Mushroom mycelium is a fascinating organism that many people don’t know much about. It is the part of a mushroom that grows underground, and it is responsible for the growth of mushrooms. Understanding mushroom mycelium and how it grows can give us insight into how mushrooms can be grown and how they can be used as food and medicine. In this blog post, we will cover everything you need to know about mushroom mycelium, including its characteristics, what it looks like, and how it can be cultivated.
Introduction to Mushroom Mycelium
Mushroom mycelium, a filamentous structure resembling threads, is frequently concealed underground or within decomposing logs and stumps.
The primary organism, mycelium constitutes the main part or body of the fungus, generating the fruiting bodies we identify as mushrooms to facilitate reproduction.
Mycelium is composed of thousands of delicate, thread-like hyphae that converge to establish an underground network of lengthy fibers that grow through organic material, gathering nourishment in the process.
Like humans, fungi require nutrients from their surroundings to grow. However, unlike humans, they consume food externally. Mushroom mycelium releases enzymes that break down surrounding organic matter, and then absorb the resulting particles through its cell walls.
Mushroom mycelium is the most long-lived part of a fungus, capable of remaining inactive for many years, waiting for favorable conditions to produce mushrooms and perpetuate the reproductive cycle.
All mushrooms contain mycelium, as they arise from the fruiting bodies of living fungi, and consist of densely packed mycelium.
However, not all fungi generate mushrooms despite possessing mycelium.
Is it Safe to Eat Mycelium Fungus
Certain types of mycelium fungus are safe for consumption, and similar to edible mushrooms, they offer a plethora of health advantages.
However, just as with mushrooms, not all mycelium is suitable for consumption, and it's crucial to confirm that you're solely consuming mycelium from edible mushroom strains.
Is mycelium detrimental to human health? Mycelium intended for human consumption is not harmful to humans, and numerous health supplements incorporate mushroom mycelium.
The Importance of Mycelium
Fungi have a crucial role in forest ecosystems as their mycelium assists in the decomposition of dead and decaying organic matter, providing nutrients that are essential for trees and plants.
Certain fungi form a symbiotic relationship with host plants, known as mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi provide host plants with nutrients, while the plants offer simple sugars produced through photosynthesis in exchange.
Mushroom mycelium creates a vast underground network connecting fungi and plants as it absorbs nutrients and grows. In fact, the mycelial network is deemed so significant that without it, entire ecosystems could collapse.
In 1997, Prof. Suzanne Simard coined the term "Wood Wide Web" after discovering that trees communicate with each other using mycorrhizal networks. Mycelium networks enable plants of different species to share nutrients and alert each other about droughts, pests, and diseases.
The importance of mushroom mycelium extends beyond its natural role. It has several innovative applications in our world.
Innovative Applications of Mushroom Mycelium: 6 Surprising Use Cases
Mushroom mycelium is a remarkable natural material that possesses strength, eco-friendliness, sustainability, and renewability. Scientists and inventors are continuously discovering innovative ways to use mushroom mycelium. Here are some examples:
Mycelium-based food products replicate the texture and consistency of meat and take only about 9 days to grow.
This process is better for the environment, as it emits less carbon, requires less space and water, and is allergen-free. These substitutes are a great source of protein, containing all nine essential amino acids.
Examples include mycelium bacon from My Forest Foods and steaks and cutlets from Meati.
Special techniques are being used to grow mycelium and transform it into materials that offer eco-friendly alternatives to synthetic textiles and leather.
The end products are durable textiles that look and feel like animal leather, such as Mylo from Bolt Threads and Reishi, a leather alternative from MycoWorks made using reishi mushroom mycelium.
Designers have used mycelium leather to make shoes, bags, clothing, and other products.
Mushroom® packaging is a new innovative packaging solution grown instead of manufactured by Ecovative.
This packaging is made from a substrate of hemp and mycelium grown into custom-molded packaging that is 100% biodegradable.
It is a sustainable alternative to plastic and polystyrene as it is strong, light, fire and water-resistant, and composts in under a month when added to soil.
Sustainable Building Materials
Scientists have created low-cost, eco-friendly building materials using mycelium and agricultural waste.
Mogu has decorative mycelium-based acoustic panels with impressive sound absorption properties that are some of the first commercial mycelium-based products on the market.
UK-based Biohm has produced safe and healthy mycelium insulation panels with thermal and acoustic insulation applications.
The living cocoon is a coffin made from mushroom mycelium that's grown in seven days using local agricultural waste ingredients by Dutch researcher Bob Hendrikx.
Unlike some mycelium products, mycelium coffins contain dormant living mycelium. When buried, the groundwater reactivates the mycelium, and the coffin breaks down in 45 days.
