Welcome to Mycognosis

Fungi are essential to life on Earth, but strangely, until quite recently they have largely been ignored by western science, medicine and agriculture.

Now, as a result of recent research, a resurgence of traditional knowledge, and the efforts of citizen scientists and home cultivators, the value of these species is being recognized as a source of nutrition, medicine, ecological remediation, soil building, recycling and more.

This site is dedicated to learning and sharing information about Fungi, what part they play in nature, and how we can benefit from integrating them into our lives, our communities and our environment.


September Brings Bounty

After a hot dry summer, a couple of cool nights and some rain is all the mushrooms need to encourage them to burst forth. These beauties come from “regular” spots, that is, my friend Laurie finds giant puffballs in the same place every year in a spot she can see from the road while driving by. I find Maitake in the same public park every year. The trick it to get there before the lawnmower does, so I thought the morning after Labour Day would be a good bet, and it paid off.


Giant Puffball - thanks Laurie! Maitake or Hen of the Woods

Check out some Puffball recipes here and here. Maitake is great sautéed in butter or bacon fat eaten any way you eat regular mushrooms. Both can be dried and reconstituted for soups. Maitake has medicinal properties and can be made into tinctures or infusions.

Fruiting Chamber from a recycled Shower Stall

When it is time to fruit a fungal culture, it is necessary that you control the amount of light, oxygen and humidity it receives. Changes in light, moisture and fresh air are what stimulate the mycelial mass to produce what we know as mushrooms. Each species has different requirements. Variation in these factors can control the shape of the fruit bodies. For example the CO2 levels will influence whether Reishi and Artists’ Conk mushrooms take their shelf-like, or “antler”, forms.

A Fruiting Chamber should allow you to do this, hopefully without damaging the surrounding building. In the past I have used a plastic germination tent on a plastic tarp. It was hard to clean, leaked condensation and was vulnerable to pests, like fungus gnats. After a bathroom renovation, I salvaged this shower stall to make a chamber that I hope will solve some of those problems. I will post an update when I have some fungi to fruit.

Making Mushroom Medicine

The information in this introduction was gleaned from works by M(y)cCoy, Rogers, and Stamets, listed on the MycoResources page. I plan to write individual articles on particular species of interest, as I have already done with Turkey Tail. This article is meant as a general intro to medicinal fungi.

Ingredients for an Immune Boosting Tea Clockwise from the top: Clockwise from the top: Ginseng, Maitake, Reishi, Chaga, Artists' Conk, ShiitakeIt is often stated that the fungi are more closely related to animals than they are to plants. Their cell walls are made of chitin, like insects and crustaceans, whereas plants cells are made of cellulose and lignin. They consume oxygen and release CO2 just as we do.

Where fungi differ from animals is that they are “inside-out”, as it were. While animals are generally self-contained autonomous units which must ingest nutrients to digest them within, fungi grow into their food, extruding digestive enzymes and absorbing the nutrients.

Since fungi in the wild come into direct contact with various microbes, viruses, and other competitive fungi, they have an array of defenses at their disposal. And because, in many ways, their metabolisms are similar to ours, some of these molecules can be used to enhance our health. These powerful substances make up the very structure of the mushroom itself. Of course, as a source of biologically active chemicals, mushrooms create many toxins as well, so it’s important to know the difference. The oft’ quoted maxim applies here: “All fungi are edible, some only once”.

In addition to chitin, mushrooms contain, glucans, mannans, terpenes, and glycoproteins. Polysaccharides combine with proteins to form complex molecules, chains similar to DNA. These compounds have been found to aid the immune system by variously stimulating the growth of disease fighting blood cells, aiding in the detection of pathogens, or modulating the reaction in auto-immune responses, such as inflammation and pain. Terpenes (diterpenes and triterpenes) are aromatic chemicals with medicinal properties of their own which often work synergistically with other compounds, for example facilitating their transport across the blood-brain barrier.Lentinan is a polysaccharide isolated from the fruit body of shiitake (Lentinula edodes mycelium. Lentinan has been approved as an adjuvant for stomach cancer in Japan since 1985.[1] Lentinan is one of the host-mediated anti-cancer drugs which has been shown to affect host defense immune systems.

Because chitin is not digestible, medicinal mushrooms must be processed for use. Depending on the species and the intended use, they can be cooked, dried, made into infusions and tinctures, or burnt for their smoke and ash. Many, like Shiitake and Maitake, are valued as delicious gourmet mushrooms. Others like the Birch Polypore and Artists’ conk are bitter and woody-textured. These medicinal compounds are found in both the mycelia and fruiting bodies of the fungi. According to Rogers’ Fungal Pharmacy most edible mushrooms have some medicinal characteristics in addition to their nutritional value.

Chaga and VodkaNot all these compounds are water soluble so making a tea might not suffice to extract all the benefits. A common method for extracting medicine from fungi is making a dual extract tincture. In a jar, cover dried broken/powdered mushrooms with 4-5 times their weight in high proof alcohol (30g fungus/120-150g alc.) and soak for at least a month, agitating periodically. After the alcohol soluble constituents have been extracted, press out the solution (I use an Aerobie AeroPress which also makes great coffee) and put the remaining solids (the marc) in a pot with a volume of water equal to the alcohol solution. Weigh the pot and record the weight. Now add 4 times that amount of water and place the pot in boiling water. Simmer the mixture until the liquid is reduced to the original volume (and weight). Press out the liquid and mix the two equal parts together in a dark glass bottle. The alcohol content should be sufficient to preserve the tincture.

