Foray tomorrow – Free educational foraging trip October 5th, 2014 10:00 AM

Hey all, it’s a little late and a little cold. We may have our first frost tonight.

I’ve been promising forays, and only come through on two this year. This is a kid friendly foray, bring the whole family out for an unforgettable experience!

We’ve been busy! This week we harvested over 400 pounds of Hen of the Woods mushrooms and sold them all to restaurants throughout the city!

We’ll be meeting at 10:00 AM at Meztisoy Market in Pilsen and caravan to a North Side Forest Preserve. Please be on time if you’d like to attend, there will be no meal, and no snacks, so bring a water bottle, some trail snacks, a plastic bag to take out trash you find, a paper bag for scientific collection for identification, and a knife and scissors.

Expect to spend no more than three hours in the woods and then a half hour ID session and debriefing.

Thanks, see you all tomorrow!

Call us at 773-217-4630 for more information!

IMGP1104

Dates for Fall Forays

Laetiporus cincinnatus (Photo Thomas Westgard)

(Photo Thomas Westgard)

We’re setting dates for fall forays, and will update as soon as we have dates and times:

Each session will include a light lunch and snacks. Bring a cooler or cooler bag to keep you mushrooms cool while traveling.

Either August 30 or 31 – Afternoon foraging for mushrooms and berries partnered with a liqueur making session at Meztisoy Market in Pilsen (the hold up is reserving the room for the evening session). Attendees will be able to take home fruit liqueur and sample last years. Beginner experience level – Chicago Area Far South.

Either September 13/14th Mushroom foray and wild medicinal plants (with Chris Mayor of Chicago Wilderness School) afterward a session on tincture making, Beginner skill level. Chicago Area North.

Either September 27th or 28th will be a mushrooms foray/wild plant foray with a cooking demonstration (wild food meal with bread baking?) and meal at Meztisoy. Beginner/intermediate skill level. Chicago Area TBA.

In early October we may have an overnight, camping in Brown County Indiana. This will be an all day Saturday foraging trip, Open fire cooking, the farm raises organic chickens, pigs and the location of our mushroom logs. It’s directly across the street from Yellow Wood State Forest and a 10 minute drive from Brown County State Forest in Nashville, Indiana. Bonfire Saturday night, camping, then Sunday we’ll breakfast together, and hit the woods again before lunch and cook a community lunch before heading back to Chicago. Intermediate/experienced skill level.

What’s Fruiting in the Upper Midwest, This Week!

All I have to say to you is to get to yout favorite woods immediately!

If you’re interested in old news, the Chicago Chanterelle harvest was at an all time low! We had such fantastic early rains, that just dried up for about four weeks, and then nothing after a four inch rain. My favorite spots got flooded and didn’t produce, none of them. During the drought time this year I manged about 12 small Chanterelles, and I managed a literal handful after the massive rain. Some friends in the far Western Suburbs did alright, as somehow more regular rain graced them with something to harvest.

Handful

Over the last two summers the Chicago region had no rain in July and it held off until the first week in August. But even during those years the Chanterelles flushed for a week or two, though in much lower quantities than usual.

My favorite Wild Blackberry spot had barely flowered this year, and when I came back to it two weeks ago there were no ripe berries. A friend stopped over there and told me that most of the ripe berries were already picked. I think a Friday trip to the spot, before the weekenders get them, is definitely in order!

The good news is that foraging for Wild Grapes and Elderberries might set a new record year! Last week I gathered about three pounds of Elderberries and sold them to the second restaurant I visited. Yesterday I went out to my spot and harvested about 10 pounds more, and on the way home noticed a wild grape that is slightly sweet and a little tart, with no tannin and only three seeds. The small grapes will make excellent sauces and an incredible wine. I’m actuallyhoping they don’t sell tomorrow and I can selfishly make some wild wine with them. I managed about 15 pounds before I decided I need to get a ladder to get the last ten pounds.

