Episode-1326- Peter McCoy on Mushroom Cultivation via Radical Mycology

Peter Teaching "Radical Mycology"

Peter Teaching “Radical Mycology”

Peter McCoy is a mushroom cultivation instructor and co-founder of the Radical Mycology project and co-organizer of the Radical Mycology Convergence.   The Radical Mycology Convergence is a weekend long event consisting of workshops, presentations, and various mycoremediation installations.

Peter has studied mycology for over 13 years with a focus on the uses of fungi for healing the minds, bodies, and ecosystems of the earth’s inhabitants.  He is pursuing a degree in media and mycology from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA and is the author of the upcoming book Radical Mycology.

Peter joins us today to discuss mushroom cultivation and answer questions like.  What is Radical Mycology?  How we can learn about mycology without it being complicated?  What is an overview of the mushroom cultivation process?

We continue with more in-depth questions such as, how much does it cost to grow mushrooms?  What is one way to grow a ton of mushrooms for about one dollar?  What are the nutritional and medicinal benefits of mushrooms?  Are there other ways mushrooms can be used in survival strategies?  How does mushroom cultivation fit into other aspects of food security such as growing fruits and vegetables?

Resources for today’s show…

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38 Responses to Episode-1326- Peter McCoy on Mushroom Cultivation via Radical Mycology

  1. This is so crazy! I have been so fascinated by mushrooms since around christmas time. I don’t even eat them! LOL I have a question for Peter…I have been looking for how people propagate the white button and the cremini mushrooms. I can’t seem to find any info. Can you guide me to some resources?

  2. So I have one more question. I keep hearing that one of the little known facts about the mushroom industry is that the mushrooms are sprayed with tons of pesticides. If this is true, does that make grocery store mushrooms unsafe to use for cultivation?

    • Modern Survival

      I have to say I doubt that is true, no producer spends money they don’t have to.

    • Robert_Indiana

      I can’t positively confirm or deny this presumption, but most environments in the mushroom growing industry are so controlled for optimum fruiting conditions (because the profit margins are so narrow), “pests” would be an unlikely problem to necessitate pesticides.
      On the flip side, there is growing research behind using mushrooms as pesticides, ie. mycopesticides, such as strains of the incredible Cordyceps.

  3. Cool! I saw this website a few months ago, when the convergence time and place was not yet pegged. Glad to know of it.

  4. Nice show. I’ll be spending the rest of my night on Peter’s website. This is something my wife and I have been talking about starting.

  5. I really like this one. I have spent hours and hours reading about mushrooms and learning to identify them. I scored some lion’s mane in the woods recently and have cultivated a few. Any way I read about Ford using mushrooms in their energy efficient cars. I couldn’t find that article, but here is another one: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/most-popular/ecovative-deal-with-ford.html

  6. AJ in Michigan

    Ironical historical note:
    While I’m not sure the details of Occam’s heresy charges, “Scientist priests” such as Fr Robert Spitzer actually use Occam’s namesake (Occam’s Razor) for logical evidence of creation of the universe.

    Specifically, to persuade against the concept of a random accident of our universe in a “multiverse”.

  7. hhhhhhhhh yesss!!!!!! i delved deep into many aspects of mycology. ive found myself understanding microbiology better then ever before, more importantly it’s prevalence in how i, we understand permaculture. …. a parasite is seen as something little on something big, right? but it is us, something big that that depend on the functionality of the something small…… thanks lil bros ………………almost a political statement tehee

  8. ohh and the important bit thanks jak

  9. One edible mushroom that you may accidentally cutlivate..corn smut aka huitacoche.

    Cornsidered a pest in the US its a delicately in Mexico. Tasty and loaded with nutrients.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/27/huitlacoche-corn-smut-goo_n_553422.html

  10. Ah, I’ve definitely read Radical Mycology a number of different times. Excellent interview. Seems like the Expert Council could benefit from a Mycology Specialist, couldn’t it? :)

  11. Just wondering, say you found some mushrooms growing near a tree on your property, which you could not identify (as many edible mushrooms are visually the same as poisonous ones.) Let’s say they were poisonous. Is it possible that your edible mushrooms could mix with the poisonous ones to make a poisonous hybrid that would be hard to tell whether or not you should pick it?

