With the end of year we wish to say our thanks for the many highlights of the past 12 months. This year was a big one for Radical Mycology. February saw the birth of the book Radical Mycology by Peter McCoy and April followed up with a few videos to help condense key points from the text—two efforts we hope will excel the growth of myco-literacy currently developing around the world. Following on the book’s many positive responses, Peter took the book on tour across the U.S. during the summer and fall, making over 45 stops at a range of independent books stores, non-profits, community gardens, infoshops, galleries, art archives, and festivals.
(Left) Peter at Interference Archive, a Brooklyn-based depository for the art of social movements.
(Right) Installing a mushroom garden in Washington, D.C. as part of a 20-hour
Mushroom Cultivation & Application Course.
As the mushroom season took its turn of the year, October marked our fourth and most successful Radical Mycology Convergence, this time in Wingdale, NY. Despite being the first time the event made its way to the East coast, over 400 people were in attendance, making this year’s RMC the largest to date. As with every prior RMCs, all who came camped together, learned together, worked together, and, in a myriad of ways, fostered a unique space to share their connection to the lands we inhabit as well as to the fifth kingdom that fills their innumerable niches and recesses.
(Left) Volunteers help prepare the land at Fertile Substrate, a pre-RMC work-n-learn party.
(Right) Nance Klehm on Reading the Landscape for patterns of disturbance at the 2016 RMC.
The land hosting the RMC was also an amazing backdrop to the event. Set on a 120-acre homestead bordering the Appalachian Trail and three hills of mushroom-rich mixed forests, attendees found fungi poppin’ all weekend. Maitake, Chicken of the Woods, and various Laccaria and edible Boletus species were well represented, as were an array of conks, lichens, and resupinate fungi.
Morning circle at the RMC (Credit: Michael Place).
On the info front, this year’s RMC took the myco knowledge offered to a whole other level. As impromptu forays filled the woods, the dense schedule offered some pretty killer workshops and discussions, including many mycoremediation and mushroom cultivation focused talks. In between, new friendships were forged among the many passionate and incredibly knowledgeable mycophiles, as demonstrated at the steadily laughter- and rap-filled talent show on Saturday night. And at night massive bonfires raged late, filling the air with warmth, kinship, and stories of epic fungi recently found or long since gone.
Dinner crew on duty. Philip shares his passion in the Amadou.
On the final day, as with all RMCs, we closed by working to enrich the land with various fungal partnerships and earth repair practices. Erosion-mitigating and nutrient load-reducing plants were planted along sensitive waterways, while various mushroom gardens were installed across the property.
Installing a four-species mushroom garden on the final day of the RMC.
As the year winds down, the Radical Mycology Collective is taking some time to reflect as we proceed into an ever-brighter fungal future. Next year is sure to bring some big changes and new projects to the fore for us. But for now, we wish to give our deepest gratitude to all those who made this year one of our most inspirational yet.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU
A HUGE thank you goes out to everyone that helped organize, show up, throw down, support, donate, cook, serve, share, and grow with us and the Radical Mycology movement this year. A special HUGE HUGE thank you goes to this year’s presenters: Alanna Burns, Zaac Chaves, Cornelia Cho, Willie Crosby, Samuel David, Steve Gabriel, Alexander Jones, Erwin Karl, Fern Katz, Scott Kellogg, Nance Klehm, Elli Mazeres, John Michelotti, Lupo Passero, William Padilla-Brown, Jason Scott, Danielle Stevenson, Olga Tzogas, Chris Wright, Sue Van Hook, Roo Vandegrift, and Marina Zurkow, as well as to the amazing folks in the Seeds of Peace Collective, who did all the cooking at the RMC this year.
In return, and as a belated Solstice gift to everyone, we’ve made a playlist of the workshop videos from the 2014 RMC—a taste of the videos we have in the editing queue from this year’s RMC.
Enjoy and mush love,
The RM Collective
Next month, Peter McCoy will be offering two free webinars on many of groundbreaking topics discussed in Radical Mycology, one of the most comprehensive books on fungi and mushroom cultivation ever written. These unique talks will be live streamed with the ability for viewers to chat with Peter directly and ask him questions from anywhere in the world. There will also be free book giveaways and special discounts offered to all viewers. To register for this paradigm-shifting talk, click here.