Wild Grape

There are many wild grapes, and grapes often interbreed into poor varieties, but when you come across a tart and sweet variety remember where it is.

This is a banner year for edible Crab Apples. My friend David Odd harvested about 15 pounds of wildized Dolgo Crab Apples last week. This week I found three trees, long forgotten about, with all sun side branches loaded. The Dolgo Apple which I’ve heard referred to as the Korean Crab Apple is light yellow interior with a tear drop elongated shape and if ripe has a light tartness, and almost ripe has a tart flavor great for sauces and jellies. It’s one of the few Crab Apples you can eat out of the hand.

When fully ripe this Crab Apple is sweet and crunchy, its elongated shape is a sure sign that you've found the right tree.

When fully ripe this Crab Apple is sweet and crunchy, its elongated shape is a sure sign that you’ve found the right tree.

This week, separately we both found a small round Crab Apple that has a bright pink interior that is tart without any sign of bitterness that will make a great apple sauce, jelly, or compliment as a savory sauce for a braised meat dish.

This small red Crab Apple has a pink interior and a tart finish. Be sure you pick only from trees without tannin, some look a likes will pucker your mouth.

This small red Crab Apple has a pink interior and a tart finish. Be sure you pick only from trees without tannin, some look a likes will pucker your mouth.

Last week Dawn spotted about five pound of Letiporus sulphereus, the Chicken of the Woods Mushroom, all at its peak of freshness. She made a Vegan Lentil Pecan Chicken Salad that was simply amazing hot or cold! The difference in flavors, textures and color had me guessing that I was eating a fine meat dish.

Dawn Chicken 2Dawn Chicken 1

With the cool weather and rain in middle August, the Maitake are already fruiting, an 11 pound specimen was found in the woods just North of the City of Chicago this afternoon by David Odd of Odd Produce. The earliest I’ve ever found one is the last week of August.

This 11 Pound Specimen will be on dinner plates in one of Chicago's finest restaurants by Wednesday night. (Photo Dave Odd of Odd Produce, Chicago's Wild Food Supplier)

This 11 Pound Specimen will be on dinner plates in one of Chicago’s finest restaurants by Wednesday night.
(Photo Dave Odd of Odd Produce, Chicago’s Wild Food Supplier)

Last year was so dry until late September that Maitake didn’t really fruit until the first weeks of October, though with phenomenal results. With the average rains, though off the usual schedule I predict this early Maitake fruiting will be the usual 200 pound local harvest, as opposed to the bounteous year like last year. Ringed Honey Mushrooms are out in certain spots, and last week I found a few aborted Entolomas directly at the bark line of a dead tree – but not enough for a meal, surely most of the fall mushrooms are coming along very soon.

I’ll update in a few days as I head out to finish both the Wild Grape Harvest, and the Elderberry Harvest, while searching for Chicken Mushroom and very early Maitake.

Liqueur Time! Making Delicious Homemade Liqueurs is Easier Than You Think!

It’s been about four years since Dawn and I made our first Nocino. The Italian Walnut Liqueur is a staple for many families fall meals, used as an aperitif, or a digestif – served before or after a meal, and sometimes as a topping for iced cream, fall is when it’s most enjoyed, but we make enough to break a little out when we really want to wow guests.

Black Walnut stains, you, your tools and your clean up towels, but it's second to butternut!

Black Walnut stains, you, your tools and your clean up towels, but it’s second to butternut!

That first batch was terrible! It was bitter – we had added foraged Wild Quinine (Parthenium integrifolium), thinking for some reason that the addition would make a nice balance to the sweetness we’d add later. It was terrible, bitter, full of tannin from the walnuts and bitterness from the wild prairie plant.  I gave up on it after trying it, filtering it several times, and letting it age until fall. Nothing helped. A year later I had stripped an antique American Walnut table and was researching old fashioned, home made stains. Dawn mentioned that we had had made our own stain extracting the worst out of the black walnuts.

