Pasteurizing Substrate for Edible Garden Beds

I’m a bit behind in updating the blog, it’s been a busy couple of weeks…

We’ve done two home inoculation projects this spring, a small project a few weeks ago and a larger project yesterday, in addition to the 100 log inoculation in Brown County, Indiana – and of course attending the Brown County Morel Festival

Project #1

A few days before Easter the kids were over and I decided to test out an artificial grow log system. I had a little Stropharia spawn, a few cups of Shiitake spawn and a half a bag of Oyster spawn that was left over from the Brown County, Indiana inoculation project on Tom Westgard’s small scale farming operation. With my 17 year old daughter and 8 year old son we put up the two largest stockpots with water and began to bring them up to temperature. Once they hit around 170° f we added wood chips to one, and burlap sacks to another.

We brought the stew of wood chips up to temperature, kept between 160 and 180 for about an hour, drained and let cool. The burlap sacks were hung on the neighbors fence to cool and the chips were spread in a clean plastic tote to cool. Once cool we spread out one burlap bag and sprinkled two cups of wood chips and four of mixed ground and unground, fresh roasted coffee for the Oyster, and only wood chips for the Stropharia and the Shiitake. We then inoculated and rolled them tightly as we could and slid them into 4 inch HDPE drain tile and covered the ends and holes with Tyvek. I checked them yesterday and all show signs of mycelium running to the ends in the center.

Pasteurization is very different than sterilization: With pasteurization you’re attempting to bring down the level of contaminants, while leaving alive beneficial bacteria. Sterilization kills everything, and is quite useful, especially when you’re producing fresh spawn from spores or live culture plates, but unless you’ve got a clean room with laminar flow hood you’re only going to produce black mold. It’s important to remember that if you’re pasteurizing, don’t let your substrate come to a boil — without the beneficial bacteria and molds you’ll open yourself up to serious contamination. 

Project #2

I also had a bag of Pluerotus pulmonarius left from the Brown County project. With all living things you’ve got to use it — have it make mushrooms —  or give it more food by inoculating more substrate with it. Yesterday I ran three of the largest stock pots pasteurizing chips and burlap on the stove top. I made a complete mess of the kitchen with bags and wood chips everywhere, but when I was done cleanup took just 20 minutes. I drained the wood chips into another pot, and let the burlap to drip into that pot before I hung them back up on the fence in an attempt to conserve as much hot water as I could.

I laid the chips out on a clean plastic tarp to cool. I soaked some whole roasted coffee beans in the sugar syrup, it was actually 3 tablespoons of sugar to 1/2 gallon of water and 2 cups of whole beans. I added this nutrient rich whole bean directly into the wood chips.  If you can manage it the best time to inoculate the wood chips is when they just cool to about 80 degrees, the optimal incubation temperature for the spawn. If your chips are cooled to a lower temperature  inoculate and package. Wasting coffee on growing mushrooms might sound crazy but a local coffee roaster not only gives me their coffee sacks but also all of the fresh roasted ground and beans that they use in testing. It’s not for human consumption, but Oyster mushrooms love the energy packed into it.

Temperature for Pasteurization holding between 160° and 180° f.

Temperature for Pasteurization holding between 160° and 180° f.

Remember during the inoculation process you want to be sure to minimize the amount of time the pasteurized substrate is exposed to open air. You’ve just killed off most of the competitor fungi, allowing them to jump onto your chips through the open air doesn’t help anyone.

Cooling to ~80° f. for inoculation

Cooling to ~80° f. for inoculation

This time I spread about a large handful of spawn into each 26″ c 48″ bag and folded it over, and added about another cup of spawn and tightly rolled the sack. I laid the rolled bags in the bottom of a plastic tote, after adding a small amount of spawn to the bottom, and sprinkled a little spawn between layers. For the chips, once cooled, I moved the chips to a tote, and added spawn. I wound up running three pots of chips and three of burlap bags. When I was done with the bags I spread a little inoculated wood chips into the crevices and open spaces in the tote. 

Pasteurized and inoculated burlap bags to be used as base for Mushroom Gardens

Pasteurized and inoculated burlap bags to be used as base for Mushroom Gardens

This project is set to produce enough wood chips and burlap bags to put in two mushroom garden beds. The myceliated burlap will create a barrier between the ground and the raw wood chips that will be mixed with the myceliated wood chips. 

I’ll check the spawn in about a week, taking a quick peak to be sure that the mycelium in running and I’m not fermenting the chips. 

Throughout the spring, summer and fall we’ll be putting in edible mushroom gardens, Oyster Mushroom, Elm Oyster, King Stropharia, and Nameko are all great wood loving bases for garden beds. Some pair extremely well with particular plantings, bringing nutrients to the root ball in exchange for sugars from the plant essentially extending the size of the root ball and acting like a natural fertilizer.

If you’d like a consultation on your garden needs just give us a call!

UPDATE: Just checked the chips and burlap totes, all seem to be running pretty well.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Channrith Hing: From Landmines to Mushrooms – One man’s story of using mushrooms to better his world

Channrith Hing runs schools in Cambodia for three to six year old children through the not-for-profit Cambodia Children’s Advocacy Foundation. CCAF has established 13 preschools since its inception, helping 2,300 school children. The program is partnered with in home visits for parental education. Additionally as part of their mission, the CCAF staff expands the income generation of the families of the children they teach by over seeing the introduction of small scale farming best practices, training directly in the homes and communities of those they serve.  Hing is a trained attorney, and worked for the United Nations Transitional Authority for Cambodia during Cambodia’s first election in 1993.

Hing - United Nations Transitional Authority for Cambodia first election in 1993.

Hing – United Nations Transitional Authority for Cambodia first election in 1993.

Hing had been funded from a grant from Boeing Corporation and a  grant from a Methodist group allowed the school program to expand to 13 schools. Once the grants ended Hing decided that growing mushrooms for sale locally using rubber tree sawdust as a substrate, would be a quick way to create a funding stream to continue his programs. Once understanding all of the trouble of growing P. ostreatus (Oyster Mushrooms), he’d begin growing medicinal mushrooms – notably G. lucidum (Reishi Mushrooms).

But this isn’t the first effort to alleviate suffering and ending poverty that Hing has been involved in, 15 years ago he worked with victims of land mines. Hing’s work directing a rehabilitation center is detailed by long time friend, and Cambodian Children’s Foundation Board Member, Phil Nelson:

hing veterans int cambodia

Hing Circa 2003 – Veterans International Cambodia

Boston based, Phil Nelson is a retired social studies teacher he is exceptionally well traveled, during the first ten years of his teaching career he spent his summers exploring Europe. For over 25 years he has extensively explored South East Asia. He is the brother of a US Marine who died in combat during the Vietnam war, Nelson got a deferment from the Vietnam draft as a sole survivor.

. . .  “There were all these rusting wheel chairs with men in rotting military uniforms desperately waiting for the hospital to be built,”. . . 

It was in the early 1990′s and Phil Nelson was in Cambodia near what had been a Khmer Rouge torture school and noticed several people missing limbs. He asked a street vendor why there were so many injured people, the vendor directed him over a hill. Cautiously he proceeded and found dozens of people, all with missing limbs; arms, legs or both, camped under trees and bushes. It was small tent village. “There were all these rusting wheel chairs with men in rotting military uniforms desperately waiting for the hospital to be built,” Nelson said. “Those that could were helping. Imagine men with no arms carefully balancing lumber on their shoulders in order to build a hospital so they could be a patient.”

