Always be extra cautious about mushrooms. Even though tonight’s post isn’t about food or medicinal values there’s always an outside chance that someone somewhere could have a negative reaction to handling certain fungi. Most fungi are still very much alive when you bring them into your home so be prepared to deal with spores.
Tonight’s Forage Friday post is going to be a little different. Often in the cold seasons I find myself facing the choice between suspending the Forage Friday posts or expanding the concept of foraging to something beyond food and medicine. Such is the case tonight. Earlier this year I resolved to learn more about the various mushrooms and fungi that seem to thrive in our mountains. When I took my insect and disease control courses in the 90s the focus wasn’t so much on the identification of individual mushrooms as much as it was identifying which ones helped the forest grow and which ones devalued timber. I was blessed to have one particular instructor that had a vast knowledge of mushrooms and was very willing to go deeper into which ones were edible and traditionally used as medicine etc. But for the most part we stuck to approved curriculum. However, he did manage to impress upon me that the phrase “forest products” doesn’t have to be limited to timber.
When I wrote about Chaga and Turkey Tail Fungus my main focus was on the traditional Native American medicinal values. And I’ve been taking advantage of that knowledge lately. But as I became more interested in learning more about them I encountered a post that spoke about what to do with the mushrooms after the extracts have been made. As it turns out most of the mushrooms have more to offer than polyphenols and triterpines. The body of a fungus is made from a substance known as chitin. ( pronounced KY-tin). This substance very close molecularly to cellulose and can be used to make paper. Moreover, to make mushroom paper all you need is a blender, hot water and a screen to cure your paper. That’s it. No toxic chemicals to pollute the rivers and that’s my favorite part. Basically you simmer the leftover fungus until it’s soft enough to turn into a pulp with the blender and spread it on the screen to drain. Some of the people doing this recommended adding a little tissue paper to the mixture for cohesion and one lady suggested that cobwebs might make the mushrooms paper better. But the bottom line was its doable.
I began to think about trametes pubescens which is a close relative to Turkey Tail Fungus and doesn’t have a reputation for the medicinal values. But it’s cream colored and unless I miss my guess it just as prolific as Turkey Tail. Maybe more so. Aside from the obvious uses of paper for writing and as tissue I think it might make an excellent canvas for art. Mushroom fiber is pretty absorbent and should hold pigment very well.
As I pushed even further into the realm of mushrooms as an alternative substance for everyday needs I learned that some people have discovered that it also be made into a leather type product, a replacement for Styrofoam and plastic. Architects are even experimenting with turning fungus into a lightweight building material. Some of this has a way to go before it becomes practical but the way they do it is by growing the fungus in a mold and then curing it in an oven. In Appalachia we have a thriving forest industry that could easily expand beyond the expected lumber and make use of all the sawdust to grow many of the types of mushrooms used in these products. It could be a second harvest for us.
Of course we don’t really have to wait on the big industries to catch up. Many of the mushrooms can also be grown in lawn waste or even cornstocks and more. All you need is basement, garage or outbuilding and you have the whole internet to learn more.
Good night friends and be blessed throughout your days.
For those who have been following me on Facebook and know of the struggle content providers have to get circulation from big tech I’ve been recommending for people to adopt MeWe as a social media platform. One of the problems I’ve run into on MeWe is that people don’t know how to navigate the platform. So to help with that I’ve created a permanent page on my website as a basic Basic Beginner’s Guide To MeWe I’ve tried to anticipate all basic questions there and You can bookmark the page to have as a reference and if you have any questions or suggestions don’t hesitate to contact me. I do still have a day job and I help admin several pages on both platforms so replies might be a little slow but I will answer you.
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