It was about 100 degrees, and I knelt on the grass to test the “Walnut Stain” on a piece of scrap wood, you couldn’t see sunlight through the bottle. The stain took well, but the sweet and nutty smell coming from the warm wood was too much. I looked at the bottle that had aged two years, I looked at the stain sample, and looked at the bottle again. I picked up the cork to smell, then I actually licked the cork – no tannin!

Slowly I put what I had been considering the bottle of walnut stain to my lips and took a tentative swallow. It was amazing, simply delicious, if anything it was too overpowering with the nut flavor. We had succeeded, though it took two years of aging. Frankly, this was one of the most amazing drink additives, mixers, or liqueurs I’d ever tried!

Last year we kind of went nuts (pun intended) making Nocino, Wild Blackberry, Elderflower, Elder Berry, Vanilla, Vanilla Pomegranate Liqueurs as well as Vodka infusions of Rosemary, and Cardamon (instead of Moscow, think Mumbai Mule!)

The Elderflower is simply amazing – a fruity, flower perfumed liqueur with hint of vanilla and slight notes of citrus, it’s too flavorful to drink more than a slight ounce on the rocks, or as a mix into a Left Bank, a Martini with white wine, Elderflower liqueur and a London Dry Gin.

The Elderberry Liqueur has an incredible flavor, powerful fruity flavor, almost like a Jolly Rancher – Elderberry flavor! Although nice as an aperitif, the best use was in a mixed drink, 2 ounces of good vodka and 1/2 ounce of liqueur on the rocks was lovely.

After investing in several cases of .375 liqueur bottles with which we could present our liqueurs while entertaining or as hostess gifts and Christmas presents we found that we couldn’t fill them all. Make no mistake, this won’t happen again.

Extraction of the essential flavors from nuts and flowers is startlingly simple, and as I found out, even ridiculous mistakes can be overcome with aging. Previous years we’ve used excellent vodka, cheap vodka, tried good rums, cheap tequila, and even mixed bourbon in the steeping. All our experiments worked out.

The cheapest vodka, with a horrible cleaning fluid smell (You know who you are Mr. Boston!) but ages down into a mellow and tame liqueur given enough time – the best vodka also makes a fine liqueur and had the additional benefit of not needing to be aged an extra six months.

Our local Elderberry bushes had already given up their flower petals, and we had all but given up for a batch this year. Yesterday afternoon, after giving up a last minute peach picking trip we settled on a trip to one of my favorite woodlands in Chicago for an foray to find early Chanterelles. While we found no Chanterelles we did find several previously unnoticed Elderberry bushes.  I pulled less than 1/4 from each bush, settling for a decent sized batch of Elderflower Liqueur, but the woods kept giving and we passed bush after bush in full flower.

My friend Jenny and I cleaned the flower from the poisonous and bitter stems, spending an hour or two carefully pulling only the petals. At some point Jenny came up with the idea of keeping the flowers – stems and all, in a plastic bag and giving them a good shake. After a few minutes she had double what we had pulled from hand and we quickly soaked out bounty in Everclear Grain alcohol.

Elderflower

After reading all winter about flavor extraction, earlier this spring Dawn and I settled on the use of 195 proof grain alcohol. While there is supposedly no flavor the grain alcohol has a uniquely laboratory aftertaste, but the flavor extraction is said to be more pure and supposedly faster.

It’s been about 6 weeks since I started this post, and have come with the frustrating idea that we should have run our Everclear through a Brita type filter, some sand filter with activated charcoal to take the worst of the raw liquor flavors out – but this good news I managed to harvest over 10 pounds of Elderberries yesterday, some of which will go into an Elderberry Liqueur, and some will go to some of Chicago’s finest restaurants. Some of the bushes have double that amount ripening right now, but that’s another post!

Remember, only the darkest berries are ripe. I usually ignore the green, pick all the berries off the stem carefully, then drop them in a bowl of cool water, what floats gets tossed int eh compost pile!

