Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Gift of Mushrooms

   Ian. a good bee store friend, has been volunteering at the store one day a week.  He has helped me maintain my sanity by filling in on days when I have insufficient hired help. I have not felt as overwhelmed at work as I had expected, thanks to Ian and good hired help. This past week Ian brought me a wonderful little gift, an oyster mushroom starter kit in a gallon plastic bag. Ian is fairly obsessed with mushrooms and has been culturing several different varieties. According to Ian, the Oyster mushrooms (of the pleurotus genus) are among the easiest to culture because they can outcompete other fungi that may be contaminating the growing medium.  They are supposed  to have wonderful health benefits such as lowering blood cholesterol levels when eaten regularly.  Pleurotus mushrooms are saprophytic, meaning they live on decomposing materials, usually dying or dead hardwood trees. I was amazed to read on wikipedia that pleurotus mushrooms also eat nematodes, immobilizing their prey by emitting a toxin that paralyzes the nematode.  Pleurotus mushrooms have also been used to clean up oil spills. A very versatile fungus.
Oyster mushroom spawn in a bag
   Ian starts his oyster mushroom cultures by pasteurizing straw, then inoculating it with the oyster mushroom mycelium.  He told me that the oyster mushrooms are so vigorous that they can easily take over compost piles.  I found that to be a very intriguing idea. I always accumulate spare pallets at work.  I also have lots of soiled straw bedding from the ducks, chickens and goats. I decided to wire together some wooden pallets, fill the enclosure with spoiled straw, then add Ian's oyster mushroom kit as a starter.  His only warning regarding my plan was that it was very important to keep the pile well watered.  It just so happens that my new mushroom compost pile is located in between the poultry pens and the goat pen.  It's just a new place to dump dirty goat, chicken, and duck water.
Mushrooms are already starting to emerge on Sunday
Two days later on Tuesday morning

    I've already assembled the new compost pile and have started filling it with spoiled straw.  The only problem so far is some free range chickens who likes to scratch in the straw. I spent some time on Monday capturing the free rangers and putting a net cover over the chicken pen in preparation for  my mushroom compost pile scheme. In the mean time I will let the oyster mushrooms grow on the kitchen counter. It already has started to bear fruit. The white stuff growing in the straw is the actual mushroom mycelium or the equivalent of the plant itself. What is growing out the hole in the bag are the fruiting bodies or what we call the mushrooms. The mushroom in this case is analogous to the apple while all of the white mycelium is analogous to the apple tree.



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