Starting this July, Peter McCoy will be hitting the road to leading several 20-hour Mushroom Cultivation & Application Courses across the U.S. Peter has been teaching about mushroom cultivation for over 10 years and as each year passes, this Course only gets more robust, thorough, and immersive.
If you’ve been thinking of getting into mushroom growing, or of taking your practice in the art to the next level, this Course will leave you well equipped to advance and evolve your work with fungi for years to come. Confirmed locations and dates are listed below, each with more information on what to expect.
Soil Fungi Master Class
This August, Peter will also be joined by soil, compost, and bioremediation expert Nance Klehm in Chicago, Illinois for an unprecedented 7-day Master Class on the many functions of fungi in soil systems. Offering a skillset found nowhere else in the world, this Course will provide any food, fungi, and Earth lover with insights and practices for managing landscapes and designing holistic environments through the often overlooked lens of these hidden fungi. Starting with the ecology and forms of soil fungi, this Master Class will take participants through all the skills needed to identify, assess, isolate, cultivate, and apply many types of soil fungi in any habitat, both disturbed and intact. For more information, click the image below.
Since the initial germination of Radical Mycology in 2006, one of the biggest goals of the project has always been to create stronger connections between amateur mycologists, activists, and grassroots bioremediators working to increase the health and resilience of their communities and environment. Over the years, the Radical Mycology Collective—an anchor point in the larger Radical Mycology movement—has strived to achieve this goal through a variety of means. With the creation and release of free media and educational videos, the group has offered simple and accessible methods for cultivating fungi for food, medicine, and the regeneration of damaged landscapes. By organizing three internationally attended Radical Mycology Convergences, the Collective has worked to build a greater sense of community amongst the many isolated pockets of mushroom cultivators and radical ecologists while simultaneously sharing the often inaccessible skills of working with fungi in a unique format. In the fall of 2014, the group went on a 3-month cross continent tour to share their knowledge and skills with over 40 different community groups and organizations. Along the way, the group discovered a strong desire amongst their collaborators and new friends to understand the fungi and integrate their gifts into the common struggle for finding better ways to live sustainably on the earth.
Remediation Installation and Morning Circle at the 2014 Radical Mycology Convergence
In the months following their 2014 tour, the Radical Mycology Collective has worked to determine the best means for further uniting this grassroots network of myco-advocates and to fully reflect the desires of those that they met on the road. In the process, several new and exciting project ideas arose, many of which are set to be announced in the months to come. Today, the group is excited to liberate two of their latest spores for inspiring a more tightly knit web of earth workers and mycophiles.
The first new branch of the Radical Mycology project is one that has been subtly lying under the surface of the movement for the last 9 years: The Mycelial Network. Mimicking the decentralized distributive system of fungal mycelium, the Mycelial Network is a connection pathway for finding and working with mycologists, bioremediators, permaculturalists, food/water/soil/economic/health/spiritual/sexual/social/environmental justice advocates, and just about anybody else that identifies with the Network’s Mission Statement and Guiding Principles. The announcement of the Mycelial Network today signifies the first step in the development of this collaborative endeavor. All those that join the Network are welcomed to help refine and build upon the foundation laid in this initial phase as the project evolves.
To incubate the rapid growth of the Mycelial Network, the Radical Mycology Collective is excited to announce the open registration for Recomposing Life, an unprecedented 3-day, donation-based course on the theory and skills needed to fully integrate fungi into social movements building resilience in their community. Unlike most courses on working with fungi, Recomposing Life is not just an introduction to growing mushrooms, it is a suggestive view into redefining ecological relationships and our role as humans in the lands that we inhabit. It is an offering to open alternative dialogues around what it possible in learning from the fungal kingdom. Building off the many skills and insights to be presented in the forthcoming book, Radical Mycology, this course will provide participants with a wide range of perspectives on working with fungi that have never been explored before. The Radical Mycology Collective invites all those interested in the course’s topics to apply.
Cigarette filters are the most commonly littered waste product in the world. Last year, nearly 1.7 billion pounds of cigarette filters were thrown into the globe’s landfills and ecosystems. That’s roughly 4.5 trillion cigarette butts littered each year! In the US alone, an estimated 135 million pounds of cigarette butts are thrown away annually.
Cigarette filters are made from a type of plastic called cellulose acetate. As cellulose acetate does not readily biodegrade, cigarette litter can persist in the environment for 10-15 years or longer before it begins to break down. The filters that aren’t thrown into the streets and parks of the world find their way into landfills where they slowly leach toxic chemicals and heavy metals into ground water systems. Fortunately, fungi may provide a solution to this global issue.
As discussed in the Radical Mycology article, Fungi and The Plastics Problem, it has long been known that fungi can degrade various forms of plastic. However, a large-scale, real-world application of this ability has never been explored to any real depth. This may have been due to a variety of factors, one of which being that the chemical composition of many plastics is too complex for many fungi to readily digest. The plastic that composes cigarette filters, however, is of a rather simple composition and thus allows some common fungi to easily digest it.
