There is a entire biotic world separate from both the plant and animal kingdoms. Fungi represent the 3rd Eukaryotic kingdom, eukaryotic describing organisms with complex cell structure. There is enormous diversity among fungi. There are estimated to be up to 5 million species, only 5% of which have been formally identified. Individual fungus range from single celled yeasts to complex mycelium networks that blanket miles of earth under our forests. To most people mushrooms and other fungi appear biologically similar to plants; however, the 3rd kingdom is more akin to animals. Unlike plants, who can create their own food from the atmosphere, fungi are heterotrophs, meaning they require external sources of carbon to digest for sustenance. As plants or animals die in the wild, their body begins to decompose. Fungal digestion is the principal element of decomposition, and their waste is what builds organic matter in soil. This is actually stable soil carbon, which is required to move nutrients into plants. In effect, fungi are the drivers of nutrient cycling in nature, turning what has died into food for life.
I could go on and on about the relationship between fungi and plants, things like mycorrhizal fungi symbiosis or mycelium mats in forest soil. For the sake of brevity I wont, but I urge you to look it up independently. It is a fascinating biotic world, ubiquitous among most global ecosystems, and often symbiotic with both natural and anthropogenic plant environments. We do also eat fungi, and they are delicious! Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of dense macrofungi network, grown to produce spores and spread growth. Our eating mushrooms takes a lot of knowledge. As I stated before, this is a very diverse kingdom, and many are toxic for human consumption. Fortunately we have partners that take care of that knowledge for us so that we can enjoy the rich flavor of sauteed mushrooms. Mycological Products has established itself in 1995 as the mushroom connection for this central corridor of Oregon. They they have set their goals to providing a central market for passionate foragers in the region. And their operation is not just focused on wild foraged mushrooms, but also naturally harvested greens like stinging nettles or miners lettuce. The mere fact that they offer these products feeds into their mission to educate people on the benefit of fungal organisms in our ecosystems. However, not all of the mushrooms we eat comes from the woods; what isn’t wild harvested is cultured by farmer, and those farmers need a market. Mycological is the connection there as well, bringing in the weekly bounty of portabella, shitakke and crimini goodness.
A more reciprocal food system is a science long sought after by agronomists and farmers alike. Many growers have found their way to sustainability, and I am sure that many will tell you that the key ingredient is this the construction of this obscure network of fungal life. Mushrooms are a critical element in nature to propagate the growth of this subterranean world, but they are also a staple in human health and well being. Having a partner like Mycological products is so important to our personal sustainable health, but also the health of this regional ecosystem.
Written by: Peter Elmore