Remember, only the darkest berries are ripe. I usually ignore the green, pick all the berries off the stem carefully, then drop them in a bowl of cool water, what floats gets tossed in the compost pile!

Dawn came home from a trip to her parents in New Palestine, Indiana this afternoon (about six weeks ago now) with Black Walnuts for Nocino, a bag of Butternuts and a bag of “Sweet” Hickory Nuts (as opposed to Pignut Hickory Nuts) and we spent the afternoon chopping and bottling our bounty. We’ve got four or five quarts of Black Walnut, two quarts of Hickory Nut and two quarts of Butternut as well as five quarts of Elderflower.

We’ve now cut the Elderflower Liqueur and added simple and some other very light spices, and poured off the Nocino, though we’ve not cut it or flavored it, we’ll wait for to age at 190 proof for a few more weeks, then add our Vanilla Everclear – Dawn has a co-worker who travels to Western Africa each year to a family vanilla plantation, and of course, again, graced us with a half dozen very fresh vanilla beans. This year we decided to try making a Dry Vermouth out of the Black Walnuts. We’ve been steeping the alcohol infused walnuts in a decent Pinot Grigio in the refrigerator for three weeks, and Saturday we’ll pour it off and run through coffee filters and spice it up and add a little more alcohol to bring the proof up to about 18 24, and let the spices of their things.

We’ll also experiment with a small batch of Nocino, and use the Wine to bring the alcohol level down to about 80 proof, hoping that that will bring a different dimension to the entire process.

The Hickory and Butternuts are still steeping, waiting until we have an evening together to process. I’m sure that the solvent can’t take any more flavor out than it already has, so idling away beneath the sink shouldn’t hurt anything (Alright you purists, comment!)

We’ll be using straight vodka to make our Elderberry Liqueur, (Costco’s Kirkland brand is said to be a neutral vodka that doesn’t impart flavor at a great price) while this takes longer to pull the flavors out we don’t have to age as long, and a Jolly Rancher liqueur might be just what we need next month as the days grow shorter.

With the case of 12 – .750 liter bottles we’ll have about 34 quarts of 60 proof liqueur, the traditional strength.

Enjoy the encouragement, and whatever you do, don’t not do it!

 

Juneberry Wine Making

It’s never all about mushrooms!

We forage for all kinds of foods here at Chicago Mushroom Man, and today my sweetie and eight year old son took a short trip to the neighborhood Juneberry spot. You’ve got one in your neighborhood, some hospital landscape planting, a city park, some urban wood land that some smart restorer demanded a few Juneberry bushes be planted.

Juneberry Ripening

Mine is a a two block long stretch of urban parking lot, planted just off the sidewalk, with over 60 Juneberry “trees”. Three weeks ago they were just ripening, the top most berries on the racemes were just showing a little light purple color – then the heat came! Usually they fruit around the fourth of July, but suddenly the entire raceme was ripe! Last weekend was peak time for my little spot, they were incredible, the pie I made was almost too flavorful, it actually took four days to eat!

Today we harvested about five gallons, the three of us, the youngest, Spencer, seemed to be eating as much as he put in his bag, though he actually may have won in weight brought home.

We left home in the late afternoon, soon after a sudden sprinkle was over and as the heat of the day was diminishing, and tied boxes or bags around our necks and went to work. It took us each a few minutes to get going, adjusting, retying, getting comfortable, but when all is said and done we managed about 1 1/2 gallons each in under an hour. When you can pull a branch down directly over your box and strip juneberries with the other hand, or strip high branches with both hands it goes very fast!

Juneberries

Dawn and I cleaned about 2/3 of the berries for later use in jams and baking IQF freezing some, and used the remainder, stems and all, to make a wine “must.” I actually added a fair amount of the cleaned berries to the “must” wasting a bit of work, but hopefully making a fuller wine.

