July 03, 2013 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
Summer fun was never made easier using a mallet, log and dowel infused with mushroom spawn.
Throw in a few other tools, like a drill, and voila, a homegrown mushroom log.
"I think the logs are the best way," Natalie Stoner said. "If it's growing on a hardwood log, it's going to be tastier and a better quality mushroom in general, so I think it's the best, maybe not the easiest."
Squaring off her mallet to connect with a plug, she hammered the wooden dowel containing shitake mushroom spawn into an oak log. She was demonstrating how to grow mushrooms for Orgreenic Mushroom Innovation last Wednesday, June 26, at the Lake Orion Farmer's Market.
Natalie Stoner, head of marketing and business, and her brother Joel Stoner, head of commercial spawn production, set off on an entrepreneurial mushroom hunt with Orgreenics. They are hunting for a community who values the fungus for its adaptogenic qualities as much as they do.
"One of the key constituent elements, the primary bioactive ingredient, contained in many of what I call the healing mushrooms is polysaccharides which are strongly associated with anti-tumor, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory activity," she said. Although medicinal mushrooms have not been extensively researched in western medicine, Stoner said, they have had an extensive relationship with alternative medicine.
The Orgreenics website lists all the supplies needed to start a log or mushroom garden, indoor or outdoor, so anybody can grow them.
The first ingredient is the spawn. Spawn is defined on their website as material inoculated with a particular strain of Mushroom Mycelium, or fungi. Most spawn comes in the form of sawdust, grain, or woodchips, and there are over ten to choose from at Orgreenics.
After ordering your spawn, you need a log.
"There are utility companies coming through and chopping down logs, and we have friends that do different kinds of work with trees, so we've contacted many peoples as sources to just give us things when they have them," Stoner said. She avoids cutting live trees as much as she can, but said it is possible for coinsurers to "chop off a branch here or a branch there" if they need a log to start growing their mushrooms. Hardwood like red oak works best, but some varieties of softwood like cottonwood work too. It must be a fresh-cut-log either way.
Wait one to two weeks after the log is cut. Using a 5/16" drill bit, drill 11/4 inch deep, insert the wooden dowel infused with spawn, and use the mallet to bang it in. Then seal each plug with food-grade wax. Stoner used cheese wax on her demonstration log, and said any food-grade wax would do.
Like a spring rain is to a forest, so is the lawn hose to a starter log. The log should maintain its moistness throughout the week, with a ten-minute non-chlorinated watering session once every one to two weeks. Place it in a shady spot, on a palette or on cement. Young mushrooms will sprout in six months to a year, and depending on the diameter of the log—Stoner used a six inch log—will continue to grow for five to six years. Softwood mushrooms will fruit more quickly, but not for as many years.
Spreading the love
With more than 140,000 species of mushrooms estimated on earth, Stoner has her eye on a special group of them: the healing mushrooms. Reishi and chaga, for example, have been known for their alternative medicinal purposes in Asian societies, with a growing acknowledgement in Western world. Reishi is commonly known for its immune fighting boosts, its help fighting against heart disease, as an anxiety reducer and cancer preventer.
Chaga also is a tumor shrinker, Stoner says. She hopes to evolve more medicinal practices into Orgreenics, with her goals to make tinctures and medicinal teas using what proponents refer to as the adaptogenic qualities of mushrooms.
"We do a lot of education, what we found is really people just love learning about mushrooms. It's becoming more common place," she said. Not only do people want to learn to grow them, but also people simply conversing about the general idea of mushrooms growing.
She would like to branch into more altruistic work, in terms of working with local community gardens and creating a non-profit branch. She didn't know much about mushrooms until she partnered with her brother and Orgreenics.
"I started learning more and more, and the more I learned the more amazed I was that mushrooms are so nutritionally astounding, they're full of protein, and they're full of all these nutrients that you can't get in other places," she said. "But then also the different healing mushrooms can do amazing things for you, and also, obviously people love them –they're delicious." Her favorite mushroom is chicken of the woods cooked with garlic and olive oil. For more recipes, or buying mushroom growing supplies, view Orgreenic's website www.orgreenicmushroom.com.