Summary What Stamets has discovered is that we can capitalize on mycelium’s digestive power and target it to decompose toxic wastes and pollutants (mycoremediation), catch and reduce silt from streambeds and pathogens from agricultural watersheds (mycofiltration), control insect populations (mycopesticides), and generally enhance the health of our forests and gardens (mycoforestry and myco-gardening).
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll find chapters detailing each of these four exciting branches of what Stamets has coined “mycorestoration,” as well as chapters on the medicinal and nutritional properties of mushrooms, inoculation methods, log and stump culture, and species selection for various environmental purposes. Heavily referenced and beautifully illustrated, this book is destined to be a classic reference for bemushroomed generations to come.
Mycelium Running is an excellent book about how to save the planet with mushrooms. It doesn't get much better than that. This book includes everything from mycology and restoration of habitats with mushroom, to medicinal mushrooms and mushroom cultivation. Definitely a keeper.
Ten acorns is not enough for this book in my opinion I just love this book, it opens up an entirely new world for me, it makes me willing to spread mycellium everywhere
Now, seriously, this book is loaded not only with knowledge, but also with splendid ideas on how to implement this knowledge for a benefit of the Earth, and humans.
I have started to experiment with some techniques already on my small scale (like getting rid of stumps using mushrooms, creating garden mushroom patches, collecting medicinal mushrooms etc.) and all these techniques work as described, and information in the book is priceless. I wish I could play more with mushrooms and mycelium, I find it fascinating and Paul's instructions clear and easy to follow. Plus it is a great read.
I continue reading other Paul's books now, currently "The Mushroom Cultivator" which I also strongly recommend to those who want to practice mushroom cultivation.
I give this 10 out of 10 acorns. I keep going back to re-read it, and find it as fresh, exciting and informative as the first time. This is THE book on fungi. Full of information yet inspiring. Here in New Zealand we have plenty of dairy farms near rivers and lakes, and a huge problem with effluent disposal and runoff. This book could solve a lot of those problems ...
This is the second time I've come back to this book. The first time I tried to read this book I abandoned it in the first chapter: it begins with theory that fungi are sentient. This is based on the truly massive numbers of connections between hyphae, fungal ability to share nutrients, and one study showing that one species will always find the shortest route between food supplies. I'm willing to accept that fungi may be sentient, just as I'm willing to accept that plants may be sentient, but I think he fails to prove his thesis.
The trouble is, this makes him sound, at least to me, like a crackpot, and this would be unfair. Just about as wacky, but possibly supported by science fiction portrayals of trees and birds and "aliens" that look a lot like us on other planets (Star Trek has a lot to answer for!), is the notion that we'll find fungi on other life-bearing planets. Life elsewhere in the universe, while it may take recurrent forms in similar environments, is likely to be stranger than we can imagine, and probably won't resemble mushrooms. While he may or may not be correct about fungal sentience, a hypothesis most generously described as unproven, this should not be taken as a reason to ignore the rest of his work. None of this detracts from the value of the rest of the book: you just need to get past the speculation.
Chapter 2, on the fungal life cycle is, however good science. This is pitched at a level intended to take the ignorant amateur to the point of being able to understand how to work with fungi.
Chapter 3 discusses mushrooms in their natural habitats, covering the 4 main groups of fungi. The saprophytic fungi are the ones we usually think about. These are an important group of Nature's decomposers, and can be found on many substrates, from wood to manure. These are further grouped into primary (such as oyster mushrooms), secondary (common white mushrooms) and tertiary decomposers, depending on the stage of decomposition. Parasitic mushrooms grow on living tissue, mostly trees, sometimes killing the host.
The other important group of fungi to the forest gardener and to many other permies will is the mycorrhizas. These form a symbiotic partnership between most plants and the fungus, exchanging nutrients for sugars and transferring nutrients from one plant, especially trees, to another, often between plants of different species, thus assisting young trees whose access to light may be blocked by older ones, which has important implications for achieving overyielding in polycultures. Most mycorrhizas do not produce edible fruit, but some, such as the chanterelle, matsutake and most of the boleti do, and I'm particularly interested in learning how to inoculate root systems with these fungi. That said, if you want to grow mushrooms like these, of even the more highly-prized truffle, the best bet seems to lie in habitat mimicry.
Many species of mushrooms also enter into mutualistic arrangements with animal species, mostly invertebrates. While this can have implications for the growth of mushrooms as human foods, these seem to be mostly tropical species. That said, the correct selection of mushroom cultures may be an important aspect of creating a healthy forest garden ecosystem, and may be of value in other forms of polycultures. Some endophytic species, growing on the surfaces of plants, may help to protect them against disease or pests. It's clear that these species may be incredibly valuable in terms of protecting polycultures from disease, as well as, in some circumstances, providing an edible or cash crop.
Chapter 4 is entitled The Medicinal Mushroom Forest. It begins with a point that is important to forest gardeners. A forest cannot be properly defined without reference to its fungi. Saprophytic fungi begin the process of decomposition, while mycorrhizas finish the job and transfer nutrients to where they are most needed. A forest garden needs both types, and the flora can be managed, in part, according to the fungi introduced to the habitat. The rest of the chapter is worth a skim: most of it covers matters of interest to those with high-end commercial or government laboratories, but simple ingestion of some mushrooms may have health benefits. In addition, there has been some research conducted in relation to preventing fungal blights with other species of fungi, and the author discusses candidate species (while Chapter 14 discusses inoculation using them).
