Tag Archives: fungi

Chanterelles: Where to find them, how to cook them

Following a discouraging morel season earlier this spring, many of us in the Northeast left our disappointment behind looking optimistically towards the bountiful chanterelle season ahead.  Although Vermont had one of the rainiest Junes on record forcing many to hold outdoor events indoors, mycophiles relished at the fact that the inclement weather would result in a moist forest floor, perfect for fungi growth. We were not disappointed with the outcome!

We found our first, small chanterelles early in July and with the _DSC3308exception of one scorching week last month we have found these beauties in all of our foraging spots.  Some were small and tight, others were gorgeous specimen bursting with flavor and exuding their distinct apricot aroma.

Chanterelles are revered by foodies worldwide for their delicate chewy texture, bright yellow/orange hues and mild flavor.  Most people refer to the Golden chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) when describing this mushroom though there are at least eighteen varieties in a wide range of colors.  These include the Red Chanterelle collageChanterelle (Cantharellus cinnabarinus), the White Chanterelle (Cantharellus subalbidus), the Yellow-footed Chanterelle (Cantharellus xanthopus) and the Blue Chanterelle (Polyozellus multiplex), the latter found primarily in the Rocky Mountains.  Other choice mushrooms in the chanterelle family include the evasive Pig’s Ear Gomphus (Gomphus clavatus) and the Black Trumpet (Craterellus fallax), a favorite of ours.

Chanterelles prefer the rich, acidic soil of a mature forest where oak, pine, spruce, birch, poplar and beech are predominant.  They tend to be found near mossy streams, on the edge of the woods, near deep glacial deposits and along well-worn forest paths or old dirt roads.  They can be found growing on their own or in groups, their bright yellow color popping out from the ground making them fairly easy to spot. They vary in size from a small, convex shape that, upon maturing, evolves into a large curving, funnel-like form.

There are two poisonous mushrooms that are often confused with Chanterelle look-alikesthe prized chanterelle.  These are the False Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca) found primarily under conifers that can cause hallucinations and the Jack O’ Lantern (Omphalotus illudens) that grow in clusters either on dead stumps, buried roots or at the base of hardwood trees, usually oak. Jack O’ Lantern can cause severe gastrointestinal ailments.

Aside from the aforementioned toxic look-alikes, chanterelles are a real culinary delicacy that are outstanding sautéed on their own or paired with eggs, nuts, fish and various meats.  They are fantastic pan-fried then added to a cream sauce or incorporated into an omelet, tart or risotto. Because chanterelles release a lot of moisture when heated, it is important to let the fluids evaporate before adding any other ingredients.  They should not be left to “stew” in their liquids since this will make them tough and leathery.   Fresh chanterelles will keep up to a week on a wire rack in the refrigerator and can be air frozen whole then transferred to a heavy duty resealable bag and kept in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Recipe:  Breakfast Chanterelles

Vaccinations via mushroom spores may be in our future

Fast Company had an interesting article describing Royal College of Art student Celine Park’s concept of inhaling vaccines using fungi. The idea is to inject attenuated vaccines into mushrooms then inhaling its spores.  Far from having been tested in trials or been perfected, the idea is still very interesting for those fearing needles.

Fast Company – Inhale your next vaccine

Dezeen,com – Mushroom inhalers replace vaccination needles in RCA student proposal

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Mycoremediation

The pollution in our environment is growing exponentially from our incessant use of petrochemicals, dyes, paper and heavy metals increasing our exposure to dangerous chemicals at an alarming rate. Cleaning up our contaminated soils and waterways has been a challenge both physically and financially and the need for a natural solution to reverse the course is imperative.

Mycoremediation stems from the words myco (Greek for fungus) and remediation (reversing environmental damage), a term used to describe the use of fungi in degrading contaminants and toxins from the environment. Mycoremediation is a promising approach in environmental cleanup that is yielding remarkable results worldwide.

Fungi are the world’s great decomposers and the only microorganisms able to break down wood.  By secreting enzymes and using their natural digestive ability, they are able to degrade complex compounds such as lignin and cellulose (essential components of plants) into simple molecules without any detrimental effect.  Interestingly, lignin is very similar in structure to many heavy toxins such as crude oil which explains why some fungi are so effective in eliminating contaminants from polluted systems.

