›› Kayla Siefried

In the autumn, when you are on a walk-in your local patch of forest, you’ll easily notice the abundance of mushrooms in various shades of brown, orange, yellow, blue, and purple too! When collected very cautiously and mindfully—with the expertise required for such a thing—mushrooms are an amazing source of food and medicine for people.

Installing Mushroom SpawnIf foraging isn’t possible for you, ­cultivating your own mushrooms—from spawn grown by experienced mushroom growers—can be a viable and exciting process. Recently at the Compost Education Centre (CEC), we hosted two “Growing Mushrooms” workshops taught by expert grower and experimenter Vadim Junea. Lucky for CEC staff, Vadim left behind a bag of straw inoculated with oyster ­mushroom. Late in November, we were able to harvest beautiful, edible mushrooms that fruited happily from the bag of straw.

Mushrooms are the fruiting body of mycelium; a vast network of interconnected cells that weaves its way through the soil ecosystem. Mushrooms are essentially the reproductive mechanism that mycelium use to spread spores far and wide to ensure the survival of their species. Mycelium and mushrooms play an incredibly important role in a healthy and vibrant soil ecosystem, ­supporting plant growth, fixing nitrogen, feeding plants, supporting plant connections, decomposing dead organic matter, and some just happen to be medicinal and nutritious.

Another fungal experiment at the CEC featured the inoculation of our old cherry tree (which has been very sick for years with a bacterial disease) with turkey tail ­mushroom spawn. The purpose is to accelerate decomposition of the tree stump, while growing healthy mycelial networks in the surrounding perennial tree, flower, herb, and berry garden. The end goal is to have a decomposed cherry tree stump, growth of remarkably medicinal turkey tail mushrooms, and a healthy fungal dominated soil ecosystem, to support the health and wellness of the soil in our front entrance welcome garden. Feel free to pop by the CEC and see what mushrooms are fruiting today!