Friday, December 13, 2019

Mushroom Cultivation & Cooking DIY's

We facilitated a day’s training for Mr. Rohit Sharma, who is a chef based in Chandigarh on commercial cultivation of organic oyster mushrooms! Apart from the cultivation, what we also covered with him were amazing quick recipes like - the mushroom soup (slurp, slurp!), oyster mushroom noodles (yummy in my tummy!), fritters and fries (deliciousssss!), mushroom pakoras (mmmmmm), mushroom pancakes and mushroom bread (tastyyy tastyyy!)! Other interesting marketing tips were given too and all this learning helped him grow 15-20 kgs of fresh mushrooms in a period of 40 days after the training! If you are someone wanting to relish mushroom recipes, reach out to us!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Morning Mushroom Foraging, Aavishkar, Palampur

Located on Kandbari hills in Palampur, Aavishkaar center of Learning is a pioneer in delivering high-quality Science and Math education. It aims to reach some of the most remote schools and communities in the country. 

The center organized a three day workshop called "Hamari Shiksha" that aims to instill a deeper understanding about the current landscape of education, different avenues of change possible, and the ways you can be a part of this journey. Highly motivated participants working with education-related issues took part in the workshop.

Kandbari hill has a rich biodiversity of various edible mushrooms. So, to add fun to this workshop, Himpicked organised a mushroom foraging morning trek on day 3 of the workshop. During the trek, participants were made aware of various edibles & poisonous plants & mushrooms in the wild. They were also informed about the nutritional & medicinal value of mushrooms.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Friday, December 6, 2019

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Monday, November 18, 2019

Mushroom exploration at Udaan Learning Center, 11th November, 2019

Uddan Learning Center Library
Located at Kandbari hills, Udaan Learning Center is working towards nurturing children to become aware, sensitive and vibrant individuals. The center is working with both, the children in the nearby village & the urban children. This November, the learning center along with Himpicked organised a mushroom exploration trip for kids from Youth For Understanding India.  The participants included kids from Germany, Belgium, France and local kids from Kandbari village.

Finding mushrooms in the forest
The kids were taught how to find the mushrooms in the forest. After foraging for a few hours, various edible & medicinal mushrooms were identified. The key mushrooms identified were Split gills mushroom (latin Schizophyllum commune), Puffballs, Ganoderma & Turkey tail mushrooms (latin Trametes versicolor).

Harvesting wild mushrooms using cutters
Before harvesting the mushrooms, the children were told about responsible wild mushroom picking, avoiding over-harvesting and the fact than leaving some mushrooms for other pickers is more than just courtesy. They were also informed about proper harvesting techniques, so that there are more mushrooms in the years to come.

Separating Edible & Medicinal Mushrooms
After harvesting the mushrooms, the children were taught how to identify some of the common medicinal & edible mushrooms in the wild, including there key identification features. Then, they were asked to separate the medicinal mushrooms from the edible varieties.

Understanding Lichens

Apart from fungi, the children were told about other microscopic organisms that inhabit the forest. They were told how to spot & identify the Lichens. And that lichens are a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungi.
A closer look at Lichens
A closer look at lichens

The children were also able to spot Spirogyra, which a free floating algae in fresh water streams. Later, the specimens were observed under compound microscope for a deeper understanding.
Finding free floating algae (Spirogyra) in water 
Overall, mushroom foraging let the children to learn biology & ecosystem in a more holistic & hands-on approach. We believe that biology or environmental science cannot be solely taught in the classroom. So, now when they read about environmental ecology or biology in their classrooms, they could better connect to it.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Medicinal Mushroom Foraging Near Sukhna Lake, Chandigarh

Medicinal mushrooms have been used traditionally for promoting health, wellness & longevity in East Asia, especially China, Bhutan, Korea & Japan for centuries. Modern pharmacological studies on these medicinal mushrooms have revealed that fungal glycans in them show multiple physiological effects including anti-aging, hypo-glycemic, anti-tumor, anti-oxidation, immuno-modulation, hypo-lipidemic, anti-radiation and other effects. Fungal glycans isolated from different kinds of medicinal mushrooms are partially purified and clinically tested. In fact, most glycans from the medicinal mushrooms are approved by Chinese Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) and are being used clinically in China since 1980's.