Mycoremediation has been effective in the following areas:

  1. Biological:
    Coli and Salmonella are bacteria that can cause severe digestive illnesses usually as a result of contaminated water from infected human and animal feces.  In this case, mycoremediation involves creating biofilters using mycelium (the vegetative part of the fungus) grown on straw or wood chips and placing them near livestock farms and shoreline plantings where runoff occurs.  Runoff is retained long enough to allow the mycelium to consume the bacteria, preventing further contamination.
  2. Chemical:
    Aromatic pollutants (toxic components of petroleum), pesticides and herbicides are persistent contaminants that accumulate and spread up the food chain causing cancer and other chronic diseases.  Mycoremediation entails introducing saprophytic (wood eating) fungi that break down these contaminants into carbon dioxide and water. One successful method includes placing mycelial mats over toxic sites and once the pollutants are dismantled by fungi, other organisms become active and denature toxins.
  3. Industrial:
    Industrial waste is the greatest source of pollution infiltrating our drinking water, soils and the air we breathe presenting a threat to human health as well as our natural resources and wild life.  Mycoremediation involves stabilizing brown fields (contaminated sites) by decomposing carcinogenic compounds before they leach into our water system.  Industrial run off can be captured by mycelium mats, radioactivity can be absorbed by some fungi and heavy metals can be consumed by mushrooms which are then harvested and disposed of. In order for mycoremediation to be successful, the right fungi must match the targeted contaminant.

The following is a short list of fungi varieties and some of the contaminants they denature:

FUNGI CONTAMINANT
Shiitake, turkey tail Wood preservatives, herbicides
Oyster mushroom, turkey tail TNT
Oyster, shiitake, maitake PCBs
Oyster, shiitake Hydrocarbons (crude oil, natural gas etc)
Psylocibe spp., turkey tail Persistent Organophosphates (Pesticides)
King oyster, oyster, Turkey tail Dioxins (herbicides, paper bleach etc)
Turkey tail Anthracene (coal tar)


Mycoremediation is only one step in the complex process of bioremediation but one that is important in stabilizing contaminated environments and restoring habitats.  The advantages of mycoremediation are that it is natural, safe, low maintenance, reusable, cost effective and fast. Though we continue to pollute our environment, our habits are changing, laws protecting our natural resources are being implemented and our resolve to clean up toxic sites is determined.  Mycoremediation is a viable option that appears to have little, if any, detrimental effect that should become part of our environmental protection strategy.

 

 

Sources: Mycelium Running: How mushrooms can help save the world, Stamets, 2005, Magical Mushrooms: Mycoremediation, Frost & Sullivan 2002, resilience.org, Chris Rhodes, mushroomsmountain.com/bioremediation, radicalmycology.com, epa.gov

Mycelium: Eco-friendly alternative to Styrofoam™

Fungi are such an important part of our ecosystem; it is hard to Myceliumimagine what the world would be like without the Fifth Kingdom.  A world devoid of fungi would be disastrous with matter and material not decomposing and thus accumulating on the surface of the earth.  Without fungi there would be no yeast, fundamental to the production of bread and alcohol, and no secondary metabolites produced as a result of their activities including plant growth hormones, steroids and industrial enzymes.  Fungi play a vital part in human lives quietly cleaning up our planet of toxic waste, supplying important nutrients to plants and trees and providing significant resources for the food and pharmaceutical industries.

As if that wasn’t enough, the mycelium from which mushrooms emerge may soon replace Styrofoam™ and become the new material for many of our packaging needs.  This form of packaging is plant-based, compostable and decomposes within 6-9 months as opposed to Styrofoam™, which is a petroleum-based product made of Styrene (a known health hazard) that makes up 30% of the world’s landfill.  Although we have the ability to recycle Styrofoam™, it is actually only “down cycled” into a lower grade, non-biodegradable product.

Ecovative Design, a company based in Green Island, New York is the world leader of packaging made from mycelium.  Their innovative processes and technology have grabbed the attention of several prominent and environmentally conscious companies including Dell computers, Crate and Barrel, Puma and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who use mushroom® packaging for their electronics, furniture, SUP boards and DART-ETD systems respectively.

The company combines mycelium (the hair-like ‘roots’ from which mushrooms fruit) with agricultural waste, such as seed hulls and plant husks, and “grow” the mixture into predetermined shapes over a few days.  The forms are then heated to prevent further mycelium growth and spore production eliminating the possibility of allergens.  The shapes are currently custom made to protect wine bottles, electronics, furniture and paddle boards during transport though Ecovative Design is testing new applications such as construction boards and insulation as well as surfboard blanks and automotive parts.

No matter what the mycelium-based product applications become, what is important is that it is able to replace our need for Styrofoam™ and other plastic-based products.  We can thus collectively improve the impact we have on the environment by converting the packaging into mulch, by reducing our use of petroleum-based goods, and by decreasing the number of non-biodegradable products that go into our landfills.

 

Sources:  Ecovative Design, ecovativedesign.com, earthresource.org – Polystyrene foam report, PRI Living on earth, loe.org, March 2012.