In the midst of this surreal scene of misery and survival that Nelson witnessed, was a brand new white SUV, so out of place that Nelson had to see why it was there. It turned out to be a USAID (United States Agency for International Development) official overseeing the hospital construction. Phil chose to document the people living in the bushes and trees in this encampment of homeless and limbless veterans and civilians, taking pictures and writing about what he saw. It’s important to note that in a 1996 World Health Organization report stated that over 4,800 people in Cambodia alone were injured by land mines, the report further states that that figure is significantly under reported.

Nelson was friends with many folks involved with the Vietnam Veterans of America, and when he returned to the US he was invited to a fundraiser thrown by the VVA, for a hospital being built in Cambodia. Phil immediately knew that the hospital supported by the VVA was the one he saw being built. He quickly offered his photos for future fundraisers for the construction of the Kien Kleang National Rehabilitation Center, for of the victims of land mines that he had met.

“Vietnam Veterans of America was financing the Rehabilitation Center, partnered with it’s Cambodian sister organization the Veteran International Cambodia – I started in 1996 at the Assistant Manager of the facility, designed not only for veterans but anyone effected by land mines, and anyone physically disabled. We provided therapy, braces, prosthesis, and wheel chairs.” Said Hing, who was soon to became the Center’s Site Manager. “Many people had to stay very long term in order to learn to walk again.”

“I met Phil in ’96 or ’97 on a visit he made to Cambodia, we kept up with each other,” Hing intimated to me during a recent Skype call, “At first I treated him as I would any donor, giving him regular updates of our work. but as Phil continued to come to Cambodia every summer and volunteer, we soon became best friends.”

Phil Nelson quickly began raising funds for the hospital on his own, shaking down friends and neighbors for donations and saving a significant portion of his salary for the hospital. Each summer he would travel to Cambodia to spend time, and to drop off the funds directly at the hospital. “Corruption in Cambodia is so rampant, any funds used for hospitals or schools is quickly funneled of into the pockets of government officials,” Nelson says.

. . . “The US bombing campaigns in Cambodia known as Operation Menu and Operation Freedom Deal not only caused horrendous injuries tens of thousands of innocent people, but can be directly attributed to the rise of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot.”. . .

 

Hing community dev 1

Recent CCAF Wheelchair Recipient – Photo Phil Nelson

 

Hing stays out of politics and refuses to on comment the cause of the injuries and poverty, but his US friend Nelson is more outspoken, “The US bombing campaigns in Cambodia known as Operation Menu and Operation Freedom Deal not only caused horrendous injuries to tens of thousands innocent people, but can be directly attributed to the rise of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot.”

American B52 Bombing SE Asia - Wikimedia Commons

United States Air Force B52 Bombing SE Asia – Date Unknown – Photo Wikimedia Commons

Despite Nelson’s best efforts the USAID ended the funding of the hospital. “For a long time land mine victims and land mine eradication were a cause célèbre and even though some celebrities like Steve Earle, Sheryl Crowe, and Emmy Lou Harris continued to hold concerts, Princess Diana’s death dealt a serious blow to funding rehabilitation efforts both politically and financially, and when the political will dried up, so did the USAID money.” Nelson told me in a recent conversation. “The British did an incredible job for many years taking out landmines but people are still being injured by them, fewer, but it’s no longer covered even in Cambodian media.”

. . . “The rice fields, you know kids don’t go to school there, when the parents work in the fields the children just sit there in the sun all day, doing nothing, all alone.”. . .

Nelson and Hing still working together when the Cambodian government took possession of the Rehabilitation Center because the USAID stopped the center’s funding. Hing resigned from the Rehab Center to begin the Cambodian Childrens Advocacy Foundation, a local NGO, and it was again Nelson raising funds in the US and Hing looking to Nelson and others for inspiration and doing the ground work.

Students - Phil Nelson

Students – Photo Phil Nelson

“The rice fields, you know kids don’t go to school there, when the parents work in the fields the children just sit there in the sun all day, doing nothing, all alone.” Nelson remembers. He and Hing decided to begin something to improve conditions of Cambodia’s poorest children.

” . . . The funding we receive is a small amount of the teacher’s salary, about $17.00, or a third of the teacher’s salary of $50.00 a month. We have to raise the rest. . .”

Hing began to raise funds for schools for preschool and kindergarten aged children founding CCAF and opening three schools simultaneously. Hing developed the curriculum as a pilot program designed to be eventually taken up by the Cambodian government. The goal of alleviating poverty and education children is lofty, but in a country with so little in terms of social services or available governments funds, even small scale projects have large effect on the people. All of Hing’s schools have vegetable gardens to supplement the caloric intake of the families of the students.

IMG_5023

“Our schools are overseen by the Cambodian Ministry of Education, and we receive technical advice, teacher training, and they monitor the work of the schools, recently we began to receive funding not from the Ministry of Education but from the Ministry of the Interior, at the provincial level” Hing told me, “The funding we receive is a small amount of the teacher’s salary, about $17.00, or a third of the teacher’s salary of $50.00 a month. We have to raise the rest.”

Phil Nelson teaching, 2014

Phil Nelson teaching, 2014

“Hing not only teaches the children to read and write at an early age, the schools teach general knowledge but most importantly reflective thinking, the precursor to critical thinking,” says Nelson. “That’s the rub, the government which essentially is a dictatorship doesn’t want critical thinkers to challenge them, it wants poverty level workers for the new family of Western owned clothing factories. Another reason the government doesn’t want to take up the problem of early education is that the government is so corrupt, theft of funds so prevalent, they’ve realized there’s no side money for them to take in small scale, early education projects.”

To date Hing has educated over 2,300 children.

The early Boeing Global Corporate Citizen grant allowed Hing some breathing room and enough money to open 13 small schools. The three year grant ended and wasn’t renewed when the Boeing Vice President for Asia received a promotion and the connection to the manufacturing giant dried up.

“. . . Last year Hing had to end a popular and economical program that allowed families to create income, the loan of chickens partnered with animal husbandry best practices education. . .”

Education is only one of CCAF’s activities; Raising the the local population and families of the school children out of the abject poverty they’re forced to live is also a main focus. Last year Hing had to end a popular and economical program that allowed families to create income, the loan of chickens partnered with animal husbandry best practices education. Hing lent families five chickens and one rooster, which allowed them to sell eggs. If successful at hatching chicks the program allowed them to sell the chickens as meat. After one year the families would return to CCAF five chickens and one rooster, keeping the offspring for their own flock.

“This program was successful, though many families had set-backs, disease in the flocks, problems with predators, or simply the need to eat during the worst economic times would wipe out a flock” Hing revealed, “Over all this program allowed dozens of families to rise out of poverty and many families are still raising chickens.”

While inexpensive to run the program did have costs, “with the ending of a Methodist Relief Development Fund grant we’ve had to cancel the program, though we are currently trying to have it taken up by the local chiefs.” said Hing. The MRDF Grant was given to CCAF twice, for a six year run, but grant guidelines only allow two concurrent funding cycles.

 

“. . . Loans of $100.00 or less were common, the purchase or materials were limited to $50.00. – followed by training in bookkeeping, was enough to raise income levels so the locals could afford necessities like school books and candles. . .” 

“Last year on my trip to Cambodia Rith and I had been told about an elderly blind woman whose neighbors had to bring her water, and some days she went without when the neighbors were too busy. Her shack was secluded, in the middle of rice paddies, and she couldn’t get to the community well. Hing and I dug wells until we found water,” Nelson told me, “now she has to only walk a few yards to get her water.”

