Fungi focus

MooseWood hosts mushroom workshop

Rachel Pomeroy of Marquette and her two daughters, Ivy, 9, left, and Indie, 6, fill bags that hopefully will be the future homes of PoHu oyster mushrooms. The activity took place during a Sunday mushroom workshop at MooseWood Nature Center. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — The domestic PoHu mushroom population in the region should increase in the next few weeks thanks to a special workshop held Sunday at MooseWood Nature Center.

Joe Lane, a recent biology graduate of Northern Michigan University, said the workshop focused on using common household items to create a “little microclimate” for those mushrooms to grow.

“We’re going to be growing a tabletop farm,” Lane said.

For their kits, participants used cardboard paper towel tubes, stuffed animal filling and rubber bands to create a filter for the mushrooms to get oxygen.

They put pasteurized substrate — which in this case was straw — into plastic bags along with mushroom mycelia thrown on grains of organic spelt, a type of wheat.

A cardboard tube was placed on top with the bag inserted in it, and secured with a rubber band. The filling then was put inside the tube.

Lane said that mushroom mycelia then would grow, with little oyster mushrooms popping out and most of the nutrients coming from the organic spelt.

“It’s digesting the straw a little bit,” Lane said. “The straw’s more of an inert substrate.”

If people really had a hankering for mushrooms, they could go to their nearest farmers market or grocery store. However, that probably wouldn’t be as fun as growing their own ‘shrooms.

There’s a bit of science thrown in as well.

“Humans have one genome, one set of DNA,” Lane said.

On the other hand, with mushrooms, the mycelium is the sentient organism, so it needs two types of DNA, he noted.

“This organism is actually separate but also combined organisms working in conjunction, making decisions based on spatial and all these different cues,” Lane said, “so we get to see them kind of expand onto the substrate and occupy it.”

He also said mushrooms work as an external stomach.

That could be a challenge in itself.

“Where we store our food to digest it and extract the nutrients, they live three-dimensionally on the matrix of their food source, so they have to occupy and outcompete everything else and then start to consume,” Lane said.

He also compared a mushroom to an apple.

“The actual organism is the mushroom mycelium, which is the tree, which we don’t often see,” Lane said.

Rachel Pomeroy of Marquette brought her daughters, Ivy, 9, and Indie, 6, to the workshop.

As the former director of the Shiras Planetarium, she has a background in science, but instead of astronomy, mycology was her main interest this time.

“I read the description of the program,” Pomeroy said, “and I thought it sounded fascinating and something that’s totally out of my wheelhouse.

“I eat mushrooms, but I don’t know anything about growing them at all.”

What she and other participants learned that PoHu mushrooms are a tropical variety, but with the special growing instructions, they discovered it was possible to grow them in their Upper Peninsula homes.

“With the aid of this mushroom mycelium — the oyster mushroom mycelium — we can transform these grains, these starches, into different proteins and vitamins and novel compounds,” Lane said.

Those novel compounds give mushrooms their medicinal qualities and usually are species specific, he said.

While making a demonstration kit, Lane instructed the audience to place their finished kits in a dark, warm place for one to two weeks, during which the mycelia would grow from the grains and occupy the entire bags.

“You’ll see little mushrooms start to pop up, and you slice the bag where that is and strain with water,” Lane said. “Keep them in a humid area, and they will grow overnight — double in size, triple in size, within a couple of days.”

He said a serving of about a quarter-pound or less could be expected, with reproduction going on for about a month and a half to two months.

For more information on MooseWood and its programs, visit moosewood.org or its Facebook page, email moosewoodnc@gmail.com or call 906-228-6250.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.