April 14 at 6PM Pacific (9PM Eastern)
Fungi are everywhere around us, creating and maintaining whole ecological webs. For many, learning to recognize these relationships is one of the most incredible and inspiring aspects of working with the fungal kingdom. In this presentation, Peter will walk through the critical ecological roles that fungi fulfill from the poles to the oceans and from the forests to the deserts. Along the way, Peter will detail how fungal ecologies have influenced the development human cultures throughout time, including a wealth of incredible evidence that he has uncovered on the importance of fungi in the origins and evolution of life. Whether you are new to mycology or well versed in the topic, this talk will leave you overwhelmed with fascination for the incredible fifth kingdom!
WORKING WITH FUNGI FOR GLOBAL RESILIENCE
April 28 at 6PM Pacific (9PM Eastern)
Mycology is proving itself to be a nearly inexhaustible field for innovation. As new discoveries are constantly being made, there seems to be no end to what fungi can offer humans, their communities, and the environments they touch. In this talk, Peter will explore the wide range of ways to cultivate fungi and integrate them into our lives, homes, and landscapes. Along with detailing some of the most appropriate mycotechniques currently being developed, Peter will also unveil unprecedented protocols for accessibly growing edible and medicinal mushrooms as well as new learning opportunities for advancing the future of human-fungal relations.
The Radical Mycology Convergence (RMC) is a volunteer-run gathering that shares the knowledge and skills of working with fungi for personal, societal, and ecological health. A non-discriminatory and family-friendly event, the RMC welcomes people of all backgrounds to learn about and join the growing fields of sustainable mycology and bioremediation. The RMC teaches the means to work with fungi as a resilient food and medicine source as well a natural ally in efforts to help regenerate, remediate, and renew damaged environments. Emphasizing techniques that are low-cost, the skills and ethos presented at the RMC aim to support a wide range of grassroots efforts advocating for environmental protection, social justice, and local food autonomy.
In the fall of 2014, over 250 people from around the globe gathered at the 3rd Radical Mycology Convergence in Orangeville, IL to gain skills for working with fungi as personal, societal, and ecological medicine. Hosted on the private homestead of bioremediation expert Nance Klehm, the 2014 RMC built on the knowledge base laid at the previous 2 Convergences to further strengthen the emerging fields of community-scale mushroom cultivation and grassroots bioremediation. Hosting over 50 discussions and workshops and 8 edible and experimental remediation installations, this year’s RMC provided new insights into how fungi can help address the increasingly complex challenges of today’s world.
Film by Steve Zieverink
Set up for the RMC began at Fertile Substrate, a 3-day pre-Convergence educational work party where volunteers and organizers prepared piles of substrates, germinated installation inoculum, cleared and designated installation sites, built seating and other infrastructure, and cultured several locally harvested mushroom species such as Elm Oyster (Hypsizygus ulmarius), Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), Enoki (Flammulina velutipes), Chicken-Of-The-Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus), and Maitake (Grifola frondosa).
Sourcing and preparing substrates
This year’s RMC hosted over 50 original workshops and discussions focused on one of the several major themes of the RMC: Fungal Biology & Ecology, Ethnomycology, Ecological Restoration & Remediation, and Fungal Cultivation. Many of the workshops intentionally covered topics and skills not typically addressed at mycological events such as using mushroom identification skills to help protect threatened habitats, cultivating mushrooms in arid and extreme environments/climates, the realities of running of a small mushroom farm, and teaching mycology to kids. Friday night’s campfire hosted a challenging discussion addressing the idea “dark ecology,” a theory proposed by author Timothy Morton that the pollution and destructive practices of modern living must be fully embraced in order to overcome them and move toward healthier lives and a healthier world. Also unique to the 2014 RMC teaching model was an expressed desire to increase the presence of women and trans mycologists at the Convergence. As a part of this effort, a discussion directly addressing the role and experience of women and trans people in mycological circles was held at the RMC. A summary of this conversation can be read here.
Descriptions of all the 2014 RMC workshops can be viewed here. Videos of the 2014 RMC’s workshops will be made available online for free in the coming months. To see those when they become available, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel here.
Along with the cultivation workshops and theoretical discussions of the RMC another major component of the Convergence focused on putting theory to practice by facilitating hands-on remediative and regenerative fungal installations during the event. This year’s RMC brought about several novel approaches to working with fungi in landscape to mitigate pollution and renew disturbed habitats.