Juneberries closeup frz

Essentially you crush your berries with a potato masher, pour a boiling simple syrup over them and let them sit overnight to cool, add yeast, then let work for a week or so – like bread baking – to make a really nice treat – there is ingrained knowledge one must develop, but the basics are simple.

We actually brought our must up to boiling tonight – the berries were actually getting a little old, so I wanted to kill off any bacteria and other hangers on as I could. Many recipes call for this for wild fruit wines, I think it’s because when picking wild fruit there is a wide range of age in the fruit that one picks, and unlike store bought fruit, that one can buy just barely ripe, a forager harvests what nature has ready. Often a mix of nearly ripe, ripe and very ripe fruit – tasting even five percent of what’s picked is a struggle (oh glorious struggle)! So being proactive is important when it comes to making wine.

Juneberry Must

Tomorrow we transfer the must into my primary fermenter (a food save 6.5 gallon bucket with lid with hole for the “bubbler”)  I’ll add just a little Sodium Metabisulphite – I need to kill off the yeast that is naturally occurring, as some of the Juneberries were quite ripe, and also add a little Pectic Enzyme, as Juneberries are very high in Pectin and Pectin locks up much of the flavor and sugars in the berries, making the job for the yeast a struggle.

In a day or so I’ll add a packet of Champagne Yeast, stirring every day with a sanitized spoon, and resealing, for about a week. Then I’ll transfer into a sanitized stock pot after squeezing out the berry skins, and clean and sanitize my primary fermenter. I’ll check the specific gravity, might add more water and sugar and a little more Champagne yeast, and let it do it’s business for a week or so.

After that I might “rack” into sterilized bottles, or do what we did last year, and ladle the raw wine right out of a bucket and drink a refreshing, Hillbilly wine as is.

Juneberries make a great, refreshing red wine, with the lovely almond/blueberry flavor that the Juneberry is known for. Using some brown sugar brings out a Sherry flavor.

Addendum: It’s two days later, left the “must” in a stock pot on the stove, and just poured it off, through a jelly bag, and into the primary fermenter. I was passing my local Brew and Grow store and picked up a couple packets of champagne yeast. Since I was there I picked up another hydrometer, since I emptied my office to convert into a mushroom lab, I’ve not found the one I’ve had a few years. I measured the specific gravity and if all the sugars were consumed by the yeast is was to come out about 16%. I like a little dryer, lower proof wine so I brought it down to about 13%.

I cleaned and sanitized the primary fermenter,

I cleaned and sanitized the bubbler and tools,

I them sanitized the jelly cloth, then poured the wine through, sprinkling yeast right on top.

Over the next week I’ll stir the must a few times, but really the process works itself out.

I prefer Champagne yeast to Shiraz or others because in my experience it’s more forgiving.

In early August we’ll host a foray for wild blackberries, partnered with a Wine Making 101 class.

The foray, as always, is served with a light lunch that focuses on wild foods, is $35.00 and limited to 12 people.

Basic wine making materials are less than $50.00, the class – with the yeast, fermenter, sugar, and chemicals should run about $90.00 – and you take your “must” home to ferment – and phone if there are questions, as well as a part two class.

In July we’ll be running a series of Chanterelles forays to location within one hour of Chicago. Call for details.

 

Hey all, it’s time to play Morel: Fact or Fiction!

Photo - Jinxie the Wonder Mongrel - Oakridge, OR

Photo – Jinxie the Wonder Mongrel – Oakridge, OR

Morel Season is just starting in the Chicago area, but being one of the more middling climates we Chicagoans get to spend a lot of time reading the Morel Forums. Most serious mushroom hunters and mycologists stay out of them after the first week, we just can’t stand more than a week of debunking “traditional knowledge” that has been passed on for the last 100 years and we give up.

This is a simple set of True or False questions to test your knowledge about the Morel Mushroom. While some of the answers will surprise you, science is science, and sometimes you’ve got to go against tradition. I look forward to the debunking of the debunking.