Recent Recipient of CCAF Small Business Loan - Photo Cannrith Hing

Recent Recipient of CCAF Small Business Loan – Photo Cannrith Hing

Hing has had to cut back on other programs. Hing used to loan out money using local monasteries to find the appropriate recipients of small loans to open shops, or to find people to open small scale manufacturing operations in their homes. Some recipients opened shops and stores, others began sewing operations simply receiving enough thread and material to begin sewing. Loans of $100.00 or less were common, the purchase or materials were limited to $50.00. – followed by training in bookkeeping, was enough to raise income levels so the locals could afford necessities like school books and candles.

Boeing Corporation touted Cambodian Children’s Advocacy Foundation in the US as one of it’s success stories, setting up a tour in 2009 for US Senator Mary Cantwell, arranged by executive Paul Walters and Vice President of Global Corporate Citizenship, Anne Roosevelt.

Anne Eleanor Roosevelt – Former VP Boeing Corporate Global Citizenship Program

Hing read the writing on the wall,  When Paul Walters moved into a new role and the new regional Vice President named, Boeing wouldn’t renew his Corporate Citizenship grant, and gave him no  feedback why.

Adalia Hill, a Media Spokeperson for Boeing Corporation replied to my request for comment. Boeing states, ” the country president did not opt to not renew the grant. At that time Boeing was re-aligning giving strategy/objectives into key areas of impact and while the program is a good one, when the grant was submitted it ultimately did not meet the updated objectives.”  Hing has since reapplied and been turned down.

Instead of cutting programs Hing took a chance, creating new a program growing Oyster Mushrooms on Rubber Tree sawdust mixed with Rye Grain and other supplements for local sale. P. ostreatus, is a fast growing and aggressive cultivator, easy and fast to grow. It causes little problems and overcomes many competitor fungi. “I had gone to the internet to find the processes to grow mushrooms to raise funds for my programs, I found so many people willing to spend time with me, give me advice, and encourage my efforts.”

IHing Mushrooms farm Oyster

CCAF Oyster Mushroom Grow Room – 2013

About two years ago Hing realized that production of Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) known in Asia, as the Lingzhi, would be more profitable with only slightly, he thought, more work. He had an inoculation, incubation and grow rooms already, so he began experimentation and quickly went into production. He realized the extra profit he’d be able to plow back into his schools if he produced his own spawn and needed a laminar flow hood.

Reishi - Phil Nelson

Reishi – Phil Nelson

As usual Hing turned to internet forums for advice on the construction of the flow hood, chatting with people all over the world. Finally, with plans in hand, he took the time to carefully craft his hood. A benefactor in the UK provided the specialized filter. Using a laminar flow hood prevents contaminants from infiltrating the critical inoculation stage of mushroom cultivation.

“I like the production of Lingzhi, the problem I have is marketing, the local market is soft for cultivated Lingzhi, people want tree grown.” Hing’s disappointment was clear. Without a US distributor who would partner in a program similar to “Fair Trade” programs, one that would not only sell his production based on the medicinal value and value added of the use of the profits going to his good works.

In a recent conversation with Hing, I mentioned switching to log grown Reishi, frustrated he said, “Right now I can not even wait for the 30 days it takes each crop of Lingzhi from start to finish, I need to make payroll, having log grown production, which takes up to two years for a first crop would bankrupt me, who would pay the teachers?”

“Both in the cultivation of Oyster Mushrooms, and Lingzhi, I have made mistakes. Sometimes it feels like hundreds of mistakes!” he laughingly told me recently, “It is through these mistakes that I’ve learned, and perfected my skills.” Currently he has polished his skills further, perfecting cultivation of the medicinal cordyceps mushroom.

Hing preschool 1

Hing is the penultimate inventor. With finished materials so hard to get in rural Cambodia he has had to make do or do without. He’s chosen the path of neither; insisting that his schools and facilities have power he’s made wind generators from scratch. Insisting that water be available he’s hand dug wells and installed home made pumps. Insisting that the schools have funding he’s installed vegetable gardens so not only the children can eat, but so the organization can sell the produce to finance operations.

Hing refuses to be dejected about the future, each day he spends time working with his mushrooms, ensuring his schools are run well, and that individual foreign donors and volunteers are kept in close communication. He understands that his position can be one of a bottleneck, so he’s begun to teach his farm supervisor, Mam Sei, how to cultivate mushrooms. Hing is convinced that with some further skills learned from mycologists overseas, and slightly better facilities his efforts using the Fungi Kingdom to pay for his work will be successful.

 

Earlier this year Hing raised funds and traveled to Thailand, to an outfit known as IFarm, to learn liquid inoculation techniques, “I had to quickly raise $500, but the liquid inoculation saves a week of incubation time. It is open to contamination easier, but we’ve overcome that problem with better clean room skills”

 “. . . I’ve learned and developed growing Lingzhi and Cordyceps we can make it work. The future is in Fungi! . . .”

Lolita Van Buuren is from England and a recent volunteer. She’s a pharmaceutical saleswoman, taking a sabbatical to volunteer with CCAF. She has a background in finance, property development, and business management. She’ll be in Cambodia for two months, beginning next week, though she has been working long distance with Hing on feasibility studies. “After studying Rith’s work in mycology, as an attempt to finance his projects I can only say that we’ll have to look at completely canceling the operation if he doesn’t manage to get outside marketing.” Van Buuren told me over the phone, “Any project should only be given three years, and if within that time span can’t pay for itself it needs to be scrapped.”

Reishi CCAF

Channrith Hing stubbornly rebutted this analysis. “I appreciate the work she is doing, and understand that work must have payback, but with the right marketing and partnerships, even some kind of agricultural tourism where we teach the techniques I’ve learned and developed growing Lingzhi and Cordyceps we can make it work. The future is in Fungi!”

Fortunately Channrith Hing has never followed normal guidelines, if he’s run his life as Van Buuren suggests he run the medicinal mushroom business he may have left the service of his community long ago.

The Cambodian Children’s Advocacy Foundation’s website is: http://www.ccaf-khmer.org/

Installment II – “From Landmines to Mushrooms – The Trouble with Partnering with International Foundations and Volunteers” is due outWednesday, April 23rd

Brown County, Indiana – Small Scale Mushroom Production Project

I didn’t expect 80 degree weather in Brown County, Indiana today, day two of helping set up a mushroom cultivation project on Tom Westgard’s farm. Tom is a small scale farmer willing to try some new things. Situated on 12 acres, mostly woodlot, Tom has turkeys, chickens, Guinea Fowls, and pigs. Because of the woodlot Tom has access to Oak, Maple and Beech trees, the needed maintenance on the woodlot meant Tom had to take out some trees so others would reach maturity and stay straight.

Shiitake logs

Tom’s only been farming for a year, but in that time he’s managed to experiment and educate himself in a number of animal husbandry techniques, make some mistakes, and learn a lot. “The future is local,” says the New York Times, Small Scale Farming is bringing communities closer and allowing new techniques to proliferate. The Polar Vortex this last winter killed off his six hives of bees, wiping out his honey production, expenses are only allowing him to replace one hive.

Tom managed to produce about 100 bolts, four foot logs, 4 – 8 inches in diameter that are used for log grown shiitake production. Paoli based Magnificent Mushrooms supplied the spawn, Three bags of Shiitake, three of Oyster mushroom, and two of Stropharia. Tom had a very limited budget, like many of his farming projects he’s had to start small. The budget allowed for just the spawn, and I provided the tools, knowledge, and back.

