Its December, the last remnants of Chanterelles are leaving your taste buds. The first freeze is here. Just a few weeks ago mushrooms were everywhere! They were in your cedar chips, in your lawn and between. You’re curious about them, that’s why you’re reading this. You know some of them are super poisonous, some are super delicious, some are super medicinal and some are super fun. You are afraid to pick and eat them because of that lethal thing I mentioned – don’t worry so am I.
Foraging for mushrooms often takes a little more experience than foraging for edible plants as there can be a lot of false identification. For that reason I am not here today to talk to you about identification.
You’re asking, well then why the hell are you here? I’m here to talk to you about why Fungi are more important then just their delectable edible bodies.
Fungi are in the streets, on the internet, and in the market. Those fungal networks: think of em like the dark web of our soil. A Matrix of interconnected webs spanning miles beyond miles. Alright Neo are you ready to take the red pill?
Connected to that little mushroom you saw yesterday is a network of mycelium that can span so far that one of the biggest organisms on the earth is a fungi. These networks have symbiotic relationships with the plants growing above ground, this relationship is called mycorrhizae. They exchange nutrients and knowledge. Wait knowledge? What do you mean knowledge?
Scientists have proven that mother trees use these networks to send nutrients to saplings and communicate- sometimes to different species even. I know, you’re like whoa! Hold on to your horses cause it gets better.
Fungi are not only the highways for the the transportation of nutrients, they are also like the markets making those nutrients more readily available for plants. So instead of having to travel deep into the soil with its roots or break down some complex compounds, fungal networks do that for them. Look at that fungi making nutrients more available for plants. So now you’re asking, what do they get in trade? They get carbohydrates! We all want sugar right?
Now that you know mushrooms are so important for your garden, what can you do to encourage fungi in your soil? Lets start with what not to do. DON’T use pesticides. Don’t use too much nitrogen or phosphorous rich fertilizers/composts. Don’t till your soil. Don’t mono crop. Rotate them crops yo.
If the land you use is new to you I suggest assuming its been compromised. Most garden shops will have something to help perpetuate that amazing mycelium. A startling 80% of land plants have a symbiotic relationship with fungi and I’m willing to bet most of the plants in your garden do too.
So now you’re like, well I don’t grow a garden I don’t care. Well there’s even more to meet the eye with fungi then just soil health. Mushrooms are being studied in the treatment of breast cancer (turkey tail mushrooms), the filtering of pollutants and the creation of new biodegradable packing materials. Soon we’ll be able to say good by to styrofoam.
Fungi are responsible for my three favorite things: beer, bread, and cheese…mmm fermentation. So next time you see that little fruiting body called a mushroom popping up remember that’s the tip of the of the iceberg.
Want to learn more about mushrooms? I’d suggest checking out Paul Stamets and Susie Simmond TED talks to start.