Tag Archives: Mushroom News

Montana Standard Guest opinion: Montana ‘shrooms

This is a guest opinion written in response to an earlier piece on Paul Stamets.  


Guest opinion: Montana ‘shrooms

By Dean Robbins – 05/14/2009

Ever since The Standard published a Monday Musings column on how great mushrooms are (March 16), I’ve been wanting to add my two cents.

The importance of mushrooms in Montana can be summed up in one word: food! In a state famous for extreme weather and difficult growing conditions, we need mushrooms to produce food in short growing seasons and to lay dormant during dry spells. Mushrooms provide food for soil as a fungus that feeds plants in short, harsh growing seasons and food for people and animals living under the same adverse conditions. Our forests need them for both plants and animals.

Farming in Montana has the most to gain from mushrooms, because of unpredictable weather and marginal soil in most places. Add to this a tough economy and rising operating costs and farmers have it difficult in Montana. Mushrooms can help with extra income as well as food for the family.

They are also very adept at growing on waste and can turn waste into produce. Fungus is very useful at stabilizing, nourishing and helping to optimize the soil, allowing a farmer to produce more from less acreage. Mushrooms are also efficient, producing one pound of fresh mushrooms from every pound of dry wheat straw .They can be a great, cheap domestic food to sell or eat. All of this could help family farms financially and help make waste productive, while reducing run-off.

The forests in Montana have shallow soil and wash very easily. Along with minimal rainfall, insects and short growing seasons, our forests have a rough time recovering from natural disasters and harvesting. Our pristine waters, feeding blue ribbon trout streams as well as our drinking water, need plants to stay clean. Mushrooms, or the fungus that feeds them, stabilize soil, minimizing run-off and helping plants get a foot hold.

The importance of fungus for trees became obvious when growers took bare root pine trees to South America and they all died. It was discovered that the natural fungus these trees need to survive was missing there, and it must be present for them to live.

Mushrooms also thrive on stumps and could become a secondary income from logging operations or beetle kill stumps. Bears eat snowbank mushrooms right out of hibernation, and they are an important source of protein for them when little else is around. Deer and many forest animals also eat mushrooms.

And yes, we lowly humans also love mushrooms. They are an important part of my diet. I learned to hunt mushrooms at the knee of my grandfather, just as my grand- children learn about mushrooms with me. It is a family affair, and we love to gather a safe, wild meal. Traditions that are natural and seasonal are good for the family and important to children. In a time when most everything our youth sees is electronic and commercial, this is an activity that can bring them closer to nature.

I also think it is important to teach our youth survival and how to be self sufficient. Mushrooms can help us with that, too!

— Dean Robbins lives in Bozeman and has long been fascinated with mushrooms. Contact him via e-mail at montanamushrooms@gmail.com and visit his Web site at www.MontanaMushrooms.com.

Product Review on The Giant Morel Mushroom Patch™

I bought the The Giant Morel Mushroom Patch™  as a gift for my dad last October. The kit is available at fungi.com (link on homepage) and is one of many mushroom kits and products available. Dad lives in Oregon now and I was curious how the kit would grow. He also loves morels and is living in a new area, so homegrown mushrooms in his backyard seemed like a good idea.

Dad followed the instructions and his mushroom bed was ready before the end of October. The kit can take up to 2 years to produce mushrooms, and morels are one of the tougher fungi to grow. Report from Oregon last week was the patch has produced its  first morel. There won’t probably be many mushrooms to eat this year, but we know the fungus is established and growing underground.
Quite a feat for a first time mushroom farmer, and when the conditions are right there will be gourmet food.

I have ordered another outdoor kit and some inoculated plugs from fungi perfecti and will report on their progress. I was so impressed with the results of the The Giant Morel Mushroom Patch™ that I just ordered another one as a gift. I will report on it’s progress also as it will live in Montana!