 

Tom’s also putting in two Wine Cap Stropharia beds, and inoculating 50 Oyster Mushroom logs, experimenting with the “Totem method” and also beginning experimentation with the production of Oyster Mushrooms on burlap/coffee substrate.  While a year is a long time to wait for his first crop of shiitakes, it’s expected that his oyster mushrooms and wine cap stropharias may be producing by fall. Production of mushroom fruiting production logs is best done in the spring, but the expansion of the Wine Cap Stropharia beds is expected to also happen in the fall.

A hundred log annual production mushroom business will supplement Tom’s income by a minimum of $10,000 in profit over five years, as well as paying for his time at $12.00 an hour, according to this Cornell University Study and best practices guide. Already Westgard has spoken to restaurateurs in nearby Nashville and they await next spring for his Shiitakes to produce their first crop.

We’ll continue to monitor Tom’s progress and report back.

 

Coming tomorrow – Brown County – Lessons Learned

Off the Beaten Path: Channrith Hing – From Landmines to Mushrooms – Teaser

Beginning this spring Chicago Mushroom Man will be featuring interviews with some of the folks that have decided to make mycology, foraging or production as their life’s work.

There are multiple reasons why one would walk this path, some, like L. Sulphureus (a pseudonym) in Oregon have found a passion and have used foraging to continue the passion. Others like Channrith Hing of Cambodia have chosen production of medicinal mushrooms as a means to an end, he runs 13 pre-schools and programs that enrich the local culture and economy.  These folks aren’t mycological rock stars, you’ll find within these stories a passion for the world and tales of struggle and supremacy.

The commonality between these people is that they have made, or in some cases making the transition to from the traditional economy to one in which they and mother nature are solely responsible for their income generation. They make that transition with empathy and responsibility for the areas they forage or the people that they’ve committed their lives to helping.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

You’ve come here looking for this, full article here!

Excerpted here is a small teaser of a much larger article. This is a complicated tale of compassion and struggle that stretches a generation. Large sections are purposely left out of this “teaser” to compel you to come back and read the work in it’s entirety.

I met Channrith Hing online about a year ago when he was presenting his progress and looking for advice in transitioning from producing oyster mushrooms to producing reishi. In the six months of communication and research for this piece I found that Hing doesn’t work alone, it’s a group of people who for their own reasons, join him to make this small part of the earth, a half a world away, so much better.

Rob ~

 

When complete this feature will be presented in three installments, Channrith Hing’s work and struggles starting the production of medicinal mushrooms to fund his organizations work, the work that Hing has done for the people injured by land mines, and the connection between the schools that he runs and his earlier works, tied together through mycology.

 

Channrith Hing runs schools in Cambodia for three to six year old children through the Cambodia Childrens Advocacy Foundation, a not-for-profit. They’ve established 13 schools since its inception, helping 2,300 school children. The program is partnered with in home visits for parental education. Additionally as part of their mission the CCAF staff expands the income generation of the families of the children they teach by over seeing the introduction of small scale farming best practices, training directly in the homes and communities of those they serve. . . .

 

. . . This isn’t the first effort to alleviate suffering and ending poverty that Hing has been involved in, 15 years ago he worked with victims of land mines. Hing’s work directing a rehabilitation center is detailed by long time friend, Phil Nelson . . .

 

. . . “There were all these rusting wheelchairs with men in rotting military uniforms, desperately waiting for the hospital to be built”. . .

 

Hing community dev 1

. . . It was in the early 1990’s that Phil Nelson was in Cambodia near what had been a Khmer Rouge torture school and noticed several people missing limbs. He asked a street vendor why there were so many injured people, the vendor directed him over a hill. Cautiously he proceeded, where dozens of people all with missing limbs, arms, legs or both camped under trees and bushes. It was small tent village, “There were all these rusting wheel chairs with men in rotting military uniforms desperately waiting for the hospital to be built,” Nelson said. “Those that could were helping, imagine men with no arms carefully balancing lumber on their shoulders in order to build a hospital so they could be a patient.”

 

. . . Nelson chose to document the people living in the bushes and trees in this encampment of homeless and limbless veterans and civilians. . . 

. . . It was a surreal scene of misery and survival that Nelson witnessed, there was a brand new white SUV, so out of place that he had to see why it was there. It turned out to be a USAID official overseeing the hospital construction. Phil chose to document the people living in the bushes and trees in this encampment of homeless and limbless veterans and civilians, taking pictures and writing about what he saw. It’s important to note that in a 1996 World Health Organization report stated that over 4,800 people in Cambodia alone were injured by land mines, the report further states that that figure is significantly under reported. 

 

. . . Phil Nelson quickly began raising funds for the hospital on his own, shaking down friends and neighbors for donations and saving a significant portion of his salary for the hospital. Each summer he would travel to Cambodia to spend time, and to drop off the funds directly at the hospital. “Corruption in Cambodia is so rampant, any funds used for hospitals or schools is quickly funneled of into the pockets of government officials,” Nelson says. . .

 

“The rice fields, you know kids don’t go to school there, when the parents work in the fields the children just sit there in the sun all day, doing nothing, all alone.”

 

Phil Nelson teaching, February, 2014

Phil Nelson teaching, February, 2014

. . . Nelson was still raising funds for his friend Hing, still working together, after the Cambodian government took possession of the rehab center. “The rice fields, you know kids don’t go to school there, when the parents work in the fields the children just sit there in the sun all day, doing nothing, all alone,” Nelson remembers. He and Hing decided to begin something to improve conditions of Cambodia’s poorest children. Hing and Nelson began to raise funds to open schools for preschool and kindergarten aged children, opening the first three simultaneously. Hing developed the curriculum to be a pilot program to be eventually taken up by the Cambodian government.

 

Hing not only teaches the children to read and write at an early age, the schools teach general knowledge and most importantly, critical thinking,” says Nelson, “that’s the rub, the government, which essentially is a dictatorship, doesn’t want critical thinkers to challenge them. The government wants poverty level workers for the new family of Western owned clothing factories. Another reason the government doesn’t want to take up the problem of early education is that the government is so corrupt, theft of funds so prevalent, they’ve realized there’s no side money for them to take in small scale, early education projects.” . . .

 

 

. . . Hing realized that production of Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) would be more profitable with, he thought, only slightly more work. . .

IMG_4962

. . . When the Boeing grant ended Hing had a large hole to patch in his budget. He had expanded to 13 schools and needed serious funding to keep them going. He had individual schools put in gardens both to beef up the schools budgets but to also feed the families of the students. He began growing Oyster mushrooms on straw and field waste. The sales of Oyster Mushrooms helped, but the world economic downturn seriously effected his smaller donors.

About two years ago Hing realized that production of Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) would be more profitable with, he thought, only slightly more work. He already had an inoculation, incubation and production rooms so he began experimentation and quickly went into production. He quickly realized there would be extra money he’d be able to plow back into his schools if he produced his own spawn and now he needed a laminar flow hood. . . 

 Installments begin April 15th, 2014

Guide to Midwest Morel Festivals

Original Artwork - Claudia McGhee http://goo.gl/tKUYhC

Original Artwork – Claudia McGehee
http://goo.gl/tKUYhC

Morel Festivals of Midwest

It’s spring in the Midwest and with spring comes urgent need to get to the woods and beat out the crowds for the coveted morel mushroom. With hundreds of thousands of morel enthusiasts competing for diminishing hunting grounds and urgently checking morel maps and forums to see if morels are fruiting locally, communities with prime hunting grounds are planning entertaining and educational festivals. Most festivals are replete with carnivals, parades, grand forays with prizes for the largest haul, and morel auctions there’s fun for the entire family. Simply put, Morels have an incredible, meaty flavor and are the most sought after mushroom in the US. Many folks begin hunting morels and then move on to other mushrooms, but most continue to only hunt this special fungi. If you’ve never hunted them, this is your opportunity to get out there and learn, while meeting professional foragers and learning from some of the best.