Morels Fruit in one night, “Popping Up” at the size that they’ll be.

True or False?

Morels pin like any other mushrooms, then begin to fruit and grow under the right conditions. They start small and grow for about two to three weeks. There are several time lapse videos that show quite well their growth. Folks who say things like, “if you’re quiet enough, on a dark night, you can hear ’em pop!” are full of more than mushrooms.

You must carry your morels in a mesh bag so they drop their spores, if you don’t “seed” your patch it’ll die out.

True or False?

Many folks carry mesh bags or baskets, and many mushrooms drop their spores after they’re cut and the gills dry slightly. But Morels are Ascomycetes and release their spores differently than most mushrooms. The release when they’re ready to release through asci, and especially in the case of young fruiting bodies, may not release at all.

Morels and are just the reproductive organ of the larger organism known as the mycelium. The mycelium may have been there for longer than your grandpappy’s been alive. To keep growing it just needs to continue exchanging nutrients for sugars with the root ball of the tree it’s partnered with. Morels can become saphrotic upon the death of the tree host, at that point the mycelium will quickly (over the next few years) use up all of the energy of the root ball, fruiting prolifically. That’s why you’re looking especially close under dead trees for that honey hole.

For the serious Morel hunter using handled paper bags or five gallon buckets protect your Morels from damage that they inflict on themselves grating against the mesh of the bag. One professional forager I know only uses buckets because he’s tramping through dense underbrush, another that hunts Morels 8 months a year uses a mesh bag. Let the arguing begin!

Morels grow wherever the spores land.

True or False?

There are over 19 species of Morels in the US, 14 of which have only been typed in the last five years or so. Different species of Morels have different mycorrhizal mutually symbiotic relationships with differing trees. Morels generally have distinct macroscopic properties that can be determined with careful examination if you take the time to use a key. Dropping the spores of a Morel that is associated with Cottonwood Trees at the base of a Fir Tree will do no good for the Fir, the Morel or anything else.

You need to look carefully everywhere for morels, they are sneaky bastards.

True or False?

Morels are sneaky bastards! Here’s Mushroom King Weipert finding them in a hole from a root ball. But that’s not all, pro hunters will tell you to move at a good clip, not wasting your time checking every tree. Look for the big “Flag” Morel, that one flag that signifies others are around. Find the flag and then slowly and carefully inspect all around it in a radius that grows each revolution. This is the time for careful consideration of every leaf under the tree, not every leaf in the forest.

Pulling your morels will kill your patch!

True or False

Alternatively cutting Morels will leave a butt to rot and kill your patch! You’ve got to pull so the mycelium breaks and “y’s” off making it stronger! Both methods are wrong! Errr, RIGHT! Pulling a mushroom does effect the mycelium, that’s right it yanks the tiny threads and rips them, and the theory that the mycelium “y’s” off and makes the network stronger has been shown as fact. Cutting you Morel, pinching it, and leaving a bit on the ground doesn’t effect the mycelium any more than not picking it at all, and might even be better than leaving a whole Morel to rot. If you go to 3.22 in the above video (time stamping isn’t working with this video for some reason) you’ll hear the host explaining one way or the other is the only way.

An ongoing study by the Oregon Mycological Society has shown that for Chanterelles at least pulling your mushrooms leads to higher yields, About 25% more mushrooms fruited from the beds that were yanked out, as opposed to the beds that were cut. I urge you to do your own real research, pull them babies and cut the butts in the field. Get back to me in 22 years and let me know how it’s turned out.

Use whatever method you’re most comfortable with, or what you’ve been taught. But remember to cut your butt stem so you don’t bring dirt into you bag, basket, bucket or whatever the hell you’re carry that 50 pounds of mushrooms out of the woods in.

Morels have no real nutritional value!

