Monday, March 16, 2009

Growing Fungi

A couple weeks ago, for biology, we sent away for a Shiitake-mushroom-growing kit. We have since grown (and eaten) a cluster of mushrooms. Some Q&A about mushrooms:

How can I tell which wild mushrooms are poisonous?

Contrary to popular belief, there is really no discerning characteristic that all poisonous mushrooms share. Since only about 5% of wild mushrooms are edible, I wouldn’t recommend eating a wild mushroom unless you are a hundred percent sure that it isn’t poisonous.

The log with the fully-grown mushrooms.

What is the life cycle of a mushroom?

Most mushrooms reproduce asexually by releasing thousands of spores through their gills into the open air for dispersion into the environment. Every spore is capable of germinating to create a new hypha. Hyphae are masses of intertwined filaments of cells which are the morphological unit of the fungus. When a thick mass of hyphae forms it is called mycelium or mycelia. Mushroom mycelium is usually white in color with a rough, cottony texture. Root like growth is called rhizomorphic.

When spores germinate they consume the water and nutrients from their environment and begin to reproduce. The medium that mushroom mycelium grows on is usually called substrate. Before the mushroom can start to form fruit bodies the mycelium colonizes the substrate fully and when the environmental conditions are right the mushroom emerges to produce more spores.

The mushrooms after we harvested them.

What different kinds of mushrooms are native to what areas?

Probably the most common edible mushroom, the Button Mushroom, is native to Europe (and North America.) The Portobello is also native to Europe and North America. The Shiitake is native to East Asia. The deadly Death Cap is native to Europe, North Africa, North America, Australia (SE), and New Zealand.

A delicious Shiitake-mushroom-and-lettuce pizza.

Mushroom Links:

Mushroom Life Cycle
Cornell University Virtual Library: Mycology
Lost Creek Mushroom Farm (supplier)
Fungi Perfecti (supplier)
Diagram of the mushroom life cycle.


Lorna said...

This is a fascinating way to explore fungi. Thank you.

Think! said...

On our list of to-dos!

FungusGnat said...

A mushroom harvest in a couple of weeks is rather good.

For demonstration purposes you could try growing mycelium on cardboard. It is always fun to watch the progress of the mycelium across the surface. You would need a store bought mushroom, glass jar and a bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide.

I am currently cloning the king oyster using this method. The mycelium has colonized the cardboard and was recently transferred to my 1/2 pint jars of substrate. I have blogged my efforts here