Oyster Mushrooms On Coffee Grounds

I have wanted to inoculate coffee grounds with oyster mushrooms for quite awhile. With the help of the cool people at Wild Joe’s, I have managed to collect some great organic, free trade coffee grounds. The grounds are too rich to waste and the folks at Wild Joe’s  feel the same way! Oyster Mushrooms grow on almost anything, so it stands to reason they would like coffee grounds. The very strength of coffee grounds, is also their downfall.They are a perfect semi sterile substrate for growing fungus because they have been steam pasteurized. The problem with that is the quickest fungus to get to them is usually green mold. The trick to this project is going to be controlling the growing conditions to help the oysters while making the mold unhappy.When I first put the spawn in the coffee grounds, the spawn took off because it was warm in the garage and the spawn was hungry. Then I noticed the green mold creeping in, and as you see in the pictures, there is a major war going on between the mold and the oysters.

Coffee Grounds From Wild Joe'sOyster Spawn on Coffee GroundsOyster Spawn on Coffee GroundsOyster Spawn on Coffee GroundsOyster Spawn on Coffee GroundsOyster Spawn on Coffee Grounds

The little brown specks are the grain from the spawn mixture. The white spider web is the Oyster spawn growing and the green is, you guessed it, mold.At this point the project has gone outside,and neither the spawn nor the mold is happy! But I know the spawn is still growing as the temperature is just above freezing, and the mold won’t survive the cold.Hopefully the bucket will produce mushrooms. Either way the experiment has already told me that Oyster spawn does indeed like coffee grounds.

Thanx again to the awesome crew at Wild Joe’s for saving the grounds for me,and thank you Hannah for setting it up. Stop by their coffee house on Main Street in Bozeman and create some grounds for us.

Book Review, Mushrooms Demystified

“Mushrooms Demystified”, by David Arora is one of the best identification books for this area.

mushrooms-demystified This book has a thorough description of mushroom terms, features and families. There is even a section on Greek and Latin terms to make the scientific names more understandable. The bible of mushroom books, as it is known, is my most complete identification guide.Paired with Davids companion book, “All the Rain Promises and More” is a powerful tool for learning fungus.

There is a general key in the beginning, to get you in the right family, and then each section has a detailed key that is very straight forward and easy to use.Edibility is covered as well as toxicity and naming history.There is black and white photos throughout the book  and colored plates in the center that are outstanding!There is a section on mushroom toxins with details on the chemicals involved.Symptoms, emergency advice and examples of poisonings are included.

“Mushrooms Demystified” is a great Identification Guide and good way to get an overall understanding of the great world of FUNGUS! Even though it is centered around his home in California it is very effective here in the NorthWest. Go get your copy today…at your local bookstore. Here in Bozeman we are lucky to have Vargo’s on main street.

Under Water Mushroom Discovered

The first I heard of this was from Paul Stamets at Bioneers. Then I found this interesting article at MailTribune.com
What lies beneath: a new mushroom
Hydrologist happens onto a novel gilled species that seems to thrive underwater in the upper Rogue River

A new species of mushroom, dubbed Psathyrella aquatic, has been discovered in the upper Rogue River. Biologists believe this is the first gilled mushroom to be found living underwater in the world. The bubbles on the top of the mushroom are caused by an unknown gas.Photo courtesy of Robert Coffan

Paul Fattig

SHADY COVE — Hydrologist Robert Coffan knew he was looking at something very unusual in the knee-deep summer waters of the upper Rogue River.

Here were gilled mushrooms, swaying in the main current of the clear, cold river in early July through late September.

“But since gilled mushrooms DO NOT live and grow underwater, I was real nervous” about approaching a mycological expert, admitted the adjunct professor at Southern Oregon University.

Indeed, Darlene Southworth, a retired SOU biology professor, was plenty skeptical when he broached the subject. Although she was impressed by underwater photographs taken by Coffan, she wanted to see the evidence firsthand.

