Many people hear “fungus” and think of mushrooms. This is akin to hearing “trees” and thinking of apples. Fungus makes up 2% of earth’s total biomass or 10% of the non-plant biomass, and ranges from the deadly to the delicious. This lecture by [Justin Atkin] of [The Thought Emporium] is slightly shorter than a college class period but is like a whole semester’s worth of tidbits, and the lab section is about growing something (potentially) edible rather than a mere demonstration. The video can also be found below the break.
Let’s start with the lab where we learn to grow fungus in a mason jar on purpose for a change. The ingredient list is simple.
- 2 parts vermiculite
- 1 part brown rice flour
- 1 part water
- Spore syringe
Combine, sterilize, cool, inoculate, and wait. We get distracted when cool things are happening so shopping around for these items was definitely hampered by listening to the lecture portion of the video.
We made a huge list of notes from the video, and they are the refined tidbits from years of research. Here is the top of our list, so this is the double-distilled list. Mushrooms are only the fruiting portion of a fungus. A fungus is the largest single organism on the planet at three-and-a-half kilometers across. Fungi are analogous to nature’s digestive system and were the first things to digest wood, which went untouched for fifty-million years. If there is something a fungus cannot eat, it will focus its nuclei there, and if it figures out a solution, the genetic information is passed to the rest of the organism. Certain strains hunt, for example Cordyceps turn insects into zombies, drive them like a Huffy to someplace tall before sprouting from the head of the creature to distribute spores. That somewhat grizzly example is also highly prized for its medicinal value.