Some festivals, like the Brown County, Indiana Simply Music Simply Morel Festival have main stages and professional musicians playing late into the night, others like Wisconsin’s Musconda Morel Festival offer free rides back to your hotel for those that over indulge. All festivals stress the educational and recreational experience that a good day in the woods brings. Each festival is put together by dedicated folks who enjoy the outdoors and are committed to others having good experiences. Whether you’re a beginning morel hunter or a seasoned pro, there’s always something to learn and great folks to meet at these fantastic events. There have been countless books written on Morel Hunting, and I’m sure you’ll be able to find a few at each festival, but the real deep seated knowledge comes from doing and learning from some of the best is not only possible, but highly achievable by attending one of these fests. Please click the title of each festival to go directly to that festivals website.

Brown County Banner

Brown County, Indiana – April 25th – 27th   – “Simply Music, Simply Morel Fest”

Beautiful Brown County is less than an hour from Indianapolis and about four and a half hours from Chicago. Rolling hills and beautiful scenery of this driftless region, along with the abundance of recreational forest land make this a truly special part of the Midwest. Brown County is home to Brown County State Park, Yellow Wood State Forest as well as parts of the Hossier National Forest.

Randy Laverre began the Brown County Simply Music, Simply Morel Festival last year. He lives less than a mile from the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and attending the the Bluegrass Festival every year he decided that his passion of morel hunting deserved its own festival. Laverre began hunting morels when he was 13, his junior high friends dragged him out and taught him the knowledge to identify good morel spots, “What I really want to do is impart knowledge to people, I want them to learn something that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.” he says.

With the emphasis on education the fest has booked great mushroom hunters to lead forays, Folks like Leon Shernoff of Mushroom, the Journal, Alex “The Mad Russian” Babich from Mushroom Gear, Chris Matherly from Georgia, and Thomas “The Mushroom King” Weipert from Lewiston, Montana will be coming to lead forays, cooking demonstrations and giving lectures on tree identification.

Randy Laverre says that the real focus of the festival will be teaching the children. He’s been bringing his kids into the woods since they learned to walk. His eight year old son is better than he is at spotting morels, and his four year old daughter is just picking up the hobby. “The kids have their own foray, and kids 12 and under get in free all weekend.” says Laverre.

The Championship Foray was won last year by an outsider, which brings hope to us out of towners this year, Cameron Humfleep from Kentucky went home with first prize. Word is that Humfleep will be prowling the woods of Brown County again this year, so the challenge is on.

Irvine Mountain Banner

Irvine, Kentucky – April 26th – 27th –  Mountain Mushroom Festival

Nestled on a peninsula of land surrounded by the Natural Bridge Resort State Park, Irvine is about 30 miles South/Southwest of Lexington, Kentucky. The Mountain Mushroom Festival features about 100 booths of arts and crafts and vendors. A parade, and carnival will also be ongoing, a 5k fun run, mushroom auction, tractor show, antique car show and cake decoration demonstration and contest are in the works.

Setting itself apart from other festivals an agate and mineral hunt is scheduled for the Mountain Mushroom Festival has and a mushroom photography show.

 

Ottawa BannerOttawa, Illinois – May 2nd – 3rd –  Midwest Morel Fest

On the banks of the Illinois River about an hour and a half from Chicago  and about a fifteen minute drive from Starved Rock State Park and it’s famous lodge, the Midwest Morel Fest will be a large draw, featuring a “Learn to Hunt” Guided Foray by Morel University on Friday, and the Championship Foray on Saturday. The Fest also features a morel museum, a home made craft fair and tours of the local and beautiful Reddick Mansion.

Sure to delight will be the home brew beer tasting and home brew seminar during their Morel Mash Up a silent auction and of course, the Morel Auction.

The Midwest Morel Fest Championship Foray has a $500.00 grand prize, sure to get those heavy hunters out, but anyone can come across a honey hole and walk away with a weeks pay.

Original Artwork - L. Sulpureus - Prints Available here: http://goo.gl/cy5E4T

Original Artwork – L. Sulpureus – Prints Available here: http://goo.gl/cy5E4T

Wyoming, Illinois – May 3rd – Stark County Morel Fest

This one day Morel Festival is actually set for the first Saturday in May every year, by county decree. This festival is is halfway between Moline and Davenport, Illinois and features a morel auction and the usual round up of excellent middle American festival fare such as pork chops and sausage sandwiches as well as a round up of kids activities like ring toss and hay rides.

In previous years the Lions Club hosted a Biscuits and Gravy Breakfast, as of press time we were unable to find confirmation on the biscuits.

Richmond Banner

Richmond, Missouri – May  1st – 3rd –  “The Mushroom Capital of the World” Morel Festival 

“The Mushroom Capital of the World” Morel Festival kicks off May 1st through the 3rd. Attracting upwards of 5,000 people it features a kids hay ride, grand parade, carnival and a 5k run, the festival is in it’s 24th year. Organizer Natalie Lamar, a fourth generation morel hunter says, “The morel season kicks off next week, I find it a little odd that there have been morels found to the north, usually they’re fruiting here first, but with a few cool nights and warms days we’ll see a fantastic crop.”

Last year the festival was nearly canceled due to a surprise six inch snow storm, but the grand foray went on and was won by a local. Lamar says “Locals usually win every year, they know all the good spots.”  This year will also feature a pig roast as part of the annual golf tournament, known as the Deuce Classic, a largest morel contest and Mister and Miss Competition for kids under 10.

Iowa Fest Banner

McGregor, Iowa – May 8th – 11th –  Iowa Morel Mushroom Fest

Also in it’s second year the Iowa Morel Fest is located on the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers. This is one of my favorite spots in the Upper Midwest. Across the Mississippi in Wisconsin is the Wyalusing State Park, with camp sites that overlook a 400 foot bluff, and as astronomy club with stargazing on Saturday nights. At the State Park you can rent canoes to explore the channel islands, or in McGregor you can rent motorized boats for the day. Just north of McGregor is the Effigy Mounds National Monument, a sacred place to many Native Americans.

“Brian Klein won the Championship Foray last year, and this year is going to be leading forays to teach others his secrets,” says festival organizer Carl Hexom, “What I’m looking forward to the most is the eyes of the children as they pick their first monster morel on the free guided kid’s hunt.”

Featured lecturers and foray guides include Tom Volk, mycologist with University of Wisconsin, La Cross, Thomas “Mushroom King” Weipert, and local Brian Klein. Carl Hexom is also owner of Crazy Carls Silver Dollar Saloon, music venue for the festival. “We’ve got great bands, from Minitellica to 88 M.P.H to make sure everyone enjoys the weekend.” This festival is sure to be one of the more interesting morel festivals.

Hexom predicts that this will be a banner year for morels, and over 1,000 people will be traveling to enjoy the Iowa Morel Festival, his hope is that folks will learn new skills and come back year after year.

Mesick Banner

Mesick, Michigan – May 9th – 11th –  Mesick Annual Mushroom Festival

The Mesick Morel Festival lies just outside the Manistee National Forest and Mesick is located about 15 miles south of Traverse City, Michigan . The Fest features a flea market, an antique car show and three days of carnivals – moms ride free with kids on Mother’s Day. This fest also features a magic show, beer tent and horse pull. Sponsored by the local Lions Club the Mesick Fest also features a Softball Tournament, a 5k run, Grand Parade and a carnival. After Saturday’s Parade there will be a “Mud Bog Competition” in which 4 WD racers will compete in a mud track race.

