A team from the University of Copenhagen and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute have discovered that leaf cutting ants don’t just grow mushrooms for food but also for medicine.
A number of newspaper have reported that the Forestry Commission plan to introduce a complete ban on fungi picking in the New Forest. This appears to be a gut reaction to the poor mushroom season last year and is based on no known scientific evidence. In fact there are a number of long term scientific studies that show foraging has no detrimental effect on fungi and may even have a positive effect.
The link is a press release from the Association of Foragers about this proposed ban. The Association of Foragers is an international association of nearly 100 foraging tutors and suppliers who teach and practice sustainable foraging and rewilding.
For more factual information see The Association of Foragers website
A group of Taiwanese researchers led by Yu-Jen Chen have been investigating the anti-cancer properties of Honey Fungus Armillaria mellea, the common parasitic fungus feared by gardeners and foresters the world over but also a delicious edible mushroom. Their research shows that extracts of Honey Fungus, Armillarikin and Armillaridin are cytotoxic and induce apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells of Leukemia and Malignant Hepatoma. You can read their recent paper here
Honey Fungus can form some of the biggest organisms in the world covering many square miles of forest in North America. They are chiefly regarded as parasitic on trees but can also live as saprophytes growing on dead wood and probably also as mycorrhizal partners with some trees. They are themselves parasitised by orchid species such as the the Lady Orchid in the UK.
See my Wild Mushroom Guide http://www.mushroomtable.com/wild-mushrooms/honey-fungus/
They are rarely a problem in native woodland, where there is a healthy mycorrhizal community of fungi, only affecting very weak or stressed trees. In gardens however, where most of the shrubs and trees are non-native, the mycorrhizal fungi are less well established and the plants are looking for mycorrhizal partners. This is where Honey Fungus can take hold before other mycorrhizal fungi can partner with the new plants and protect them.
Honey Fungus are a delicious edible mushroom which can be harvested in prolific quantities. In the UK they are usually in season in mid-October. They are an excellent choice for preserving and pickling, as well as cooking and eating. http://www.mushroomtable.com/recipes-2/honey-fungus-and-potato-pancake/
A team of researchers from University of South Florida led by Jeffrey Cunningham are developing a method for recovering the metals from scrapped rechargeable batteries using fungi. Cunningham presented his paper to the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society this week.
Many mushrooms are known to be bio-accummulators of metals and have been used for bioremediation on polluted land. Cunningham and his team are using the fungi to recover the metals before they reach the landfill.
Italian company Life Materials are producing a vegan leather-like material from mushrooms called Muskin. It has the texture and feel of soft suede. They make Muskin from the cap of a conk of Phellinus sp. This is the same group of mushrooms that have traditionally been used to make hats, belts and small leather items in Romania. One of these Romanian hats is famously sported by the American mycologist Paul Stamets. More about Muskin here http://lifematerials.eu/en/shop/muskin/
Started picking the first of this years crop of reishi today. Always a very beautiful mushroom. The latin name is Ganoderma lucidum. Ganoderma means shiny skin and lucidum means bright. As you can see from the picture it lives up to its name.
Reishi commonly known as the mushroom of immortality has been revered for their medicinal properties for thousands of years. In traditional Chinese medicine they are regarded as cure all and have been shown to have beneficial effects on immune dysfunction, sugar regulation, liver ailments, fatigue and more. The Chinese name is Ling Zhi.
We will be harvesting reishi over the next few months, it is a slow growing. The next step is to dry them and then they should be ready for our farmers markets from August onwards.
We are at the peak of the Saint George’s Mushroom season here in Essex. We have had perfect weather for them this year with lots of April showers and in the last week or so warm sunny days too. But take a look at these two baskets of mushrooms.
The basket on the left has the mushrooms I foraged from about 40 Saint George’s Mushroom rings on the village green while the basket on the right was foraged from 2 small rings on the verge of a quiet lane a mile away. The 2 rings on the verge have produced over 5 times as many mushrooms as the entire village green!
What could possibly be the reason for this I hear you cry? Are there hordes of immigrants scouring our English village greens and removing every mushroom? Are the villagers keen wild mushroom foragers? No! There are no mushrooms on the village green because they have been mown down. The green was mown 10 days before Saint George’s day which was luckily just before the mushrooms started into growth. There were just under a kilo of mushrooms big enough to pick for Saint George’s Day and 2.5 kilo a week later. The second cut was eight days ago on the 3rd May and the battered 200g in the basket is all that has grown since. The 2 rings in the lane had one mushroom for Saint George’s Day and 250g the week after. Today there was 1.1 kilos in the lane. The village green should have produced at least 11 kilos this week, instead of 200g, as the conditions have been perfect for them. There won’t be any mushrooms on the green next week either as the mower was beginning it’s next cut as I left this morning. The verge in the lane has not been cut yet but with the cow parsley coming into flower it won’t be long before the mowers come out along the roads and lanes to make it safe for the poor defenceless motorists in their armour plated boxes.
The reason we don’t see masses of mushrooms popping up in fields and greens is we are obsessed with tidiness. Wild flowers and mushrooms are not given a chance if they dare to grow higher than an couple of centimetres. The relentless whirring blades of the mower slice them into a thousand pieces and scatter them to the four winds. The man/woman operating the mower is oblivious to the destruction they are causing so intent are they on getting the perfect cut. And people consent to this destruction and even complain when it is not done. It looks untidy, it spoils the view, it a danger to motoring.
Mowing is nothing less than habitat destruction. Every time a mower cuts a patch of grass it is creating a sudden change in the microclimate. Allowing the sun and the wind to suck moisture from the soil. Contrary to popular belief mushrooms don’t pop up over night. The whole process takes at least a week. Mushroom formation is triggered by subtle changes in a range of environmental factors: humidity, light, oxygen, temperature. When the grass is cut all of these factors change instantly and the mushrooms are unable to react fast enough. If they are still very small they shrivel and die from lack of moisture. If they are too big they are ripped from the ground and devoured by the mower. With mowers cutting every fortnight or every week in Summer the mushrooms don’t stand a chance. (Did I mention that cutting grass stimulates it to grow more so it needs more mowing).
That is where all the mushrooms have gone.