    • Robert_Indiana

      In short, no.

    • Robert_Indiana

      Grow your edibles and you will learn to positively ID your edibles. Never eat anything you cannot positively ID in the wild. Mycelium will outcompete other mycelium to fill a niche. Hence, you’ll know what mushroom patch you’re in. Hybrids, no.

  12. Richard Hauser

    Great show, awesome topic.
    One question that he didn’t really cover: he mentions that mushrooms have an amazing ability to purify an environment by soaking up toxins, but doesn’t that also make them possibly toxic? i.e. As you have said the world is filled with low level toxins, there are certainly even natural places where those toxins are higher, if mushrooms can draw those toxins out of an environment, is that something we should worry about.
    In an interview the author of “Mycelium Running” said that mushrooms are cleaning Chernobyl by soaking up all the heavy elements, actually glow with radioactivity and I assume deadly to eat. Could that happen in a lesser extent in a natural environment that say leaked radon naturally or had high levels of arsenic or whatever?

    • Depends I would imagine. I thought the same thing, but then I was thinking about the composting process which (as so I’m told) locks up toxins in large carbon molecules.

      Generally things that are toxins, are toxins in their concentrated single element states but when locked up in other formats they’re “inert” and more or less harmless. Heavy metals are a big one with that.

      I’ve been wanting to look more into this with things like water hyacinth.

    • Robert_Indiana

      Worry about? I would say no, but be informed. In Mycoremediation, mushrooms don’t necessarily “soak up” toxins like your ‘celery in food dye’ science fair experiments from school do. There are mushrooms that are not unlike little nano-tech mechanics, or molecular disassemblers that actually break apart toxic molecules, like hydrocarbons for example, and reassemble them into useful molecules, or metabolize parts of them as food leaving a less toxic or more generally a detoxified environment. There are although, some mushrooms that do selectively bioaccumulate some heavy metals much more than others; deemed hyperaccumulators. Know which ones these are, what heavy metals they can accumulate, and don’t cultivate them from the wild if you’re concerned. Indoor or outdoor cultivation under your personal supervision of a controlled environment should be little cause for alarm. And if you do forage wild, you’d better know your friggin’ mushrooms 100% or risk much worse than mere heavy metal toxicity, period. That, you should worry about.

    • Robert_Indiana

      To lend some clarity, there are mushrooms that naturally are bio-luminescent and do glow in the dark that are not radio active (or edible for that matter); ie. panellus stipticus.

      The Chernobyl incident led to the identification of certain strains of mushrooms that did hyperaccumulate specific heavy metals, such as radio active cesium, across europe.

      The interesting discovery at Chernobyl inside the reactor (and the only living thing mind you) was the presence of a type of thriving dark skinned mushroom that, containing melonin (the same pigment in your skin), used radiation to help their cell growth, kind of like how plants use chlorophyll to generate energy from the sun. Wild.

      It’s all so vastly intriguing, inspiring, and considering that fact that we are so young in the discovery and research of all things mycological, there is so much more we yet do not know about them and their seemingly endless beneficial roles to us and our planet. It reminds me of hearing Bill Mollison speak on trees. There’s so much we just don’t know yet. This is why we need more interested young mycologists out there inspired to delve into these yet undiscovered areas of existence.

      Mushrooms are our disintegrators, our decomposers, our disassemblers on this earth; our eaters of the dead. The largest single organism recorded on the planet is a mushroom. They send and receive information as the earth’s world wide web. They have proven to live where no life can. Without them as a crucial linchpin, life as we know it on this planet would not exist. It’s humbling.

      Okay, okay you got me… myco-geek.

      • Richard Hauser

        Thank you sincerely for the detailed response. I have just started on the path to growing mushrooms indoors, on reasonably known substrates but since Peter was encouraging outdoor cultivation, I had to know this first.

  13. The wife and I have a patch of chantrelles behind the house. Very very nice. I mean we pulled multi gallons of them from a small area.