Lewiston Banner

Lewiston, Michigan – May 10th  –  Lewiston Morel Mushroom Festival

The Lewiston Morel Mushroom Festival is a one day event with morning guided forays, mushrooms tastings, an arts and craft show as well as an outdoor equipment show featuring archery, hunting and equipment. Lewiston is in Eastern Michigan in the Center of Grayling State Forest, about 30 miles north of Huron National Forest. The Grayling State Forest is home to some of the largest morels found.

National Banner
Boyne City, Michigan – May 15th – 18th  –  “National Morel Mushroom Festival

Up the glove in Michigan, spot on Lake Charlevoix the Boyne City Morel Fest is in the heart of Michigan’s Morel Country. A Carnival Midway is set up for the fest, with Music Friday and Saturday Night. The Grand Championship Foray is on Saturday, on private grounds, with participants bussed over to the undisclosed location.

“I’ve been going since I was a youngster,” says Ashleigh Harris of Michigan Mushroom Marketplace, “And this is the fourth year as the sole mushroom vendor.” This fest has not only cooking demonstrations but a tasting and cooking competition, says Harris, who also sells prepared foods such as mushroom soups and compound butters made in a commercial kitchen and sold at Farmer’s Markets with her co-owner husband Ken, and soon at their wild mushroom specialty store in Petoskey, Michigan, which opens this summer.

Muscoda Banner

Muscoda, Wisconsin – May 17th – 18th –  Morel Mushroom Festival

The Musconda, Wisconsin morel festival, in it’s 32nd year, the festival is sponsored by the local American Legion. The Town of Musconda is nestled in state forests on the Wisconsin river halfway between Madison and Prairie du Chien, and attracts folks as far away as Chicago and the Quad Cities attracting about 3,000 people. The prime morel spots east of Lake Michigan happen to be right around Musconda.

Cinda Johnson is one of the folks that help organize the fest, Cinda says shes been coming to the festival for over 20 years, “I love being outdoors in the woods, I love the possibility of finding that honey spot.” As usual she says, “the mainstage music will be at the firehouse, but this year they’re having a DJ at Mushroom Head Quarters.”

The festival funds the local American Legion Hall’s activities, including local little league teams. Last year poor weather put the entire festival in doubt, but at the last minute local hunters came in from the woods with enough morels that the Hall was able to sell hundreds of one pound baskets fresh from the hunt. r_wildMorel-21web

Now with almost every weekend over the next month and a half booked, all I can say is, have fun! And save some for me!

Feel free to contact me to add your festival to the list

Since it’s Morel time, it’s time to readdress what’s edible and what isn’t, and how we refer to mushrooms. This piece addresses the usage of common names, especially the two mushrooms that often fruit while morels are fruiting – The Verpa sp. and the Gyromitra sp. Click to view.

 

Your First Foray

I began foraging while living in a log cabin in Western Michigan at 19 and working in the woods full time. I was stuck with no real money and a copy of the Audubon Field Guide to Mushrooms and hunting mushrooms was what I did in my spare time. You don’t need to live in a log cabin to become an excellent forager and to put new foods on your table, but you do need to follow a few rules; don’t eat anything unless you know what it is – there are more poisonous plants than there are poisonous mushrooms, knowing exactly what you’re eating is important.

The best way to start out is to go with someone who knows their stuff, and experienced mushroom hunter will not only explain the biomes, how and when the mushrooms you’re looking for fruit, but also give you some hints and tricks. If you don’t currently have friends that  are mushroomers you can join your local Mycological Society, or find a paid mushroom guide. Most areas have a Mushroom Festival to attend with a grand championship foray, you can usually tag along with someone, it’s a great opportunity to meet many folks.

Some of the things to remember: Dress appropriately, ticks and mosquitoes can ruin your otherwise wonderful hike so a bug spray with DEET might be a good companion. A net bag or a basket allow you to collect and still allow spores to fall. I usually carry a few folded paper shopping bags in case I come across a honey spot, and I always have a small backpack with water, a small snack and an extra knife or scissors.

Some quick things to know for beginners; The Foolproof Four are four excellent species to begin with. Their characteristics are easily identified, and easy to remember. The Foolproof Four are Morels, Chicken Mushroom, Chanterelles, and Puffballs. I usually add Oysters and Hen of the Woods. Get two good field guides, before you go out learn how to use them and read through them to familiarize yourself with their use.

Some highly recommended field guides:

David Arora’s Mushrooms Demystified, it’s West Coast centric, but an excellent read. The personal style of writing is perfect for those late winter evenings of reading when you just really want to be in the woods.

Many folks use the Audubon Field Guide, edited by Gary Lincolff, it is easy to use and full color, definitely one of the first field guides most people buy.

My favorite field to kitchen guide is David Fischer and Allan Bissett’s Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America: A Field-to-kitchen Guide . The one fault with it is that as soon as your friends see it they’ll take it on loan.

Greg Mueller and Joe McFarland’s beautifully illustrated with high resolution photographs is almost a coffee table book in the finest sense. Edible Wild Mushrooms of Illinois and Surrounding States: A Field-to-Kitchen Guide

Bradford Angier’s Edible Wild Plants is well used and one my bookshelf and nicely hand illustrated in color.

The Forager’s Harvest has color photographs and and is quite well written, includes picture of plants in various seasons as well as storage information.

“Wildman” Steve Brill has been urban foraging for many years. After getting arrested for foraging Central Park he plead the arrest in the media so well that he was quickly offered a job with the NYC Parks Department. His Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants is pen and ink illustrated is organized seasonally and is a wealth of information. His website has interesting recipes and amusing stories.

Euell Gibbons wrote Stalking the Wild Asparagus series in spawns the early 1960’s  to the early ’70’s, While some of the information is dated it’s definitely something to look out for, especially in the original printings in used book stores. Gibbons is the father of wild food foraging and I recall his regular Johnny Carson appearances, with Johnny regularly making the same tired jokes about eating tree bark. Contrary to popular myth Gibbons died of a heart failure due to a genetic disease, and not poisoning from his foraging.

Your public library is an excellent place to start to, especially for older, out of print and hyper local field guides. It’s important to remember that libraries using the Dewey Decimal system will put field guides in more than one place. There are classics you should keep your eyes peeled for, these out of print field guides and books are a wealth of knowledge, often specific to a species or to a small region. I was at my library and found a guide to Northern Illinois mushrooms from 1911. In it, in pencil, was written notes from 1932, 1933 and 1934. Each year detailed forays and hauls with specific locations – we can learn a lot from old mushroom hunters. One of my favorites is the 1965 Some Common Mushrooms of Michigan’s Parks and Recreation Areas. by A.H Smith and H. V. Smith, put out by Michigan Botanical Club.

 

Now that you’ve picked up a few field guides it’s time to look up the

Foolproof Four – Plus Two

 

Morels (Morchella sp.)

Commonly 1 – 12 inches. Cap is grey, brown to yellow, with deep ridges, almost honeycombed – cap is attached at least halfway up the stalk. Stalk is hollow (stalk must be hollow, if filled with fluff see Verpa sp.) without a base. In the Midwest found for a short time in spring as ground temperature warms to the mid 50’s.