Cellulose is the structural component in plant cell walls and is also one of the most accessible nutrient sources that fungi degrade in the natural world. Fungi use digestive enzymes to break down cellulose into simple sugars, which are then metabolized by the fungus. As the cellulose acetate that comprises cigarette filters is nothing more than a modified form of plant cellulose, it turns out that some fungi can break down this industrial plastic waste product.
As Peter of the Radical Mycology project demonstrates in the video below, fungi can not only be trained to digest used cigarette filters but possibly the toxic chemicals that they harbor as well. The methodology Peter used to accomplish this goal was based on an understanding of the skills needed to “train” a fungus to digest a foreign substance. Simply put, the mushroom cultivator must slowly introduce a new food source to a fungus so that the fungus can first determine and then produce the correct enzymes necessary to digest the novel substrate. The same concepts that Peter introduces in this video can be applied to a range of toxins and industrial chemicals, such as petroleum products, dioxins, dyes, and munitions. This is a concept known as fungal remediation. In recent years, skills such as these were coveted techniques used by professional mycologists and bioremediation firms. However, as the global grassroots bioremediation community has continued to grow in the last few years, these techniques have become increasingly more available to the common cultivator.
Skills such as this will be explored in-depth in the Radical Mycology Book. If you would like to learn more advanced mycological skills for reducing your pollution impact and to help clean up the environment, please consider backing the Radical Mycology Book Indiegogo campaign.
At $0.50 – $1.00 per pill, commercial medicinal mushroom capsules are prohibitively expensive for most people. This is rather unfortunate as the powerful abilities that these fungi have for increasing immunity, suppressing tumor growth, and healing the body are incredibly beneficial to most people. It is also remarkable when one discovers that the cost of actually producing these capsules can be as low as 5% of their retail cost. That’s a 95% markup!
Thankfully, there are means for one to make their own medicinal mushroom capsules at a fraction of the retail price. Making your own medicinal mushroom capsules is not only cheap and easy, it is also an empowering means to providing your own medicinal mushroom products for increased longevity.
In the short video below, Peter McCoy of the Radical Mycology project demonstrates a simple method of producing a large quantity of medicinal mushroom capsules using a minimum of equipment. In summary, one introduces mushroom mycelium into jars of sterilized brown rice. The mycelium is then allowed to grow on the rice for several weeks, at which point the resultant “myceliated brown rice” is dried and powdered. Myceliated brown rice is the main ingredient in many commercial medicinal mushroom capsules. The main differences between the capsules that Peter makes and the commercial products are as follows:
- Some of the higher quality commercial products include powdered whole mushrooms (their fruiting bodies) along with the mycelium. However, as Peter points out in the video, there are some medicinal mushrooms that can be fruited “in the jar,” thereby allowing one to still obtain the benefits of the fruiting bodies.
- Commercial products are freeze dried, not air dried. While freeze drying allows for a longer shelf life, it is not easily accomplished for the home medicine maker and herbalist (but cheap methods do exist). Air dried mycelium should be stored in the fridge and occasionally checked for quality.
- Some commercial products (but not necessarily all of them) utilize mushroom “strains” that have been tested and shown to contain higher than average quantities in their medicinal constituents. What this means is that the genetics of the mycelium you are working with–and the capsules it ultimately produces–may not contain as high of a concentration of medicinally active constituents as a commercial product would. While this can be true (just as plants can vary widely in their relative medicinal compound concentration), there are some ways to tackle this argument. One simple solution is to simply consume more capsules. Considering that they are quite inexpensive to produce and that there are no documented deaths associated with an overdose of medicinal mushroom capsules, this is an easy work around. Another perspective is the idea that if you are working with a mushroom that was harvested locally, the medicinal compounds that it produces might be of a more beneficial constitution than that of an imported variety. This is a commonly held belief in the world of plant herbalism: that the natural medicine that is most beneficial for a person can often be found in their own region of the world.
Ultimately, the home creation of medicinal mushroom products is a valuable skill for one to learn for self-sufficiency and resilient living strategies and can compete in quality with many expensive commercial products sold today.
This technique for integrating fungi into your everyday life, and many more like it, will be covered to an even greater depth in the Radical Mycology Book. If you would like to learn more mushroom-related skills like this for healing yourself and your community, please visit the Radical Mycology Book Fundraiser.
The cultivation videos referred to in this video can be viewed here.
Evan Shoepke at Punk Rock Permaculture recently did an interview with Peter from the Radical Mycology collective about the ways that working with the fungal kingdom can influence and inform the work of effective biomimicry and permaculture design. Check out the interview below and then stop by Evan’s site to check out the wealth of DIY & low-cost permaculture resources that he provides.