Saturday, February 8, 2014

Wild Mushroom Fair, Los Angeles (review)

Editors, Wisdom Quarterly;;;
Author and expert Gary Lincoff, left, led a mushroom-hunting foray at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx (Alan Zale/The New York Times).

Wild Mushroom Fair (LAMS)
It was amazing. Mycologist Gary Lincoff (New York Botanical Gardens, author of The Complete Mushroom Hunter Illustrated and other popular texts) not only led everyone on a wild mushroom hunt that turned up more mushrooms than foragers are finding in Northern California, he made known a view so radical, so unbelievable, so staggering in its implications that botanists will scoff and come around decades from now.

It has long been believed that there were plant producers, plant hunters, and plant decomposers, mushrooms falling into the last category.

It is not the case. Mushrooms "hunt," and they produce. They can lasso a nematode to source their own nitrate. And rotifers, watch out. The secret is in the mycelium and mycorrhizae.

(BBC) "The Secret Life of Plants" mushroom hunting nematodes

That is not the bombshell. Tests were done after Lincoff and others wondered how Douglas fir were getting nitrate, a necessary fertilizer not found in the unfertilized soil when they grew in nature. It turned out to be the mycelium -- the massive mushroom root network, Nature's fist World Wide Web and Internet, as pointed out by Paul Stamets (Fungi Perfecti), who is proving that environmental reclamation using mushrooms is the way to clean up oil spills and radiation hazards.

Gary Lincoff, Shroomfest 2011: The Philosopher's Stone or How Mushrooms Can Save
You Thousands of Dollars in Therapy and Free You from the Prison of Time and Space.

Goddess (Mochiunagi/flickr)
Douglas firs do not stand in isolation from their environment or each other; they are utterly interdependent. If radiactively marked carbon is placed in one, it will also end up in another. How did it get there? They did not share it via their roots; the mycelium did. The mycelium takes care of the entire forest!

Now here's the bombshell: Every expression of green plants we so prize and esteem may just be the external manifestation of mushrooms because plants so depend on mycological support as to not be able to survive and thrive in the absence of the symbiotic relationship. But, botanists will argue, there are plants that are without mycelium vastly expanding and contributing to their root systems. The secret is that there are no plants without mushroom cells inside their tissue. These cells seem to be controlling what is going on more than the plants. We know a great more than we used 30 years ago, yet we know next to nothing about how amazing mushrooms are.

A few Buddhist mushroom references
The Mushroom Matrix (
Wisdom Quarterly asked Lincoff about a little known reference to mushrooms in the Buddhist sutras. Of course, everyone knows the story of the Buddha's passing from eating mushrooms -- which one of our readers suggests were likely Amanita phalloides. (Do pigs eat this deadly variety?)

In Pork? Mushroom? How the Buddha Died we wonder aloud about the Buddha as vegetarian fed bad mushrooms by Cunda the Blacksmith. Some say he was fed pork, others that it was tender mushrooms loved by pork. "What about the more likely cause being Amanita phalloides? So many Amanita muscaria tells left by the ancient Buddhists and Indo-Aryans, and yet your eyes remain closed."

Musha Cay (
The more amazing reference we asked Lincoff about was whether or not mycelium is edible, because one day the ancient Buddhist monastics in one district in India were starving as a result of a famine. They had to travel far to find a meager alms offerings to sustain themselves. Then the Buddha's chief male disciple, "foremost in psychic powers," offered a solution. Maha Moggallana asked the Buddha if it wouldn't be good for him to use his miraculous powers to either make the long road very short for those traveling on it to go outside the famine area or -- and here's the stunner -- perhaps taking his hand like a giant earth mover and turning over the earth to reveal a great wealth of food growing underground.

What could this be a reference to other than mycelium? Gary Lincoff concurred that mycelium is not only edible and nutritious, it tastes good. To illustrate this, Lincoff pointed out that during a time when mushrooms were not coming up, Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup was made almost entirely of mycelium with a few bits of the fruiting body tossed in so no one would question it. The taste was great, and no one noticed. (Another apparent and more amazing reference to mushrooms and mycelium is found in the "Origins of Human Life on Earth Sutra," the Aganna Sutta.

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