 

Chicken of the Woods (Laetuporus sulphureus)

Often called the Sulphur Shelf or Chicken Mushroom this bright orange to yellow polypore is one of the easiest to distinguish and can often be seen from hundreds of feet away. Usually in a shelf like appearance sometimes it will fruit in finger shaped masses. Fruiting from mid-summer through late fall remember where you’ve found it, it will often fruit for several years from the same log. Often fruits from living trees high in the juncture between branches or in wounds in the tree. The perfect harvest time is when it’s moist and somewhat rubbery, if it’s hard and woody it’s a little too old, though some people harvest the margins or use it only for soup stock. The similar L. cincinnatus grows from the root ball. Avoid this polypore growing on Hemlock as some people are sensitive.

 

Giant Puffball (Calvatia gigantea)

Calvetia gigantea

A large Puffball may be confused for a sleeping lamb at pasture. This mushroom distributes its spores not through gills or pores but waits until it dries and distributes them on the wind or the splashing rain. Found in fields, in gullies, under light brush this mushroom is often the size of a basketball and several five to ten pound mushrooms may be fruiting in a line.

 

Chanterelles (Cantharellus sp.)

Chanterelles fruit in early summer, in rich forest floor soil. This yellow to orange mushroom is usually distinctive, when you see one you’ll see more nearby. The cap has upturned and wavy edges, though young specimens may have a flat top. The gills, actually veins to distribute the spores, are interconnected and run down the stalk.

 

Plus Two:

Oyster Mushroom (Pleirotus ostreatus)

The Oyster Mushroom is a tertiary decomposer, growing on dead wood. Its bright white color is distinctive. Often growing in clusters like shelf fungus gills that run its near lack of stalk, when fruiting in fall and winter the cap may be brownish to grey, its spores are white to lilac.

 

Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa)

Flask soles for size comparison.

Various common names describe this incredible edible mushroom; Sheepshead, Ram’s Head, Signorina, Maitake, and Dancing Mushroom. You’ll soon learn why it’s called the dancing mushroom.  This often large multi-capped (fronds) polypore grows under Oak Trees and sometimes other hardwoods, it’s distinctive fronds make it particularly easy to identify. It is slightly parasitic on Oak but becomes saprobic when the tree dies, often you’ll see 20 – 40 pound specimens on Oaks that have died within the previous two years.

 

Once you know characteristics of these mushrooms, can easily look them up, you’ve got the right gear on, and you’ve got a netted bag or basket you’re ready to go. Go find those woods you’ve explored, or go find new woods, get out there and have fun!

Remember; some mushrooms are poisonous, you are responsible for correctly identifying any mushrooms you consume. Use double or even triple checking in good field guides, all characteristics must match with the specimen you’ve harvested.

This page still under construction, check back (April 5, 2014)

The Problems With the Use of Common Names and Commenting in Public Forums

Greeting all, it’s spring and our hearts are jumping out of our chests to get into the woods and hunt the elusive morel. The time is now to have a good discussion on naming convention and common names, and the edibility of the false morels and what one should responsibly say about them.

Earlier today I followed a Facebook thread, in which several people argued over the common name of one of the Gyromitra species. It wasn’t amusing seeing the same argument between three sets of different people, one calling the Gyromitra by its sometime used common name “Beefsteak” and someone else claiming that the common name “Beefsteak” applied to Fistulina hepatica. Again, this same argument went on several times, and was confusing to the person requesting an identification. And worse yet, had that person looked up “Beefsteak” and gone to the Fistulina hepatica link they’d have seen it was edible and choice.

The main problem with common names is that they vary regionally and often within the same region there are several common names for one fruiting body, and sometimes there are several fruiting bodies with the same name. All the confusion could be solved with some type of naming convention!

And has been. For 300 years.

When Linnaeus wrote Systema Naturae I’ve read there was already much argument within the Royal Society of Britain,  Hooke and Boyle up late nights arguing naming convention, defining scientific method, attempting to create a standard where none existed, they had it done for them by Linnaeus. There is certainly no cause to re-argue the ultimately worthless arguments that Boyle and Hooke had, when Linnaeus solved them for us and them 300 years ago.

The use of Latin names for fungi clears up many of problems; there is only one species of mushroom to each name, this takes the guess work out, the regionality, and in fact the Latin name is used internationally.  You can walk up to a Russian or Belgian or a Korean and they’ll know what you’re talking about when you mention G. frondosa but will be dumbfounded when you speak of “Sheepshead” mushroom. Several years ago I was hunting Maitake (G. frondosa) and an old timer came up to me in the woods, my bags were almost full, and his were about empty. I offered him some, and let him choose which he wanted. He managed to explain the difference between a “Hen of the Woods”, a “True Sheepshead” and a “Sheepshead mushroom”. I bit my tongue and out of respect for my elders kept my mouth shut.

One of the main problems that many of us (myself especially) have with using the Latin name may be two fold, we were brought up – archaic knowledge given to us secretively – by our personal experts, and possibly we simply weren’t trained to use the terminology. I personally have a problem pronouncing Latin names as do many mycologists that I know. And you know what? Seldom has someone corrected my Latin. It’s kind of like going to a foreign country and attempting to order in their language, and mangling the order terribly, they’re so happy you’ve even attempted to learn how to pronounce something that they’re appreciative and happy, and strive even harder to help.

We certainly don’t need to always use Latin nomenclature, but when we’re in a public forum, and the possibility of confusion is prevalent, we need to make that attempt.

That takes us to the responsibility you must have when you’re writing in public forums and there is a serious danger that someone that has less experience than you have will take your opinion as gospel. This certainly isn’t a problem when one has misidentified L. cincinnatus for L. sulpureus, but certainly becomes a concern when what your beliefs are and what you’ve been taught go directly against science. Specifically, since it’s morel season, I’m speaking of the edibility of Gyromitra sp. and Verpa sp.

Many folks are traditionalists, they were taught that “False morels” are delicious and safe, and have been eating them all their lives. In reality the science isn’t perfect on the vector of poisoning from Gyromitra and Verpa, but it is clear. Both contain toxins that could build up in your body to toxic levels. When that occurs that could be deadly. 2 -4% of fatal mushroom poisonings are due to these to species of “false morels”.

UW La Crosse Professor Tom Volk states:
“Gyromitrin is a hemolytic toxin (i.e. it destroys red blood cells) in humans, other primates, and dogs. It is toxic to the central nervous system and damages the liver and gastrointestinal tract. It may act by interfering with transaminases, particularly those having a pyridoxal phosphate cofactor. Vitamin B6 is used in the treatment. As in cyclopeptide poisoning, a relatively long latent period ensues (6 to 12 hours) between ingestion and symptoms. The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, distention, weakness, lassitude, and headache; if the condition is severe, these may develop into jaundice, convulsions, coma, and death. Methemoglobinuria and very low blood sugar are found in laboratory tests.”

We’re talking about a family of mushrooms of which it is assumed that all contain some amounts of a toxin, though some G. caroliniana for example, likely has lower concentrations of gyromitrin (N-methyl-N-formylhydrazine) which your body synthesizes into monomethylhydrazine, a component in rocket fuel, but not all of them have been tested, and tests certainly haven’t been run broadly or regionally. In fact the taxonomy is still in dispute.

In Michigan in 2012, 53 people were sick enough to call poison control from eating Verpas and Gyromitras. 11 of them were hospitalized.  While we are free to make our own choices, to gamble with our health, to spin the barrel until we get to the chamber with the bullet, telling a new comer that it’s safe to do is disingenuous.

Our society of foragers and mushroom hunters are repositories of knowledge and we need to not only welcome the new hunter, but ensure that they are given the best information, without expecting them to hold the barrel of the gun to their head without knowing that one of the chambers contains a bullet. When we impart our knowledge it’s important to give them the whole of the knowledge. It’s up to them to suffer the consequences, but they can only make that decision if they know everything.

