Guest Post by Leon County Family & Consumer Sciences Agent Heidi Copeland (pictured)
With all the rain of late, there seems to be an interest in mycology. You know, the fruiting body of fungi called mushrooms! Edible mushrooms in particular.
It is not unusual; our subtropical summer weather tends to make some fungi flourish! Moreover, apparently, there is a bumper crop of fungi this year. Phone calls to the University of Florida/IFAS Extension office about eating mushrooms has increased. Individuals have even brought mushrooms to the office inquiring if they are of the edible variety.
Our reputation as Extension Agents would certainly be damaged if we did not adhere to a few rules… always read a label, use research-based information, and NEVER tell anyone that a mushroom is edible. It is not that there are not delicious wild mushrooms out there; a recent July 2017, publication of Microbiology Spectrum estimates millions of species. However, even the scientists do not agree as only about 120,000 of them have been described, so far. Not all are edible. Some fungi are poisonous to the point of being deadly.
Matt Smith, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and the curator of the UF Fungal Herbarium (FLAS) knows a lot about mycology. In fact, he is also the curator of the fungal herbarium managed by the UF Department of Plant Pathology at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. The fungal herbarium is a valuable resource and its collections have many important aspects including information about fungi that are deadly poisonous to humans and pets when consumed.
Lion’s Mane mushroom. Credit: Robert Smith; Cabin Bluff Land Management; Bugwood.org
In addition, the UF fungal herbarium is participating in a National Science Foundation-funded project to digitize and database as many US macrofungi collections as possible. This project, the Macrofungi Collection Consortium, includes 34 institutions in 24 states. The project began in July 2012 and will aim to capture data for roughly 1.3 million fungal specimens.
With that said, there is enough scientific research out there to conclude mushroom identification is indeed difficult. Many mushrooms look similar, but are oh so different!
If you are truly interested in eating what you forage MAKE time to study, with experts! Mushrooms, particularly those you plan to eat that are not identified correctly could send you to the emergency room … or worse. The toxicity of a mushroom varies by how much has been consumed. Poisoning symptoms range from stomachaches, drowsiness and confusion, to heart, liver and kidney damage. The symptoms may occur soon after eating a mushroom or can be delayed for six to 24 hours.
Chanterelle mushroom. Credit: Chris Evans; University of Illinois; Bugwood.org
Delayed symptoms are common. Seek help immediately if you think you may have eaten a poisonous mushroom, even if there are no obvious signs of toxicity. Call the Poison Center’s 24-hour emergency hotline at 1-800-222-1222. You will receive immediate, free and confidential treatment advice from the poison experts.
And if you are determined to make foraging for food a recreational hobby or even want to learn more about what is in your Florida yard, the book Common Florida Mushrooms by University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Emeritus Faculty Dr. James Kimbrough, identifies and describes 268 species of mushrooms found in the sunshine state.
Most importantly, teach your children to NEVER eat any mushroom picked from the ground. It is indeed better to be SAFE than sorry.
People who are interested visiting the fungal herbarium should contact:
Dr. Matthew Smith
Recently, an Extension Agent in the Florida Panhandle received a picture of some mushrooms popping up in a client’s garden. These particular mushrooms were in a spot where leftover mushroom compost had been dumped. The compost was previously used to grow oyster mushrooms and the client was hopeful that she had more oyster mushrooms growing in her yard. Unfortunately, the lab results came back stating the mushrooms in question were Armillaria spp.
Armillaria spp. in the garden. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS Extension.
Armillaria spp. cause root rot of trees and shrubs throughout the world. The fungus infects the roots and bases of trees, causing them to rot and eventually die. Some species of Armillaria are primary pathogens that attack and kill plants, but most are opportunistic pathogens that are attracted to unhealthy or stressed plants. Fruiting structures of the fungi can be recognized by the clusters of yellow to brown-colored mushrooms that emerge during wet conditions. However, the mushroom caps sometimes never form and the plant material needs to be inspected more thoroughly to find the disease culprit. Infected plants may have wilted branches, branch dieback, and stunted growth and should be removed and replaced with resistant species.
White mycelial fan under the bark of a root infected with Armillaria tabescens. Photo Credit: Ed Barnard
Management – The best method for controlling Armillaria root rot is with proper plant installation and maintenance. Planting plant material at the proper depth will allow the roots to breathe and reduce the opportunity for the roots to rot. Pruning tools should be sanitized between plant material. Proper irrigation and fertilization will also reduce the risk of plant disease and root rot. Lastly, you can choose to plant a diverse landscape with resistant species.
For more information on Armillaria root rot and a comprehensive list of resistant species, please view the EDIS publication: Armillaria Root Rot
Ghost plant/Indian pipes emerging from the ground. Photo credit: Carol Lord, UF IFAS Extension
Imagine you are enjoying perfect fall weather on a hike with your family, when suddenly you come upon a ghost. Translucent white, small and creeping out of the ground behind a tree, you stop and look closer to figure out what it is you’ve just seen. In such an environment, the “ghost” you might come across is the perennial wildflower known as the ghost plant (Monotropa uniflora, also known as Indian pipe). Maybe it’s not the same spirit from the creepy story during last night’s campfire, but it’s quite unexpected, nonetheless. The plant is an unusual shade of white because it does not photosynthesize like most plants, and therefore does not create cholorophyll needed for green leaves.
