder stands.

Size:
Logs range from approximately 12-14” in length and 3-5” in diameter.

Yield & Lifespan:
As living organisms, each shiitake culture is unique: interactions between the microclimate of your home environment and the log determine when and how many times you can expect it to fruit (produce mushrooms). Requiring relatively little attention, your log can be expected to fruit for the first time in either Spring or Autumn of 2016, and to enter a cycle of dormancy and fruiting that can last for several seasons.

What is that stuff covering the holes?
Wax protects the places where the shiitake fungus has been introduced to the log. We use a 100% vegan (no animal by-products or testing), biodegradable, non-GMO soy-based wax that is manufactured up to FDA and Kosher standards. Your mushroom mycelium has been exposed to no petroleum nor paraffin.

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

 

 

Late-winter Woods Walk

The snow accumulation here on the East Coast this winter was nothing short of impressive – in the surrounding forests, it has taken until just recently for there to be enough traversable terrain (sans snowshoes) to go hiking in search of overwintering and early spring fungi.

(Check out these gnaw-marks on tree branches, aprox 4 feet from the ground – small forest friends, likely rabbits, were nibbling bark at this height only a couple of weeks ago!)

IMG_0329 IMG_0330

As the seasons’ colours turn from the high-contrast of brilliant white, deep greens, dark browns and black, a few things pop out against the muted tones of late winter:

Pink Earth lichen (dibaeis baeomyces) is rampant in this former slate-extraction pit: as a “lichenised fungi”, it features miniscule fruiting bodies resembling the stalked mushrooms we tend to see in the fall.

Dibaeis baeomyces pink earth lichen

Orange Jelly emerge, brain-like, from decaying wood.

orange jelly

In this shot, you can see it snacking on the same trunk as some gorgeous Green Stain (chlorociboria aeruginascens) mycelia.

green stain and orange jelly

Black Jelly Roll is also prevalent. Here, it co-occurs with what just might be panellus stipticus – we’ll have to return after sundown to see if it bears the exceptionally cool trait of luminescence (glowing in the dark) to confirm the ID!

black jelly and panellus

It’s fascinating to see the combinations of fungi, moss, and lichen inhabiting the same host trees, in various stages of life, decline, and decay. Come back soon for some more pictures and a post about the numerous polypores, specifically conk fungi, observed on this outing.

Springtime in the mushroom patch

Despite the lingering snowdrifts, today felt like a good day to finally get our hands into the garden and establish a new bed of King Stropharia (aka Garden Giant or Wine Cap) mushrooms!

Anticipating a future full of softball-sized, grill-ready fungi, we set to work preparing the space. After constructing a box out of slabwood and locating it in a prominent spot in the garden, we established a base layer of cardboard.

1. cardboard base layer, partial woodchip base layer

Next came a roughly 2-inch deep layer of chipped alder and willow.

2. woodchip base layer complete

We spread the spawn over the entirety of the bed, allowing some big chunks of well-myceliated sawdust to remain, crumbling the rest into smaller particles.

3. spreading spawn4. close up of spawn

These were covered with another 2-3 inches of willow chips, then the whole bed was given a good soaking with collected rainwater.

 5. second layer of woodchips

Finally, to protect the bed from wind-drying and the investigations of wilder critters, we added a final layer of cardboard and paper leaf bags.

 7. top layer of cardboard - bed complete

If we’re lucky, the ’shrooms might begin to pop up as early as this autumn – we’ll keep you posted!