Two classes to report on today. On the 18th, we took a walk through Wissahickon park and found some interesting fungi. Agrocybe Praecox was out in force, breaking down layers of woodchips with the help of some Coprinellus and deadly Galerinas. Students showed a real knack for spotting mushrooms and collected a few choice specimens of Stropharia Rugoso-Annulata which I used to make Mushroom Bean soup which we enjoyed as a class last Friday.
On Friday, we took a moment to check on our new Stropharia patch in the broccoli rows. I was surprised by how well the mycelium had progressed in only two weeks. The weather has been perfect, wet and not too hot, so the healthy, rhizomorphic mycelium had a chance to leap off of the cardboard spawn and into the straw. At the rate things are going, we may need to “feed” the patch soon with more straw, manure, and woodchips. We found a few mushrooms in the field- Panaeolina Foenescii and an Agrocybe which we checked out under the microscope to see the spores and the spore producing cells- basidia- up close.
Only two more classes before the summer. With our Toshiba grant going in this week, we hope to have a full lab at our disposal for classes next year to take on some more ambitious projects.
And here’s a Ganoderma Tsugae from Wissahickon for your viewing pleasure. Seems something had already gotten to the tender parts. The deer in Wissahickon must be enjoying numerous health benefits.
Last Friday, Miss Mac’s class and farm interns Nancy, Chris, and Matt teamed up to lay out or new Stropharia beds between rows of broccoli. We hope that the addition of Stropharia mycelium will accomplish three things in the soil environment of the plant crop. 1: Increased aeration 2: increased water retention 3: increased availability of nutrients. While Stropharia Rugoso-Annulata is a saprophyte (eats dead stuff) it does well in soils with minimal dead debris. Therefore, we expect that our rows will begin to proliferate with mycelium, which will then weave through the soil of the adjacent crops. While the broccoli that is in the ground now will be harvested in late June, before the mycelium will have much of a chance to work its magic, a new crop of Fall broccoli will replace it. This could be Henry Got Crop’s first bumper crop of monster broccoli crowns.
Here’s what we did. First, we dug out about 30 feet of trench between broccoli rows. We then laid out a mixture of hardwood sawdust and wood chips (courtesy of the Farimount Recycling Center). With the more myceliated side facing down, we placed our colonized cardboard spawn on top of the wood chips. On top of that went a layer of straw (salt hay, it’s actually reeds but should do just fine), followed by another layer of cardboard spawn and finally a layer of leaves. The purpose of this final layer is to hold in moisture and also to function as a “casing” layer for the mushrooms. Some species of mushrooms, Stropharia R.A. included, need a layer of material they don’t fully colonize on top of the main substrate. This is where the mushrooms fruit, and explains why some mushrooms can be found under areas where leaves or soil are beginning to push up.
Hoping the thunderstorms forecast today knock down a chicken tree or two, not near any houses of course.
Morel season is upon us in SE PA. If you’ve never had a fresh morel (not the kind that’s been sitting at the store for days), you have been missing out on one of the greatest delicacies nature offers, and the window for finding them will only be open for another couple weeks at most. Morchella species form mycorrhizal relationships with trees like elm (dead, before the bark has fallen off), old apple trees, ash, or poplar. I, however, always find them growing near medium-sized Tree-of-Heaven and spicebush in Fairmount Park. If there’s one, there are likely to be more around, so get low and scan, looking for the deep grooves amongst the camoflauge of leaf-litter. I managed to gather a dozen from Fairmount Park last Thursday. My suspicion is that the deer found most of them before I had a chance.
On Thursday, Miss Mac’s class started a new batch of cardboard spawn using more Stropharia mycelium from a local patch. The first batch is coming along really well and is just about ready to spawn to bunker bags. In class, we talked about saprophytes (fungi that eat dead debris), parasites (fungi that eat living tissue) and mycorrhizal species (whose mycelia fuse to plant roots). Thanks to the mini mushroom-haven that is Fairmount Park, we had a saprophytic and a mycorrhizal species to pass around. Not everyone was as enthused about the morels as I was!
I wish there was better chicken news to report… I spent the afternoon Thursday checking stacks of logs in Aston with tree-cutter and jack-of-all-trades Keith Lawless in Aston, PA. These same stacks had half a dozen chicken logs ripe for the cutting in January, but this time when we showed up with a chainsaw, we were saddened to learn that these logs had met their fate at the teeth of an industrial woodchipper. With Spring upon us, we’re hoping that a few gusty storms will help a few chicken trees out there find their way to these stacks.
We’re always looking for new sources for logs, so if you know of anyone that works in the tree business please comment below or message me. Thanks!