Experienced mycologists and mushroom hunters would never attempt to have a new comer to hunt above they’re experience level. Without knowing the specific characteristics of the mushroom that they’re about to trying to identify, and have a handle on look-alikes it’s like throwing a chicken to the wolves.

“Michael Kuo, who runs the website http://www.mushroomexpert.com, used to have a line up on there that said “If you hear someone brag about how heavy their morel was, you are talking to an idiot.” writes Leon Shernoff mycologist and publisher of “Mushroom; the Journal of Wild Mushrooming”.

But, of course, as I write this piece the chime on my Facebook goes off, and I see my comment of caution has gotten a response, “I’ve been eating them for 25 years and I ain’t been sick one time.”

 

Must be a “Sheepshead” err, “True Sheepshead” look how big it is
Big hen

 

 

Chicago Mushroom Man – Foraging for You

I founded our sister group, Practical Mycological Solutions Group in 2007, with 25 years of mushroom and foraging experience developing a group of engineers and scientists with an interest in improving our community. We used mycological and phytological methods, and designed new techniques. It  was all a step in the progression of experimentation.  We did long term experiments in “training mycelium” to grow on poorer and more contaminated substrates, as well as developing the “Chicago Method” of myco-remediation.

For many years I would forage for myself, and when the freezer and belly were full I’d drop it to my customers homes, I ran a small construction business and had a box of keys in my van to all of my regular customers homes. If you were a regular customer you might come home from work one day and find a ten pound Maitake in your fridge with a note and recipes, or a bucket of wild blackberries on your back porch. The value added was much appreciated by the clients, and keeping my own schedule I was able to forage during the day.

A foray is always more fun with a partner, sometimes I’d be alone, which was fine, but usually I’d try to shag a group to come out with me, especially in the fall when you bags can weigh fifty or sixty pounds each. Eventually this lead to guided forays, last fall we brought 21 people to a local woods and served a lunch lunch of vegan vegetable soup, homemade oatmeal-wheat bread and three types of compound butters. After our foray we ID’d mushrooms, and had a great time. Guided forays will resume in May for Morel hunts and ramp and spring green harvesting.

A few years ago I began selling my excess forage to restaurants and grocery stores, dropping off at the end of the day, and taking special orders.

In April we’ll be heading to Brown County, Indiana. Our friend Tom has 12 acres, and we’ll be setting up a small mushroom growing operation, inoculating logs, inoculating burlap sacks, coffee chaff, coffee and putting in a Wine Cap Stopharia bed that’s larger than the footprint of his house.

April also brings the beginning of morel season. We’ll be down in Brown County to attend the Morel and Music Festival, and participate in the grand foray. (http://morelfestival.com/) and of course be following the morels north as the weather warms.

Stay in touch, we’ll hold a spot for you, and be sure to save you some fresh, home made bread.

 

 

By Chloe Riley on November 11, 2013 8:51am

DNAInfo – Pilsen ‘Mushroom Man’ Forages for Fungi and Solace in Dan Ryan Woods

extralarge

Pilsen ‘Mushroom Man’ Forages for Fungi

and Solace in the Dan Ryan Woods

DNAInfo – 

PILSEN — As forager Rob Poe dusts the dirt off a mushroom, he talks about what brings him back year after year on life’s great mushroom hunts.

“Part of it is isolation, but I love bringing people to the woods. I also kind of like getting lost in my own head,” he says on the way to a recent foraging trip in Cook County’s Dan Ryan Woods.

Poe, 46, known as the “Mushroom Man” or the “Mushroom Guy,” has lived in Pilsen for six years. He got his start as a forager as a 19-year-old camp counselor who inherited a mushroom field guide left behind by one of the campers. Growing up the youngest of seven, Poe often found solace in the stillness of the Dan Ryan Woods near his then-Morgan Park home.

In the past, Poe gave his mushrooms as gifts to friends. About two years ago, his friend Dave Odd of  “Odd Produce” began encouraging Poe to cash in on his passion by selling his finds locally.

On a recent rainy trip to those same woods, Poe went for his final run of the mushroom season, which typically ends around early November. During the peak of that season, he’ll be in the woods five days a week, in between his “pay-the-bills job” as a carpenter.

It’s late in the season for the bright-orange chicken mushrooms and blue-tinged blewits, but Poe’s confident he’ll find at least a few turkey tail mushrooms, skinny flaky-looking fungi that grow on logs. He begins his trek walking along the wood’s water-filled stone paths, but quickly ventures off, keeping his head lowered, constantly scanning the trunks of large walnut and oak trees.

As an urban forager, Poe said you often have to take it where you can get it. The Dan Ryan Woods are one of his favorites. He likes the path, and having a solid path, Poe says, is even more important than knowing there will be a lot of mushrooms along the way.

“Pick just what you need and only pick from areas that have a bounty. You should never pick more than 10 percent of whatever’s there,” he says, veering away from the path.

In Pilsen, Poe — who also writes a mushroom blog — has sold his ‘shrooms toNightwood, MeztiSoy Organic Grocery, and Dusek’s Board and Beer in Thalia Hall.

In the great tradition of city foragers, Poe said he knocked on the door at Dusek’s and peddled his chicken mushrooms and a giant maitake mushroom to Dusek Head Chef Hillary Sundberg.

“It was like the side of a globe. It was beautiful,” said Sundberg, who turned the mushrooms into a complementary soup appetizer with crispy cured pork jowls.

During the fall peak of mushroom season, Poe would be at MeztiSoy sometimes several times a day. In late October, he took a group of 20 out to the Dan Ryan Woods and briefed them on the necessary skills of the successful mushroom hunter.

“He taught us that the mushrooms are our neighbors. That they’re right there in front of us,” MeztiSoy co-owner Sonia Yañez said. “It was like a crash course of mushroom 101. He took time to talk to every single one of us.”

The Dan Ryan Woods giveth and the Dan Ryan Woods taketh away. Poe’s lost four smartphones and countless knives to these woods. He’s had years where he’ll march right to trees that consistently produce, only to find empty roots, inexplicably barren.

But last year, the Dan Ryan Woods also gave him an 85-pound maitake mushroom, which he hauled off in reused coffee sacks and gave to friends. His two kids, now 7 and 16, virtually grew up in various Illinois forest preserves. From the time his daughter was old enough to walk, he brought her to the woods every week so she could watch how they changed with the seasons.

As he hikes through the forest preserve, Poe sees something and pauses.

“This is the place where my son will always say, ‘This is where I saw the coyote when I was 3 years old,'” he says, looking down a ravine. “So he’s kind of like I am, able to recognize trees. He’s had it embedded in his mind that he has a close relationship with that spot.”

By the trip’s end, Poe’s small paper bag has a few turkey tails, some honey mushrooms, and a handful of wild ginger root.

Missing in action were the chicken mushrooms and blewits; colorful mushrooms whose time had already passed by this last November hike. The puffballs — round mushrooms which can grow bigger than a human head — had also dried up, and released little clouds of spore dust when poked by Poe’s finger.

As the temperature drops and the wind picks up, Poe says he wishes more people would come to the woods. Anyone can be a forager, he says, but first they have to get to know the territory.

Alone in his Dan Ryan Woods, the mushroom man says he often finds himself talking aloud.

“I like to talk to trees, honestly. They don’t talk back,” he says grinning.

But mostly when he talks to the trees, Poe says he offers them words of gratitude.

“Anytime you can be around something that’s 150 years old, that has seen so much happen, you just can’t help but thank them,” he says.