"Fungi are the beginning and the end to this whole system." -Travis Custer
The decomposers of our world, fungi will eat anything that was once living and is now dead...wood chips, carboard, even cotton cloth.
|DID YOU KNOW?: There are over 270 known species of mushrooms that have medicinal properties including anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, anti-fungal, immune system support and more.|
Travis Custer, of San Juan Mycology, taught us about fungi and the role they do and can play in growing healthy communities. Fungi provide important roles like decomposing "waste", producing an edible product, and creating humus for healthy soil. All of which connect back to taking care of our Earth and our communities.
In the United States, about 275 pounds of paper per person are put into recycling bins each year, that's about 43 million tons total. and almost half of that is shipped overseas. We talked about how we are sending our waste away to become someone else's trash somewhere else, chances are that some else is poor. The current scenario is bad for the earth and for people.
Fungi can decompose that paper, returning that waste back to the garden soil so we can grow vegetables (BONUS: in the process of breaking the paper down it will produce another edible product, the mushrooms!).
But I'm getting ahead of myself, here are some of the basics about Fungi that Travis taught us.
Life cycle of fungi
There are 3 types of fungi:
- Mycorhizal: form mutual relationships with the roots of most plants allowing them to be healthier and more resilient.
- Saprophytic: break down dead material, recycling organic matter back into soil. Most mushroom cultivation involves saprophytic fungi as they are easier to feed and for us to manipulate (They can LEARN to eat new food sources!).
|DID YOU KNOW?: Fungi breath air like us, unlike plants which breath carbon dioxide. Fungi are actually more closely related to humans than to plants.|
Let's grow some mushrooms!
There are 3 main parts to cultivating mushrooms:
- Substrate: the fungi's food/any medium they are grown on
- Spawn: material that mycelium is growing on that will be used to inoculate the substrate
- Environmental Factors: humidity (80-100%), food, temperature (55-75 degrees), sun (mushrooms need sun, but not direct sun)
There are a couple of ways to cultivate mushrooms at home: with a kit, in a mushroom patch, or with logs. We learned how to create a kit for Oyster Mushrooms:
1. The substrate we used was straw.
Travis pasteurized the straw to eliminate competition for our fungi from other fungi, molds and bacteria. He used a cold water bath: immersing the straw in water for 4-7 days then draining it until it was moist but not dry. Note: the straw was certified organic
2. We inoculated the straw with the Oyster Mushroom Spawn by sprinkling it around the hay and mixing it in. You want about a 10-30% spawn to substrate (dry weight) ratio in order for the mycelium to grow at a decent rate. Anything more than 30% won't improve the speed or yield of your cultivation.
3. Then we packed the inoculated straw into clean, reused 5-gallon potting buckets that Travis had drilled holes in with a 3/8th drill bit.
4. We put them in loosely tied trash bags where they will stay for about a week. We will open the bag every few days to let the mushrooms breath. Remember they need air and sunlight!
5. We will be harvesting mushrooms in about 2 weeks. The mushrooms will fruit 3-5 times, each time slightly less prolifically.
We also want to make our own mushroom patch in the food forest. Stay tuned for how that goes!
Do YOU grow mushrooms? Let us know your favorite strains and growing tips!
|Safety Tip: NEVER eat any mushroom you cannot positively identify. Make sure to consult an expert.|
"Mycelium Running: How mushrooms can save the world" by Paul Stamets
To purchase spawn:
Mushroom Mountain (Tradd Cotter)
Fungi Perfecti (Paul Stamets)
Travis Custer has been involved in agriculture for the past 8 years focusing on the development of sustainable local food systems through permaculture, soil health, research and education. In 2010 and 2011 Travis spent time in Northern Nicaragua working on seed saving and permaculture projects. Most recently he has worked with business partner Gabe Deall to develop San Juan Mycology, a gourmet mushroom production company that also focuses on the use of fungi to clean up the environment; a field known as mycoremediation. Travis is currently working on a project with CSU extension and Ft. Lewis College to look at the use of fungi in cleaning up persistent herbicide contamination of agricultural soils. He also currently sits on the board of the Mancos Conservation District where he hopes to continue to advocate for young farmers and continued protection of local soil and water resources. Travis lives in Mancos, CO and is the proud father of a 3 year old boy named Eddy. He looks forward to continuing his life in the four corners growing food, teaching and advocating for healthy land and communities.