Friday was a busy day in the mushroom world. Miss Mac’s class and I went on a mycelium hunt. We looked at a tiny seedling sporting mycorrhizae (symbiotic connection of mycelium to plant roots) under the microscope. We re-hydrated and agitated the stropharia bunker bags, and we watched an excerpt from Planet Earth showing Cordyceps fungi invading a bullet ant colony. We talked about fungi genetics- how it is that this same species of Cordyceps which exists today could be found in a piece of amber 105-million years old (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/tag/cordyceps/). Meanwhile the genus can produce species which each parasitize a single species of insect when that insect’s population starts to spike. We pondered the possibility that mycelial networks have sentience.
While the stropharia mycelium in the bags seemed to be colonizing, I still have some doubts as to the potency of the spawn. I hoped that after the rain we’ve had, wild Stropharia would burst forth and reveal patches of natural mycelium which can be used as spawn. After I left Saul on Friday I decided to stop by a spot in Fairmount Park where I’ve found King Stropharias (Strophariae?) before, and despite the drought, they were exploding everywhere. Some fully-flattened and sporulating fruits were easily a foot across!
I gathered up the younger ones, grabbed a few chunks of tenaciously myceliated substrate and took it home to start cardboard spawn. The idea is pretty simple, take mycelia from substrate or from stem butts (the bottom of the stem, or stipe, of the mushroom which often sports active rhizomorphic mycelia) and spread it across corrugated cardboard which has been pulled apart and soaked. Once this cardboard is colonized, we can use it to start new bunker bags of this local strain of stropharia. Keep the mycelium running.
I broiled the caps with some lemon juice, red wine, and a touch of nutmeg. For most kinds of gourmet mushrooms, I prefer the butter and garlic method, but these aren’t as rich as other mushrooms. They are delicate in flavor and are better prepared with acidic ingredients. The end result was a tangy, flavorful treat which some friends and I enjoyed immensely.
Chicken-ier news still to follow… I promise.