Determining the sites for remediation work to take place at the RMC was a months-long planning process. Several RMC organizers worked to identify needs, giving preference to issues related to chemical remediation strategies and strengthening local soil and aquatic ecologies. Zones of concern were selected on the property and collaborative planning discussions were held to develop the most effective strategies for addressing these areas. The main issues identified and addressed included the following:
Brush Creek MycoFiltration – Water samples from the property’s creek (Brush Creek) were sent to a local water testing lab prior to the RMC. The water was tested for a range of common chemical and biological contaminants and found to (thankfully) not contain concerning levels of pollutants. However, another concern to the water’s quality had previously been identified: in the rainy spring months heavy rain causes the water table of Brush Creek to rise significantly leading to topsoil erosion and a significant depositing of silt and debris into the creek water. This murky water subsequently reduces available oxygen, choking out aquatic life and reducing the resilience and diversity of riparian communities downstream. To mitigate this issue a series of filters of mushroom mycelium were installed in the creek (in the form of burlap sacks filled with oak wood chips inoculated with Stropharia rugosoannulata [aka SRA]) to capture silt and increase water purity. The upper portion of the property’s creek was scouted to identify sites that had access to shallow, slower moving sections of the water course where mycelium containers could be installed and easily observed, maintained, and replaced as needed. Two sites were identified.
Site A was a preexisting natural dam built of fallen logs and branches. This area was an easy candidate for installation as it would readily retain the bags to be installed. In the coming months the landowner will observe the bags’ health and determine whether they are getting “plugged” with debris, at which point they will need to be replaced.
Site A of Brush Creek’s MycoFiltration installation
Site B was an overflow side channel in the water’s course that is contained in a short, shallow trench. This shady area is above the water table for most of the year, only filling with water in the rainy season. A series of SRA bags were installed in this channel and secured with branches and stakes of various sizes. In the coming months the bags and surrounding soil will become infused with this mushroom’s mycelium creating a productive mushroom bed. When the water raises next year, overflow from the creek will pass through this mushroom bed, filtering silt and debris as the mycelium is being hydrated (ultimately helping the bed produce more mushrooms). Another function of this mushroom bed is that it will serve to digest much of the property’s Reed Canary Grass. The landowner can simply throw this plant into Site B’s trench, feeding this edible mushroom to increase production while mitigating a common weed.
Post-Ag Field Regeneration – The land that hosted to 2014 RMC was a 20 acre parcel that had been heavily cultivated for 70 years with GM corn. While some portions of the property had been left to return to a prairie for 20 years, much of the property had only been out of production for 4 years. Due to years of heavy tillage and chemical input, the diversity in the soil communities of these areas were significantly depressed. These “post-ag” portions of the property were covered in a small number of dominant weeds, a sign of poor soil quality. Our goal was to begin repopulating the soil in these areas by inoculating test plots with beneficial microbes and fungi, thereby kickstarting the natural soil web cycles and eventually leading to greater soil health and increased nutrient availability.
Eight 2’x6′ plots were cleared and inoculated with various combinations of mycorrhizal fungi, compost tea, and biochar. The biochar was produced on-site and inoculated with fresh compost tea that followed standard and biodynamic compost tea practices. Compost tea breeds large quantities of beneficial aerobic microbes. The biochar performs several remediative functions while also serving as a “microbe hotel” where mycorrhizal fungi and other microbes can live. One bed was cleared but not inoculated to serve as a control.
On the myco end of this installation, several plots were inoculated with mycorrhizal fungi that will help support the soil’s health in numerous ways. The ideal practice for this portion of the experiment would have been to harvest locally-adapted mycorrhizal spores from on-site and culture them in association with plants over a season to amplify their spore load for inoculation. As this would have needed to been done a year in advance, we settled on using a commercial product containing various ecto and endomycorrhizal species. All plots were seeded with a commercial cover crop blend.
Prior to treatment the plots hosted various combinations of the following species (spontaneous vegetation):
In the coming years, the landowner will observe the plots to determine which regenerates the most effectively to host a larger variety of plant species. It is our hypothesis that the plot inoculated with biochar, compost tea, and mycorrhizae will perform the best. Time will tell.
