Mushrooms—fleshy fungi—are the premier recyclers on the planet. Fungi are essential to recycling organic wastes and the efficient return of nutrients back :nto the ecosystem. Not only are they recognized for their importance w'thin the environment, but also for their effect on human evolution and health. Yet, to date, the inherent biological power embodied within the mycelial network of mushrooms largely remains a vast, untapped resource. As we enter the 21 st century, ecologists, foresters, bioremediators, pharmacologists, and mushroom growers are uniting at a new frontier of knowledge, where enormous biodynamic forces are at play.
Only in the last half of this century have we learned enough about the cultivation of muslirooms to tap into their inherent biological power Worl ing with mushroom mycelium en masse will empower every country, farm, recycling center and individual with direct economic, ecological and medical benefits. As we approach a new century, this myco-technology is a perfect example of the equation of good environmentalism, good health and good business.
This book strives to create new models for the future use of higher fungi in the environment. As woodland habitats, especially old growth forests, are lost to development, mushroom diversity also declines. Wilderness habitats still offer vast gene^c resources for new strains. The temperate forests of North America, particularly the mycologically rich Pacific Northwest, may well be viewed in the 21st century as theAmazon Basin was viewed by pharmaceutical companies ear,;erin the 20th century. Hence, mushroom cultivators should preserve this gene pool now for its incalculable future value. The importance of many mushroom species may not be recognized for decades to come.
In many ways, this book is an off-spring of the marriage of many cultures-arising from the worldwide use of mushrooms as food, as religious sacraments in Mesoamerica, and as medicine in Asia. We now benefit from the collective experience of lifetimes of mushroom cultivât: ,n. As cultivators we must continue to share, explore and expand the horizons of the human/fungal relationship. Humans and mushrooms must bond in an evolu ;onary partnership. By empowering legions of individuals with the skills of mushroom tissue culture, future generations will be able to better man age our resources and improve life on this planet.
Now that the medical community widely recognizes the health-stimulating properties of mushrooms, a combined market for gourmet and medicinal foods is rapidly emerging. People with compromised immune systems would be wise to create their own medicinal mushroom gardens. A community-based, resource-driven industry, utilizing recyclable materials in a fashion that strengthens ecological equ." librium and human health will evolve. As recycling centers flourish, their by-products include streams of organic waste which cultivators can divert into mushroom production.
I foresee a network of environmentally sensitive and imaginative individuals presiding over this new industry, which.has previously been controlled by a few mega-businesses. The decentralization began with The Mushroom Cultivator in 1983. It now continues with Growing Gourmet <& Medicinal Mushrooms. Join me in the next phase of this continuing revolution.
Mushrooms have never ceased to amaze me. The more I study them, the more I realize how little I have known, and how much more there is to learn. For thousands of years, fund have evoked a host of responses from people—from fear and loathing to reverent adulation. And I am no exception
When I was a little boy, wild mushrooms were looked upon with foreboding. It was not as if my parents were afraid of them, but our Irish heritage lacked a tradition of teaching children anything nice about mushrooms. In this peculiar climate of ignorance, rains fell and mushrooms magically sprang forth, wilted in the sun, rotted and vanished without a trace. Given the scare stories told about "experts" dying after eating wild mushrooms, my family gave me the best advice they could: Stay away from all mushrooms, except those bought in the store. Naturally rebellious, I took this admonition as a challenge, a call to arms, firing up an already overactive imagination in a boy hungry for excitement.
When we were 7, my twin brother and I made a startling mycological discovery—PitfbmsiWe were told that they were not poisonous., but if the spores got into your eyes, you would be instantly blinded! This information was quickly put to good use. We would viciously assault each other with mature puffballs which would burst upon impact and emit acloud of brown spores. The battle would continue until all the puffballs in sight had been hurled. They provided us with hours of delight over the years. Neither one of us ever went blind—although we both suffer from very poor eyes '■' ;ht. You must realize that to a 7 year-old these free, ready-made missiles satisfied instincts for warfare on the most primal of levels. This is my earliest memory of mushrooms, and to this day I consider it to be a positive emotional experience. (Although I admit a psychiatrist might like to explore these feelings in greater detail.)
Not until I became a teenager did my hunter-gatherer instincts resurface, when a relative returned from extensive travels in SouthAmerica. With a twinkle in his eyes, he spoke of his experiences with the sacred Psilocybe mushrooms. I immediately set out to find these species, not in the jungles of Colombia, but in fields and forests of Washington State where they were rumored to grow. For the first several years, my searches provided me with an abundance of excellent edible species, but no Psilocybes. Nevertheless, I was hooked.
When hiking through the mountains, I encountered so many mushrooms. They were a mystery until I could match them with descnptions in a field guide. I soon came to learn that a mushroom was described as "edible." "poisonous," or my favorite: "unknown," based on the experiences of others like me, who boldly ingested them. People are rarely neutral in their opinion about mushrooms— either they love them or they hate them. I took delight in striidng fear into the hearts of the latter group whose illogical distrust of fungi provoked my over-active imagination.
When I enrolled in the Evergreen State College in 1975, my skills at mushroom identification earned the support of a professor with similar interests. My initial interest was taxonomy, and I soon focused on fungal microscopy. The scanning electron m:-roscope revealed new worlds, dimensional landscapes I never dreamed possible. As my interest grew, the need for fresh material year-round became essential. Naturally, these needs were aptly met by learning cultivation techniques, first in petri dishes, then on grain, and eventually on a wide variety of materials. In the quest for fresh specimens, I had embarked upon an irrevocable path that would steer my life on its current odyssey
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