Not only did she witness the mushrooms found by Coffan, but she discovered others during an August visit to a stretch of the north fork of the river within a few miles of Woodruff Bridge in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

“There are no known gilled mushrooms living underwater,” Southworth explained. “And this is not a slime mold or anything like that. These are regular gilled mushrooms.

“We believe this is a new species,” she concluded of the mushrooms that are typically about 10 centimeters tall with caps that are about 2 centimeters wide.

The find was unveiled Monday night at the November meeting of the Upper Rogue Watershed Association, for whom Coffan had prepared a water assessment last year.

Dubbed Psathyrella aquatic, the mushroom is being introduced to the broader scientific community in a 14-page paper submitted Nov. 9 to the science journal Mycologia. The paper was written by Coffan in collaboration with Southworth and Jonathan Frank, a laboratory technician at SOU.

Coffan credits Southworth, who now conducts research under a National Science Foundation grant at the university, for focusing on mycorrhizal fungi, and Frank for the paper and much of the research in determining the mushroom’s uniqueness.

Up at Oregon State University, Matt Trappe, a doctoral candidate in forest mycology, says Coffan has found a unique mushroom. He and his father, Jim Trappe, a retired U.S. Forest Service mycologist who now teaches in OSU’s botany and plant pathology department, were consulted on the find.

“As far as we’ve determined, this is a first in Oregon as well as a first in the world,” Matt Trappe said of gilled mushrooms living in water. “We’re not aware of anything at all like this in mycology where the reproductive mushroom structure appears to be perennially underwater.

“If this evolved in Oregon, what are the odds it can be found in streams and rivers around the world?” he asked. “This raises all kinds of questions about spore disbursement and evolution.”

There are more questions than answers at this point, acknowledged Coffan, who originally discovered the water-dwelling gilled mushrooms in summer 2005. None of the mushrooms were found in slack water, he noted.

A DNA analysis at SOU’s Bio Tech Center and a cross-check of references and experts, including mycologists at the University of Minnesota, determined the mushrooms belonged to the genus Psathyrella, Southworth said. Samples were sent to OSU and to San Francisco State University.

There are about 600 known species of Psathyrella, all terrestrial, she said.

“How do we identify them? We look at the morphology — the form, the shape and the DNA,” she said.

It has a small bell-shaped cap, a thin stipe (stem) and gills underneath, she said. They examined the cells in the cap and made a spore print.

Researchers have ruled out the possibility the mushrooms were growing along the banks and were merely submerged by rising waters brought on by snowmelt.

The mushrooms were found in the spring-fed “base” flow of the river, Coffan said, noting that flow is consistent and keeps the mushrooms submerged.

The mushrooms tend to grow on submerged wood but can also be found growing in the gravel, Southworth said.

“These are growing in the same place for three months, ” she said, adding they have been found as late as Sept. 21.

Although there are some known freshwater aquatic fungi, this is the only known gilled mushroom that grows underwater, she reiterated.

“We noticed there is a gas bubble underwater,” she said. “When we pulled the mushroom out, we could hold it up for some seconds before the spore burst. But they would not be uniformly distributed. They would stick to the cap, to the stipe, to Jonathan’s fingers.”

They don’t know what the gas is, she noted.

They are also intrigued by its three-month fruiting season.

“That’s way long for mushrooms,” she observed.

As for their edibility, Southworth figures the waterborne mushrooms are too small to warrant collecting for food.

However, several of the terrestrial Psathyrella are edible, although most have never been tested as a food source, according to her research.

“There is no reason it would go toxic,” she observed of a member of the genus growing in water.

Meanwhile, Coffan, Southworth and Frank plan to return to the area to conduct further research to try to determine the extent of the mushroom’s habitat. They also want to check out other streams in the region for evidence of the mushrooms.

“But it will be next summer before that is feasible,” she said. “Right now we can describe this one river: It’s aerated, cold, clear, steady flow. But we want to find out how the spores are dispersed.”

“And we want to find out how unique the habitat is,” Coffan said. “We have a whole new area to look for mushrooms now. It’s mind-boggling.”

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.