Eat a tree?
Forests are fantastic for capturing sunlight and carbon dioxide, much better than any traditional agricultural cropland. Rain is absorbed and sunshine is intercepted at various levels, from the canopy down to the leaf litter on the ground. From a food point of view, it may seem scarce for us, since lumber makes no dinner.
Here our mycelial friends, the saprophytic mushrooms, come into play. The Oyster Mushroom and his many friends (Garden Giant, Cauliflower, Shaggy Mane etc.) are ready to step in. They all have in common that they eat dead wood and turn it into fleshy mushrooms full of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
We started our first Oyster Mushroom cultivation a few weeks ago, with two one-kilo wood-chip kits (purchased on taobao.com, the Chinese web-supermall) for 10 RMB (1.2 euro). Each kit was already inoculated with oyster mushroom mycelium, which grew to fill the whole bag. The mycelium is really the living entity, quite similar to a non-moving animal in the ground. It grows by eating wood and other fibrous materials and becomes stronger and stronger. When conditions are right (some sunshine, some water), it starts to fruit mushrooms. If you don’t feed your mycelium with fresh wood, it will die after some time from starvation.
Here are some photos sequence from the delivery of the inoculated bags to the first harvest meal! I can very much recommend to get a fungus kit and grow some mushrooms to get a feeling for this marvellous miracle. There is a fantastic book (see book review section – Mycelium Running) that explains in great detail how mushrooms are easy to cultivate and provide us with rich and health boosting food.
One inspiring application is to use mycelium to turn materials often seen as waste into dinners. There are people growing mushrooms on almost any material containing cellulose: cardboard, coffee grounds, coconut shells and of course all kinds of wood. After the harvest, the half-decomposted debris is a perfect organic soil base.