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