Part 2 of the book is about mycorestoration, aiding in the recovery of damaged habitats using fungi. Again, much of this is quite specialised, but some could be implemented by some permies in some gardens. Mycofiltration (Chapter 5) involves filtering downstream toxins from industrial (including industrial agriculture) activities. The author discusses research by himself and others in this area, and provides a table of anti-microbial species. If you have an upstream dairy farm, here is your solution. There is half a page here about how mycelium has the capacity to degrade rock, which has implications for soil building, and could be used in conjunction with the use of rock dust as fertiliser: it felt a little out of place, but it got me thinking. Regardless, the use of mycelium in no-till agriculture is probably vital anyway.
Chapter 6 covers mycoforestry. Again, much of this is of more value to specialists, not forest gardeners. The same applies to most of Chapter 7 (mycoremediation), although it's worth a read if you have a contaminated patch. The section on amassing mycelia for mycoremediation does contain useful information for the permie who is serious about the use of fungi for other purposes. There is a long section on bioaccumulation of heavy metals, which may be of use to some. Chapter 8 on mycopesticides may have some value to a permie, but many techniques are now protected by patent, probably putting them beyond personal use: parts of this felt like advertorial for Stamets' own patented intellectual property.
Part 3 of the book is about [b]Growing Mycelia and Mushrooms[/b], and this is probably the most useful part of the volume.
Chapter 9 covers inoculation methods: spores, spawn and stem butts. Different strategies may work better depending upon a range of factors, from species, strain, source (wild or commercial), conditions, substrate and so on. This is very much an instructive how-to, and is one of the strongest points of the book. The vast majority of fibrous substances can be used as a substrate by one fungus or another.
Chapter 10 is a more specific discussion on the subject of growing mushrooms on straw and leached cow manure. This is another how-to, specifically aimed at the small-scale cultivator, and should be read by anyone with an interest in smallholding-scale mushroom production. This includes pasteurisation and inoculation. Much of this, as with the previous chapter, seems to be aimed at people working on a slightly larger scale than I would plan to, but there is useful information here for the small- to medium-scale mushroom grower. The by-products, after composting, can then be used as a soil amendment.
Chapter 11 covers methods, in sufficient detail to follow, of growing mushrooms on logs and stumps, and the author recommends the use of dowel spawn (instructions for the creation of which are given in Chapter 9). There is a semi-useful table listing those tree species suitable for mushroom growing but, to my frustration, it fails to link those to mushroom species (but see Chapter 14). The author mentions that cedar and redwood are not mentioned in this list, but of greater disappointment to me are the absence of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchenis) or Norway spruce (Picea abies): the former two commonly being available as windthrow logs and the latter in large numbers every January. Clearly this is something I'd need to look into.
Chapter 12 is aboutgardening with gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. This is the main thing I came here for: so that when I set up my forest garden I can get away from tasteless supermarket white button mushrooms forever. With thought and planning, it's possible to have fresh gourmet mushrooms most of the year, with dried ones to tide you over for a few months the rest of the time. Careful planning of a forest garden can provide fungi with the dappled sunlight they need to set good fruit, although some are heliotropic (requiring good sunlight). Woodland edges, and thus patch boundaries, are often good places for mushrooms. Instructions are given for placing and creating a mushroom bed. There is also a discussion on intercropping mushrooms with annual plants, with evidence suggesting it's possible, with some combinations, to achieve the overyielding pursued by polyculture gardeners and agriculturalists. It's also possible to achieve higher yields using mycorrhizal species, and not just with trees.
Chapter 13, a relatively short chapter, discusses the nutritional properties of mushrooms. These vary according to species, substrate and environmental conditions, but mushrooms are highly nutritious, and can be used as the basis for many good meals. There is also a brief discussion of their use medicinally.
Chapter 14 is a long list of mushrooms that can be used as food, medicine or for restoration (sometimes all three), giving names, scientific name, a description (with a photo), distribution, natural habitat, the type of rot, its fragrance signature, method of cultivation, season and temperature range for mushroom formation, harvesting notes, a nutritional profile, any known medicinal properties, cooking hints, and mycorestoration potential. It should be possible, in a forest garden habitat to select mushroom species for just about any patch, and have fresh mushrooms for most of the year. With careful thought, it should also be possible to work with fungi to manage the successional processes in the garden.
In conclusion, this is a really good book. It's let down in a few ways. Much of the first chapter sounds outright cranky: it is possible that fungi are sentient, but I think he's jumping to conclusions on the basis of insufficient evidence. In places it feels like some sections are slotted in because the author had to put them somewhere, but didn't really know where to put them: it could have done with the attentions of a good editor. Others seem to be there because the author thought information about the use of fungi for some highly specialised purposes needs to be out there, but didn't have enough material for a book. Seriously: most of us don't need to know about the use of fungi for restoring logging roads, never mind decontamination of toxic waste sites, or of biological weapons. It also felt, sometimes, as if the author were writing advertorial for his own business and patented intellectual property, as if trying to discourage someone like me from using “his” techniques without paying for them. It added up to the point where it became annoying.
All that said, this is not the majority of the text. It provides the information I'd be looking for when establishing a forest garden while wishing to establish a healthy fungal layer in a complex polyculture, and I'm happy to recommend it.