These coffins also host bacteria and microorganisms that help neutralize toxins in the body, allowing people to enrich the soil with their nutrients.
Mushroom mycelium can repair contaminated soils by breaking down pollutants using mycoremediation.
Mushroom mycelium releases enzymes that convert organic compounds like leaves and wood into soluble nutrients. These enzymes can also break down pollutants and chemical contaminants like pesticides, hydrocarbons, and oil spills.
Oyster mushroom mycelium is particularly useful for mycoremediation and can break down pollutants. Australian researchers are using oyster mushroom mycelium to break down cigarette butts, solving one of the world's biggest litter problems.
Oyster mushroom mycelium can also turn plastic into food, as seen with Katharina Unger of LIVIN Studio's mycelium snacks grown around pods of edible agar containing plastic.
Mycelium for Health: Exploring Its Many Potential Benefits
Mushroom mycelium and fruiting bodies are highly nutritious, containing dietary fiber and protein while being low in fat.
However, supplements made from each have differences, with some arguing that the fruiting bodies have more beneficial compounds, while others believe the immune-boosting properties of mycelium are exceptional.
It's impossible to separate mycelium from the grain substrate it grows in, so mycelium supplements will always contain some form of grain or starch.
Some contend that mycelium supplements are mostly grain with little mycelium, but a study shows that both the mycelium and substrate offer immune-boosting benefits.
In the wild, mycelium creates an immune response to maintain the health of the fungus and the ecosystem around it. When used in supplements, people can also enjoy the health-supporting benefits of mushroom mycelium.
How to Start Growing Mycelium
In order to cultivate mushroom mycelium, you will need mushroom spores, stem butts, or tissue along with organic material for the mycelium to feed on. There are several methods to grow mycelium, which is the first step to grow gourmet or medicinal mushrooms.
For beginner mushroom growers, it's advisable to skip the process of growing mycelium and opt for a ready-to-fruit mushroom grow kit or mushroom grain spawn. However, if you are interested in growing mycelium, here are some techniques that you can use:
Stem Butt Method
This is a cheap and simple method of growing mycelium, which involves using the bottom part of fresh oyster mushroom stems and growing mycelium from them onto cardboard. This technique is perfect for easy-to-grow species, like oyster mushrooms, and is a fun project for beginners. However, it often has lower yields and is less reliable than other methods.
Mushroom Tissue Method
After harvesting mushrooms, the mycelium that makes up the mushroom's flesh is still alive and able to reproduce. By taking some living tissue from a fresh mushroom and placing it in a nutrient-rich growing medium, the mycelium will grow and spread throughout the growing medium. Commercial mushroom growers often use this method as they get a clone of the original mushroom with all the same characteristics.
Mushroom Spore Method
This method involves making a spore print from a fresh mushroom and then placing the spores in a nutrient-rich growing medium. When the spores are placed in the right conditions, single-cell hyphae grow and merge to form mycelium, creating new mushroom strains. However, the results are unpredictable, so commercial growers prefer to clone mushrooms from existing strains with proven characteristics.
In conclusion, there are various methods to cultivate mushroom mycelium, but it's advisable for beginners to start with ready-to-fruit mushroom grow kits or mushroom grain spawn.
Where Can You Buy Mycelium
If you want to grow mushrooms, you can purchase mushroom mycelium online. It's available at different stages of development, either as mushroom culture or spawn.
Mushroom culture typically contains mycelium actively growing in a sterile syringe filled with a liquid solution. The culture is added to a sterile growing medium to produce mushroom spawn.
Mushroom spawn is organic material that has mycelium growing within it. It's commonly used to hold mushroom mycelium until it is transferred to another mushroom substrate for growing mushrooms. Spawn can come in several forms, including grain, sawdust or plug spawn, and each has a specific use.
Grain spawn is best suited for inoculating indoor mushroom substrates, whereas sawdust spawn works well for outdoor mushroom beds. Plug spawn is specifically designed for inoculating logs, but you can also use sawdust spawn for outdoor log mushroom growing.
The type of mycelium that is best for you will depend on your experience, the type of mushrooms you want to grow, and the amount of time you have available. A broad range of mushroom species is available as mycelium cultures, but they are best suited for advanced mushroom growers.
If you are new to mushroom cultivation, we recommend starting with oyster mushrooms. They are one of the easiest mushrooms to grow, and you can purchase mushroom spawn from a reputable supplier.
Mushroom mycelium is a remarkable natural substance that is environmentally friendly, sustainable, and beneficial to our well-being.
There are numerous creative applications for mushroom mycelium to aid the environment and decrease harmful waste and pollutants.
However, we believe one of the most advantageous uses of mushroom mycelium is for cultivating delectable and nutritious gourmet mushrooms.