Saturday, March 21, 2009

March is Maitake Mushroom Month

From the "now you tell me department". Still a little bit of the Maitake Mushroom Month left, so go and get you some! I haven't had maitake in a long while. I've never seen them around Auburn, but I'm sure you can get them in Atlanta. I had some friends who used to grow maitake and other less well know cultivatable edibles out in California. Maitake is Japanese for the dancing mushroom, because finding this fungus fruiting led the finder to dance with joy. This mushroom can be found growing in the wilds of the Northeast and out to Idaho, according to Wikipedia.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Some Good News about Mushrooms

Okay, enough rants. I've been a bit negative about how mushrooms have been portrayed in the news, even thought "all press is good press". I should just seize the opportunity to use the teaching moments at face value.
Here are some good news stories about fungi.
First, a video about how fungal mycelia can be used as a green insulating material:

Second, a study of Chinese women suggesting that mushrooms(what kind? maybe oysters) and green tea may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
What else can mushrooms do? Perhaps be used to replace potentially hazardous preservatives like BHT.
A documentary called "Know Your Mushrooms" is slated to be released soon, featuring music by the Flaming Lips.
Here's an excerpt (without music):

And finally, perhaps the best use of an acronym I've seen in a while; the Multidisciplinary UnSheltered Homeless Relief Outreach Of Morgantown (WV), or MUSHROOM.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Need oysters in T-town?

A couple of students at 'Bama (the University of Alabama, to be a bit more formal) have found a way to make a few ducats in their backyard, growing oyster mushrooms. They've started a company called Tuscaloosa Organic Produce to sell their products. Pretty good for 'Tide fans ;{)-

MSN posted the same video on the front page!

The video I linked to recently has made it to MSN's front page video. Someone added the clever comment "fascinatingly disgusting". Sigh, I must disagree. Also, it's been reposted on a site called "Stupid Videos", which may explain the person who called it fascinatingly disgusting. Fascinating yes. Disgusting? only to the ignorant.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Outdoor Alabama picks mushroom photo to grace cover!

A rare bit of Alabama mushroom news! Outdoor Alabama, the monthly magazine of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has selected the winners of the 2009 Photo Contest. The Grand Prize Winner is an Amanita! Okay, the winner is actually a 12-year-old shutterbug from Birmingham, but his subject is an Amanita. Also, the First, Second and Third Place Winners in the Flora section were all images of fungi, since lichens are part fungus as well.

While I'm happy for the fungi, it is a pet peeve of mine that fungi are referred to as "flora". This is one of those relict institutions from the days when fungi were thought to be closely related to plants. After all, both fungi and plants are non-motile (Oomycetes, Chytrids and slime molds being important exceptions). Fungal nomenclature follows the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (rather than the zoological, e.g. fungal families end in -aceae instead of -idae). But the fact is that fungi are actually more closely related to animals than they are to plants (as in sharing a most recent common ancestor).

Do I think Outdoor Alabama should have a separate category for Mycota? To allow the Flora a chance to shine again in photo contests? No, not right now anyway. I just hope the world is someday ready to embrace this level of biological literacy.

And also, if you want to see some AMAZING photos of fungi, I highly recommmend Taylor Lockwood's books and website, link over there on the right-->