In deeply shaded forests, a thick layer of fallen leaves, dead branches, and even decaying animals forms a thick mulch around tree bases. This humus layer is warm and holds moisture, creating the perfect environment for mushrooms and other fungi to grow. Because there is very little sunlight filtering down to the forest floor, the ghost flower plant adapted to this shady, wet environment by parasitizing the fungi growing in the woods. Ghost plants and their close relatives are known as mycotrophs (myco: fungus, troph: feeding).
Ghost plant in bloom at Naval Live Oaks reservation in Gulf Breeze, Florida. Photo credit: Shelley W. Johnson
These plants were once called saprophytes (sapro: rotten, phyte: plant), with the assumption that they fed directly on decaying matter in the same way as fungi. They even look like mushrooms when emerging from the soil. However, research has shown the relationship is much more complex. While many trees have symbiotic relationships with fungi living among their root systems, the mycotrophs actually capitalize on that relationship, tapping into in the flow of carbon between trees and fungi and taking their nutrients.
Mycotrophs grow throughout the United States except in the southwest and Rockies, although they are a somewhat rare find. The ghost plant is mostly a translucent shade of white, but has some pale pink and black spots. The flower points down when it emerges (looking like its “pipe” nickname) but opens up and releases seed as it matures. They are usually found in a cluster of several blooms.
The next time you explore the forests around you, look down—you just might see a ghost!
The Jackson County Master Gardeners are hosting a hosting a Mushroom Growing Workshop on Saturday, February 10 at the Jackson County Extension Office, 2741 Penn Ave., Marianna, FL.
Shiitake mushrooms growing on a log. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS
MUSHROOM GROWING WORKSHOP
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 18
9:00 AM to 2:00 PM
• Learn to grow shiitake mushrooms on logs.
• Learn about mushroom nutrition.
• Take home an inoculated mushroom log!
• A home cooked lunch is included!
Registration Fee $20.00
Space is Limited
To register, contact the Extension Service at (850)482-9620 or email@example.com.
Pre-register by February 7th.
Following basic instructions, grow oyster mushrooms using sterilized straw, a plastic bag, oyster mushroom spawn, and water. Photo by Sunny Liao.
Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) – which have nothing to do with oysters besides their similar shape – are some of the most delicate, subtlety flavored, and easiest to prepare mushrooms of the culinary world.
They can easily be fried, stir-fried, or braised within a matter of minutes in broths, vinegar, wines, and sauces; or added to soups, stuffed, or mixed with chopped garlic. Other mushrooms, such as shiitake, are sturdier and impart a meatier flavor and texture to a dish. Oyster mushrooms, especially those lighter in color, pair well with seafood or a white meat. Highly perishable, you will want to freeze oyster mushrooms after sautéing with butter or oil to preserve, or dehydrate them to enjoy at a later date.
In addition to being an easy mushroom to prepare, oyster mushrooms are a great source of fiber, protein, and many vitamins and minerals, as well as an excellent source of the antioxidant ergothioneine.
Oyster mushrooms can come in many shades, from cream-colored, to gray, golden, tan, and brown. Their white colored gills, when present, extend from beneath the cap down to their very short stems. They are often described as smelling slightly like licorice and can grow up to about nine inches, but are best consumed young when tender and mild.
Oyster mushrooms grow in many subtropical and temperate environments, commonly found in nature growing in layers, decomposing the wood of dying hardwood trees. This decomposition benefits the ecosystem, as the mushrooms return nutrients and minerals back into the soil.
Interestingly, oyster mushrooms are one of the few known carnivorous mushrooms. The mycelia of the fungi can consume and digest nematodes, which is how it is thought the oyster mushrooms acquire nitrogen.
Arguably one of the best qualities of oyster mushrooms are the ease to which they can be cultivated at home. Using sterilized straw, a plastic bag, oyster mushroom spawn, water, and following basic instructions, oyster mushroom can be produced in as little as two weeks!
You can learn all about oyster mushroom production on the Penn State Extension page: Cultivation of Oyster Mushrooms (http://extension.psu.edu/plants/vegetable-fruit/mushrooms/publications/guides/cultivation-of-oyster-mushrooms).
Once you have the materials gathered, follow this guide, developed by UF/IFAS Suwannee County Extension, to prepare oyster mushrooms bags at home: Preparation of Oyster Mushroom Bags (http://suwannee.ifas.ufl.edu/documents/PREPARATIONOFOYSTERMUSHROOMBAGS.2012.pdf).
As well as being healthy and delicious, oyster mushroom cultivation is fun, and just needs a small amount of space and effort!