There are two ways in which mushroom foraging can be healing. One, of course is learning how to use mushrooms as food and medicine can have miraculous health benefits. Secondly, it is equally as healing to spend time in the forest and connecting to the natural world where they inhabit.

Forest lands in Chandigarh are home to some of the very powerful medicines on the planet. So, Himpicked & Earthjust Ecosystems organised a "Medicinal Mushroom Foraging Trip" for the people in Chandigarh near Sukhna lake. Everyone was prepared to hike and to have a fun learning day. During the event, we identified edible, medicinal as well as common poisonous mushrooms. The focus was on learning of a few common medicinal mushrooms and also to build skills for ongoing identification in future.

There were a lot of kids who participated for the event. And were excited to share what they foraged in the wild. However, if you go mushroom hunting with toddlers, never let them go mushrooming on their own. Guide them to pick mushrooms only with an experienced adult. Also, they should gather the mushroom varieties that are easy to identify.

A large variety of "polypore mushrooms" were identified during the event. Polypore is a group of mushrooms that form pores on the under surface rather than the gills. These are very easy to identify & there are almost no poisonous polypore mushrooms identified so far. Hence, they are very safe to forage, especially for the beginners.

Polypores are also excellent wood rotters. They grow as parasites on rotting woods and assist in decomposition of wood in the forests. Also, most of the medicinal mushrooms fall under the category of polypore mushrooms.

The most abundant polypore we found during our forging was "Ganoderma mushroom". It is also known as Reishi or Lingzi mushroom. These mushrooms have been well documented for their health benifits including blood pressure regulation, anti-tumor, anti-anxiety, anti-ageing and immuno-modulatorty properties and much more. Infact, they are also known as the "King of Mushrooms" for their health benefits. In China, they are regarded as "The Mushrooms of Immortality".

Ganoderma are one of the easiest mushrooms to identify. Hence they are a great place to start for beginning mushroom foragers. These mushrooms have no poisonous look-alikes, hence they are relatively safe to forage. Though Reishi are too tough to be eaten raw, their medicinal properties have been well documented.

As we are learning more about medicinal mushrooms and polypores identification, our hunts are yielding various medicinal mushrooms that have been used for their healing properties from a long time. What do you guys feel about medicinal mushrooms? Would you like to join us on our next mushroom hunt? Please let us know in the comment section below.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Mushroom Cultivation: A solution for pine forest fires

The Himalayan tropical sub-forests cover a large portion of India, Bhutan, Nepal & Pakistan. These pine trees shed their leaves, covering large area of land within forests. When the temperature hovers between 28-30 degrees, the pine needles take hardly 3-4 hours to get completely dry. After drying out, these heaps of needles can easily catch fire. This is because the pine needles produce a lot of sap (aka rosin) which is highly inflammable. This causes natural forest fires.

However, there is another more sadder face to it: the practice of deliberate burning by the communities living in the vicinity of these forests. The controlled burning of pine forests ensures there is growth of grass during monsoon months that can be used as animal fodder. This controlled burning is done under the guidelines of the state forest departments. However, the villagers sometimes take this exercise upon themselves. They set the needles on fire, which gradually spreads beyond their control. Sometimes, the fires are started accidentally by visitors in the forest who smoke cigarette & discard the cigarette butts carelessly. It has been estimated that 90% of forest fires in India are man-made.

These fallen pine needles can be collected and used as a substrate for mushroom cultivation. In fact, mushrooms such as Oyster mushrooms can directly be grown directly on 100% pure pine needles, without any other ingredient!

Fresh pine needles are not an ideal substrate because pine oil is a natural fungicide. However, there are layers of needles on the forest floor.These fallen needles leach their oils into the ground. Thus, they can be used for mushroom cultivation.

At Himpicked, we grew Pink Oyster Mushroom on 1 kg pine needles. The first flush of mushrooms was harvested just 25 days after seeding!

Pink Oyster Mushrooms grown successfully on pure pine needles

A closeup of mushroom grow bag