  14. What were the names of the mushrooms that help corn and brassicas respectively?

  15. Ocam’s razor has no scientific or mathematical basis whatever and seems to be popular only recently to deny claims of various conspiracy theories that seem to have certain plausibility. The police or justice system for instance could never admit to using Ocam’s razor for solving crimes except that in reality maybe they do and is why many innocents are in jail.

  16. I am very curious if the method described using an oyster mushroom might also work for a shittake where you put a store bought mushroom in some substrate ? I innoculated about 16 logs with oyster mushrooms last year
    and hope to get some this year. I did a mix of maple and poplar logs. I bought some oyster mushrooms at the store and found that shittake have a better taste to them.

    I seem to have alot of experience in innoculating logs, buying spawn, and all kinds of things I have read in books, but I have yet to have gotten much of a mushroom yield.

    Having to soak logs seems like alot of work and at my camp in the woods I have no running water. What I am trying is to cut deep notches in the logs. These notches are with the
    grain up and down the log (the opposite cut that you would
    do if you where felling a tree – 90 degrees to that
    type of cut). The notches are 4 inches long, an inch wide and maybe 2.5 or 3 inches deep. They can hold a good shot glass full of water and should fill up when it rains or I can water them. I do them on one side of
    the log so that in the winter I can turn the log the other way so as to keep them from filling up, freezing and cracking the wood.

    I bought 100 plugs of maitake and innoculated some oak with those this past february and still have a few of those plugs as my drill battery died and I didn’t use them all.

    The topic of how are mycelium effected by subfreezing tempratures and contamination seems like a difficult one and I get many different impressions on that from different
    mushroom farms and books.

    I like innoculating logs in the winter as it gives me something to do when there is not alot
    of other stuff you can do in the winter, but I overall I still lack confidence in my ability to grow mushrooms because I have only been at this for a few years and my yields of shittake have thus far been very tiny.

    I have been between jobs and this past february I innoculated at least 30 or 40 shittake logs, oak and maple.
    I have about 16 shittake logs from a few years ago, but I suspect a number of them may have dried out . I intend to cut notches in those this spring. The newer logs I have notched as described.

  17. One other note on the notches. I brought a bunch of the older logs down from my wood lot in maine. I put them in the house in Mass after cutting notches in them and watered them by filling the notches with water. They absorbed alot of water as I had to refill them every day or two for a couple of weeks.

    Glad to see Jack has gotten some mushroom shows going as I noted he had indicated a move in that direction previously.

    • Robert_Indiana

      Will the oyster method work with shiitake? Possibly.

      Because the conditions required for successful colonization and fruiting can be so variable from species to species and substrate to substrate and location to location and on and on, often times the general answer is to, “try it and let us know how it goes!” Not unlike the general permaculture answer of, “it depends.”

      Shiitakes are more fickle and may be prone to contamination easier with this method, hence a potentially reduced probability of success. They take longer to colonize which creates a larger window or vector of contamination to set in. Oysters are generally more adaptable and vigorous to various substrates and have a history of faster colonization, minimizing the time-associated vector for contams.

      Good choice of wood species for your oyster logs as they are a natural habitat of Pleurotus ostreatus… but that’s not all. Part of the reason this store bought ‘technique’ works is because oysters will colonize and fruit on just about everything! Agri-wastes such as seed & nut hulls, corncobs, stalks, straws, leaves, fronds, canes, (spent grains anyone?)… wood-wastes and paper products like newspaper, cardboards, books… I have seen many a fruiting from telephone books. Heck, I’ve even seen a fruiting from a plush teddy bear. Talk about recycling!
      I personally have been privy to fruited oysters from cardboard waste. All those cardboard packing boxes from the mail and all those used paper towel and TP rolls, that’s food… mushroom food! And after those substrates are spent they are perfect for your garden or compost inoculations. Yet another layer in function stacking, getting the most out of an element before it leaves your system!

      Not knowing the full details of your process I can only speculate on your self described lack of yields. I’ve never heard of anyone notching and watering their logs to fruit. In fact watering logs like you might water your plants to induce fruiting may be at the root of your woes. “Soak, fruit, rest, repeat. Soak, fruit, rest, repeat,” should be your shiitake fruiting mantra.
      I will say, if successful shiitake log cultivators do the 24 hour soak, then by golly do a soak! Figure out a way to make it happen. Just a shot in the dark here, but how about a stock tank filled with rainwater at your camp. A tarp hung between some trees as a rain-catch for your soak tanks; something. Do the soak!