Piptoporus betulinus Commonly known as the birch polypore, birch bracket, or razor strop is a medicinal mushroomI used to think that powerful natural medicines came from deep in the Amazon jungle or from the far east. I have been pleased to find that many of the most prized medicinal fungi can be found in abundance in our own Boreal forests. In future articles I hope to feature some of these healing mushrooms including Turkey Tail, Birch Polypore, Tinder Conk, Artists’ Conk, Maitake and Chaga.

 

 

 

 

Cultivating Corn Smut (Ustilago maydis) Part 2

Part 1 of this experiment was last year, and that entailed harvesting the spores of a Huitlacoche inhabited corn cob.

In Part 2 I retrieve the liquefied corn smut from the freezer, dilute it in water, and inoculate the silk of my corn plants. I have wrapped the male flowers in plastic film to prevent pollination, which is said to impede the growth of the mycelium. I will post the results hopefully in a couple of weeks. This research says 16 or 17 days: Production and Marketing of Huitlacoche

Turkey Tail: a Powerful Medicinal, and Some Look-Alikes

Turkey Tail Mushrooms are good for the immune system.A lot of research has been done, and much written, about the benefits of Trametes versicolor, AKA Turkey Tail. There are many of reports of traditional use, as well as modern scientific studies reporting it contains anticancer, and immune boosting, polysaccharides.

According to Robert Rogers’ The Fungal Pharmacy its Medicinal Properties include antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumor, antiviral, cardiovascular tonic, cholesterol modulator, immune tonic, kidney tonic, liver tonic. Anticancer Activity for breast, cervical, esophagus, gastric, leukemia, liver, lung, lymphoma, melanoma, rectal/colon and skin. Antiviral Activity against HIV and Antimicrobial Activity against Aspergillus spp, Candida albicans, Escherichia coli, and Plasmodium spp

Famously, Paul Stamets has claimed his mother was cured of cancer using Turkey Tail, and it has been approved by the FDA for that purpose. It can be chewed whole, eaten ground, or made into a tea, or a tincture.

Turkey Tail is a very common fungus. It is a wood decomposing bracket that grows on almost any kind of dead wood. It is zonate, meaning it has separate concentric color zones, and they come in a range of colors from brown to red. Two different samples can look quite different.

To complicate things there are some look-alikes. Trichaptum abietinum and Stereum hirsutum for example. A friend asked for help identifying a specimen and after a bit of research I realized I had a log with all three on it, which I had assumed were all Turkey Tail. I didn’t see any mention of these fungi being poisonous, but neither are they medicinal or nutritious, so how do we avoid them?

While they look similar on top, they are different below.

The true Turkey Tail is white underneath an has pores in the surface, visible to the naked eye (or with glasses in my case) The False Turkey Tail (Stereum hirsutum ) is yellow and, as a “crust fungus”, it is smooth. The Trichaptum abietinum looks like a faded Turkey Tail and has a toothy surface underneath.

Under the microscope at 20X the differences are more clear.

Lenzites betulina by Michael Kuo from http://www.mushroomexpert.com/lenzites_betulina.html

I don’t have a specimen, but there is a third look-alike, Lenzites betulina , which is distinguished from all of the above by having gills. Picture of Lenzites betulina by Michael Kuo

 

40th Annual Mycological Society of Toronto 2017 Cain Foray

40th Annual Mycological Society of Toronto 2017 Cain Foray Friday September 22nd to Sunday September 24th
Lumina Resort Muskoka

Not a member of the MST?
The Cain Foray is open to the general public too, and your Cain Foray registration fee gets you a one-year complimentary family membership!

This year’s foray marks the 40th anniversary of the first Cain Foray. The Cain Foray is our annual weekend of mushrooming in the wilderness. In 2017 it will be held at a new venue, the Lumina Resort, which is ideally suited for such an adventure, located away from urban “civilization” east of Huntsville in the District of Muskoka. The Lumina Resort offers an excellent selection of accommodations of one- to four-bedroom chalet cottages and rooms in the main lodge. The resort is surrounded by woods with walking trails that are suitable for collecting mushrooms, and nearby are extensive forests that have more areas for mushrooming. The Leslie Frost Centre is less than a half-hour drive away for those who wish to revisit the trails of the very first Cain Foray.

The Cain Foray starts on Friday night, September 22nd, with a barbecue reception where we can meet our fellow foragers and swap mushroom stories. Saturday morning, after a hearty breakfast, will be spent foraying in groups of about a dozen on various forest trails. After lunch there will be more forays and those who wish may sort and identify the mushrooms that were brought in from the morning forays. We will be guided and helped in this activity by our guest professional mycologists and some keen amateurs, who have both the knowledge and talent to put names to hundreds of diverse mushrooms. Saturday evening will feature an illustrated mushroom talk and all mushrooms that were collected during the day will be displayed. Sunday morning will provide more opportunities to foray or to study the many specimens on display. Our weekend at the Cain ends September 24th after lunch.

Register Now!

Lumina Resort
The Cain Foray will be held at the Lumina Resort east of Huntsville.

Accommodation will be in cottages or main lodge rooms or in 1-4 bedroom chalet cottages with several configurations of living room, fireplace, kitchen or fridge, and bathrooms.

Meals will be taken in the Lumina dining room.

Mycologists and Guest Speaker
Both professional and amateur mycologists will be there to assist in identifying fungi. Guest mycologist this year will be Walter Sturgeon, a well-known Ohio-based mycology enthusiast, co-author of the recently published field guide Mushrooms of the Northeast: A Simple Guide to Common Mushrooms, and author of numerous articles on wild mushroom identification.
Prices
Price per Person
Adult $395
Child 9-13 years $75
Child 8 years and under free
Off-site (no accommodations) $175
Deadline for Registrations: Friday, September 1, 2017

Inoculating Stumps with Sawdust Spawn

Fungus Face Sculpture Experiment