True or False?

morel nutrition factMorel Minerals ProteinMorel Carbs

Morels are actually a pretty healthy food. High in vitamin D, B complex, fiber, minerals, and relatively high in protein. You need to cook all mushrooms or you’ll get almost nothing out of them, the cells are made of “chitin” and not cellulose like most foods we eat. The chitin is strong and won’t release the nutrients without softening the walls by cooking. Since Morels contain a small amount of hydrazine it’s a good idea to cook that rocket fuel out of them anyway.

You know what, screw that nutritional information, both you and I know you’re going to throw them in a pound of butter. How ever you cook them you only get them for a few weeks a year, as long as you can buckle your belt when you’re done it’s all good!

You’ve got to soak your morels in salt water overnight, otherwise they’ll be too buggy?

True or False?

Folks do this to kill the bugs, but if you’re not slicing them you’re eating them bugs anyway, so give them a quick rinse if they’re a little dirty (which they wont be too dirty because you were careful and cut all the butt stems and any nasty parts off in the field, right?)

If you’re slicing them why bother soaking them, it robs them of flavor. Cut them and slap your knife down on the board as them little critters try to scamper away. You aim will get better the more time you miss and hit your grandmothers only heirloom table or cut you little ones fingers off – I guarantee!

Wet morels don’t bring as much money, no one wants a waterlogged piece of slimy trash that was once a Morel, and the fresh dry ones taste better, last longer and have more protein (you know, because the bugs are fresh!)

You can eat Morels in the field!

True or False?

You actually need to fully cook all wild mushrooms. Morels contain Hydrazine, a component in both rocket fuel and plastics manufacturing. It’s not good stuff, but fortunately cooks out quickly. You can do it, I’d bring an extra pair of panties.

You can eat False Morels, they’re great!

True or False?

Gyromitra

Well, from what I hear they are pretty tasty. The problem is the toxin in Gyromitra spp. builds up in your body and you’ll never know when you’ll get enough to get you violently ill, or for that matter enough that you cough up your kidneys and liver. Gyromitras, False Morels sometimes called “Reds,” “Beefsteaks,” or “Snowdrift Mushrooms” all contain Gyromitrin or specifically, N-methyl-N-formylhydrazine. (There’s that damned rocket fuel again!)

You’ll find many folks ID’ing Gyromitra as edible, often stating that they’ve been eating them for generations and “I ain’t dead yet!” Well that’s just frigging dandy, and it’s quite possible that they’ll never suffer any ill effects from Gyromitra, but it does cause 2 – 4% of mushroom fatalities. If you see someone telling folks incomplete information regarding this mushroom it’s your duty to tell the whole story.

Tom Volk, Mycologist at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse says, “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.”

But for all you folks whose uncle also happens to be their father who have been eating them for 30 years, please don’t listen to science, continue to eat them – we could always use more data points.

Morels are the only safe mushroom to hunt!

True or False?

80 pound Maitake

80 pound Maitake

If you think this one is true you’re missing a whole lot of fine mushrooms. When I’m out hunting Morels I’m also looking for Ramps and Nettles, as well as Dryads Saddle (P. sasqumosus) and Chicken of the Woods (L. sulphureus) and other early fruiting mushrooms. There’s a group of mushrooms called the “Foolproof Four” and I usually add two more to them for the Foolproof Four plus Two!

Learn these five additional mushrooms and you’ll never be without. Sometimes it’s just easier looking for a ten pound Hen of the Woods, or the bright orange Chicken of the Woods than it is finding a couple of dozen 1/4 ounce morels.

One more thing, remember to turn GIS on when using your camera, and post your photos of your honey hole widely!

Whatever you’re doing, have fun, eat well, and teach each other.

If you’re in the Midwest don’t forget to check out our Guide to Midwest Morel Festivals!

Special thanks go to L. Sulphureus, Oregon based professional forager and artist for prompting this post by asking for Morel Myths on his facebook page

Morel: Fact or Fiction Game!

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.

 

 

 

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