It may surprise you to learn that British Columbians eat more mushrooms per capita than all other Canadians.
One of those serious gourmets is my middle daughter, Rochelle, who has taken Mycology (the study of mushrooms) to heart.
I think it all started during those family hikes we used to take when she was just a kid. I would often find her scrutinizing the mushrooms in hopes of finding a tiny fairy sitting on them.
That passion for fungus was recently re-ignited while she was working at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia, helping to reorganize a century-old collection of spore prints and water colours among their vast selection of natural wonders.
Then came a chance encounter with ‘The Mushroom Man,’ Scott Henderson, at the recent Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Country Fair, and with the parting of a mere $10 she became the proud owner of a block of sawdust with the promise of Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes or Lentinus edodes) to come.
The substrate cube she brought home (in a bag) was little more than a compressed block of red alder sawdust with some wheat bran, millet grain and limestone, inoculated with Shiitake mushroom spores.
As per instructions, she put the block in the refrigerator for a few days to activate it, after which she doused it with some cold water and allowed it to drain.
The block was then covered with a plastic bag and placed in a cool growing environment, which in this case is the garage.
It still needs a little light to develop properly, so she opens the door to the garage for several hours a day to allow the sunlight from the kitchen window to peek through.
The first crop was little more than one large Shiitake mushroom, so she allowed the block to rest for several weeks and then started the process over – except that this time she gave the substrate block a spanking, or thumped in on a hard surface to help with the re-activation.
Rochelle can expect up to three more crops before the block is expended.
Of course, I understand that there might be a few people out there that are not so enthusiastic about growing mushrooms in the house. Thankfully, these same blocks can also be grown outdoors in cool damp weather, but they will need some protection from direct sunlight and slugs, which have also developed an appetite for mushrooms.
You can order kits and spawn locally by visiting The Mushroom Man’s website (www.shroomstore.ca).
For those of those with a general interest in all things fungal, you might want to pick up Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest from Timber Press – a handy photographic guide with descriptions of 460 mushrooms that is small enough to take along when you go hiking.
We even have two local societies dedicated to mushroom culture including the Fraser Valley Mushroom Club (www.fvmushroomclub.ca) and the Vancouver Mycological Society (www.vanmyco.com), which will be holding its annual show in the VanDusen Botanical Garden’s Floral Hall on Oct. 28, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The show will include mushroom displays, speakers, cooking advice and you are also welcome to bring in your own samples for identification. The cost is $3. for adults, with children 12 and under getting in for free.
Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (email@example.com).