|Two-year-old Oliver leads us on a little myco-exploration this week, after two weeks of regular rain in North Georgia. Daddy, don't we need to get this bolete, too?|
|Jess was thrilled by her first find and identification - Lactarius indigo - which is edible and somewhat fruity, if you can get past the squid ink released by the gills of this odd little blue fungus!|
|This...is a real bummer. They look like chanterelles, and in fact ARE chanterelles, but they just happen to be Cantherellus ignicolor, the only chanterelle you shouldn't eat. They are smaller, flimsier, and more vivid orange than the edible species.|
Paul Stamets, author of "Mycelium Running," talks about mushrooms being vanguard species, colonizing and remediating compromised ecologies first, drawing in insects to eat their spore load, birds to eat the insects, seeds from bird manure sprouting in the mushroom-improved soil, ecosystems being reborn from the mire. He speaks of spawn bunkers placed to intercept livestock run-off, scrubbing E. coli and other manure-related microbes out of the effluent, radically improving downstream water quality. He talks about improving veggie crop vigor and yields with mushroom symbionts like Glomus endo- and ecto-mycorrhizae, and Stropharia in the corn patch. It's an amazing and fascinating dark underground world that humans rarely venture into, but one that will play a starring role in a future centered around topsoil and watershed repair. There are what, six kingdoms of life on Earth? How much more enriched is the human existence that invites another 17% of the living world into its calculus?
When life moves toward simplification, whether by hook or by crook, the time formerly spent on high energy frivolity tends to give way to something else. That new-found time can be spent killing brain cells, or it can be spent relearning the knowledge that helped us thrive before coal and oil. For those of mycophobic British descent, like me, a love of mushrooms is probably a brand new thing, one of the useful products of globalization, inherited from mycophilic cultures like the Italians, Germans, or Russians. And for that I can be thankful, filed away in my bag of new tricks, as I make my way toward the hyper-local recombinant culture of a lower energy future.