      On using older logs… You may already be aware but, the best time to inoculate your logs is within two weeks to no longer than two months from your cuttings. Successful cultivated mycelial colonization is a race. You’ll need to wait a few weeks from your cutting for the natural anti-fungal processes of the fallen tree to subside. But if you wait too long, other native competitor fungi have a chance to move in and start colonizing your log substrate before your cultivars can get established. Old logs are less suitable for log cultivation and better suited as sterilized wood chips and sawdust for bag/block cultivation.

      When it comes to optimal mushroom cultivation I’ve learned that a ‘one size fits all’ approach does not bode well with different species like oysters, to shiitakes, to maitake, to reishi, etc. Each one requires a slightly varied approach and execution of technique. Find what works for you in your area, and good luck!

      • The older logs are older in that they where cut fresh when innoculated but they where innoculated a couple of years ago.

        I had soaked a few of them, but they where soaked late last summer. The soaking did not result in any fruiting.

        I am experimenting with the notches. The notches absorb water into the log.

        I have buried a few logs which is what sepp holzer does, but some sumppliers say not to do that

  18. Richard Hauser

    Are there any mushrooms that grow or that would expedite treatment of dog poop? Obviously, not for food production, but since I’m not supposed to use this for most fertilizing, I was wondering if nature had discovered a good way of dealing with it.

    • Robert_Indiana

      I’m not personally aware of any studies on this. Composting may be your best bet so long as the temps get high enough to kill round worm (if they can). Being that dogs are carnivores, as opposed to ruminants, their poop should most likely be treated as you might treat humanure/night-soil. I think this show’s guest, Peter, would be a good resource on potential remediation of humanure as they may have explored this in one of their Mycology Convergences.

  19. It was mentioned “for a couple hundred bucks” you could setup a dedicated fruiting room. My family loves mushrooms and would eat them every day so I would seriously consider this. Do you have any more information on this kind of setup?

    • Robert_Indiana

      There are numerous ways to go about this depending on your goals. ‘On the cheap’ low tech, or ‘money’s no object’ fully automated. Search, and you can find what you’re looking for on some forums that may suit your needs. Much of it is DIY style. Just don’t hit your head on the rabbit hole; long way down.

  20. what about identification of mushrooms? Since ive started using lots of wood chips for mulch i see numerous mushrooms appear but im not sure if they are safe to eat or not… Ive always assumed they were not edible.

    • Robert_Indiana

      On ID’ing mushrooms? Study, research, and study some more. Don’t just settle on one book or reference as most are never comprehensive enough for such a diverse and unique field, and they are usually geographically specific which may or may not pertain to your area and/or climate. Old and new material from the library or your favorite book store are all great cross references. Do not eat wild mushrooms unless you can 100% positively ID them. They just may be edible, but not palatable. They may be edible and delicious. Or they may be mildy toxic to deadly poisonous. Do not eat wild mushrooms unless you can 100% positively ID them. Better to be safe than sorry.

  21. Fantastic information and many many thanks for the unselfish sharing. There are other experts in this field who are clearly trying to squeeze every cent they can from each and every atom of knowledge they have. The sharing and caring attitude of your guest today is so refreshingly different it helps restore some faith in humanity.

    Jack, I think your interviews and the information you bring to the public is supremely helpful. Thank you for all you do. IMO you are one of the giants helping to give people the tools to restore this poor old planet and bring it toward the Eden it should, could and deserves to be.

  22. Richard Hauser

    Fungal Lung infections
    After hearing some suspiciously scary info about fungal lung infections, I Googled and found the CDC does mention that there is some risk on the inhalation of spores of puffball mushrooms (possibly only 3 cases ever). I assume with basic care significant inhalation of spores can be avoided, but I could see that minimal inhalation is likely and significant inhalation is possible during some kind of accident. Is this an actual danger and if so to what extent, i.e. is it limited to that strain, etc. I would like to start growing edible mushrooms and will attempt to minimize this kind of exposure, but am not the most coordinated person, and have little kids so I’d like to know.