Automobile Engine Point Source Remediation – Not all means of integrating fungi for pollution mitigation need to be complicated or large-scale. For example, a simple “point-source” remediation installation initiated at the RMC involved placing a Pearl Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus) woodchip bed below the landowner’s parking site. As the mycelium of this well-known remediative species myceliates the wood-based substrate in the coming months, it will also likely absorb and digest the oil and chemicals dripping off the car’s engine. This simple method of treating a common source of household pollution can be effectively installed in driveways around the world as this species and its relatives are quite common in most continents. Mushrooms that fruit from this bed should not be eaten however as they may harbor toxic elements.
Human Waste Disposal – The human “waste” stream produced over the course of the RMC was treated as a valuable resource. Several composting toilets (The Shiitakers) were installed around the property and the fecal and urine matter collected at these sites was placed in The Pilobolus Pile, a slow compost pile that will eventually turn this common “waste” stream into healthy compost. This pile was constructed with an abundance of sawdust to eliminate smell and the risk of disease.
Beyond the restorative installations, several functional mushroom beds were installed around the property as well:
Stacking the Funk-tions: Elm Oysters on Reed Canary Grass – Two things were abundant on the property that piqued our cultivation function stacking interests. The edible and remediative Elm Oyster (Hypsizygus ulmarius) mushroom was found growing prodigiously on the property as was the common weed known as Reed Canary Grass (RCG), which we found dominating the old pasture on site. We decided to make use of the RCG (seeing it as an abundant local substrate) by inoculating it with the Elm Oyster, a vigorous species known for its ability to consume a wide variety of substrates. We harvested a basket of these local mushrooms and collected their spores to make a simple “spore slurry” inoculum. Simultaneously, the RCG was harvested and prepared for inoculation by means of fermentation. Once the grass was prepared, the spore slurry was applied by packing the straw in plastic containers and pouring the spore slurry evenly throughout the packing process. In the coming weeks, the mushroom spores will germinate and fuse, forming numerous distinct genetic strains that will develop into diverse mycelial networks to digest the RCG. As these numerous strains grow out, some will stand out in the vigor and tenacity. The strains that fruit most heavily can then be isolated by the landowner. Repeating this spore slurry process with these superior strains in subsequent trials will essentially “speed up evolution” leading to the development of a “super-strain” of the Elm Oyster that will fruit exceptionally well on this locally abundant substrate.
The Oak Leaf – A simple, symbolic King Stropharia mushroom bed was installed in a depression in the land downhill from a culvert. Designed in the shape of an oak leaf, this bed was created to honor the dominant tree species on the land and to reflect the value of this wood type in mushroom cultivation. (The density and richness of oak has long been noted to be a superior wood for cultivation of several species such as Shiitake).
Spawning Mycelial Networks
While workshops and installations are the central feature of the Radical Mycology Convergences, there is another, perhaps even more important theme that runs throughout the weekend as well: community building. Knowing the difficulty that can come with studying mycology and mushroom cultivation, the RMC organizers worked intentionally throughout the weekend to help encourage the development of friendships and alliances amongst attendees that will extend beyond the 5 days of the gathering. By camping, cooking, eating, learning, and engaging in discussions together, participants were readily able to meet future cohorts and know that others shared their excitement (and confusion) around working with the fungal kingdom.
On the Sunday of the RMC, a break out discussion was held where participants gathered by region to brainstorm how the skills they learned at the RMC could be applied in their communities. By the end of the discussions, several new Radical Mycology groups had formed to take the skills of grassroots mycology back to their home towns and bioregions. Spawning mycelial networks of collaboration amongst attendees, the 3rd Radical Mycology Convergence has helped increase awareness around the fact that anyone can grow mushrooms for food, medicine, and the benefit of environmental resilience. And there is no better time to join this movement than now.
A big thank you goes out to everyone who presented, supported, sponsored, volunteered, threw down, or otherwise helped co-create this year’s Radical Mycology Convergence. This year’s RMC would not have been such a success without all of your input and collaboration. Thank you to Shawndra Miller for writing up two great reviews of the RMC (here and here) and to Jessie Robertson for his write up here.
See you all at the next RMC!
Mush love getting served up in the Kit-Chanterelle Sunday night’s barn dance
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.