mushroom-box

This weekend I have a fresh email interview between myself and Ivan from Mushroombox, I use them as my regular supplier of Mushroom Mycelium and will soon be placing a new order perhaps for something different this time (Last time it was Shiitake mushroom dowels for Outdoor logs).

Jeff:
Good Day Ivan,how are you? Has there been a pick up in business lately or

just business as usual?

Ivan:
Yes, business has picked up a lot over the last month or so. Autumn always
gets customers thinking about mushrooms, so we tend to see a steady
increase from about September onward. I also think that gardeners who
cannot grow much to eat in the garden at this time of year get interested
in the possibilities of quick-cycle mushroom growing indoors at this time
of year. Also, the mushroom kits we produce make excellent Christmas
presents, so we see a surge just before Christmas.

Jeff:
How long have you had this business and is it bourne out of a hobby /
interest including noticing a new market to explore?

Ivan:
We’ve been selling mushroom products probably for about 5 years now. It
was very much borne out of a hobby. I originally started looking into
mushroom-growing as a 14-year old, when I found a book in our local
bookshop about small-scale commercial mushroom growing. I was amazed to
read recently that Britons have on average eaten only two species of
mushrooms. Imagine if you had only ever eaten two types of plant!!

Jeff:
For those who have not followed my blog before, I ordered a reasonably
large batch of inoculated dowels from you which I posted about (To grow
Shiitake mushrooms on logs), pretty much a kit including collared drill
bits as well as sealant wax, I have since noted that you are now selling
bulk orders, is commercial / bulk cultivation picking up? Do you suspect
some may be just eco communities and / or individuals who are going for
the rural self sufficient lifestyle?

Ivan:
We have sold the bulk dowels for a few years, but we sell them
intermittently, as they are not fast-moving, so we tend to only advertise
the bulk quantities at certain times of the year.
Our customers range from interested individuals just wanting to try
something a little different, to people wanting to start up as small scale
producers. We have sold to quite a few cooperatives and community
ventures.

Jeff:
After inoculating my logs and sitting them in the corner of my garden in
a shady spot, I only months thereafter read a book whereby the Author
Sepp Holzer recommends (As a low maintenance approach /method) to mark
the top of the log as per how the tree was cut, and bury the bottom of
the log so as to allow better retainment of moisture and so that the log
naturally draws up moisture from the ground, thereby eliminating the
need to soak / water as often. Have you seen this approach used and if
not, would you be looking to experiment with it?

Ivan:
Yes, I’ve heard of this method. It makes a fair bit of sense. There are
two issues to consider – 1)preventing the log drying out 2)preventing
competitor microbes from invading.
If you seal both ends of the log with wax, you help to protect against
invading species. However, you will also reduce the gas-exchange, so the
mycelium grows slower, and your log will naturally dry through the bark
over time. If you leave one (or both) ends unsealed and plant it like a
tree, then you will naturally keep the log moist in a manner quite similar
to what happens in nature. Neither approach is wrong – it’s a matter of
personal preference. I have seen long logs (maybe 1-1.5metres long)
planted like this with shiitake mushrooms sprouting all over – it’s a
fantastic edible garden feature!

The Chinese reishi mushrooms on logs, often by burying the logs sideways
in the ground and covering with earth, so the log is completely buried,
and just under the surface. This seems to suit Reishi, and the Chinese are
very good at growing mushrooms.

Jeff:
I have stumbled across many random articles mainly in alternative media
relating to fungi medicinal benefits, I however feel there is a definite
cold shoulder when it comes to the Mainstream Medicine / Pharmaceutical
Industry's opinion/s of natural healing / herbal or traditional
methods which many people are now researching or reverting back to, what
is your opinion on this?

Ivan:
I think you’re absolutely right. In modern times, people have always
tended to shun ‘natural’ remedies, due to the sheer number of bogus
remedies out there. However, I think people are relearning, albeit very
slowly, the incredible benefit of healthy foods and healthy lifestyle. For
example, eating apples regularly really does have huge health benefits (as
long as you eat the apple skin, where there are high concentrations of
antioxidants), and this has recently been proved scientifically.
There are many proper scientific papers proving the health benefits of
mushrooms or mushroom products, so it’s not hearsay. You also have to bear
in mind that many pharmaceutical drugs are extracted from plants, having
been identified from research screening experiments.
There has been and indeed is currently a lot of scientific research into
the anti-cancer properties of mushrooms. Many mushrooms contain a class of
chemical known as beta glucans. These stimulate the immune system to fight
off cancer. Many cancer drugs have been and are being developed from
these. Mushrooms also contain natural antibiotics, and this is of great
interest in the pursuit of new antibiotics.

Jeff:
I know the EU has very strict anti herbal laws
making it very difficult for smaller companies to sell herbal remedies
with the subsequent result being that only the larger established
Pharmaceutical giants are able to afford the requirements to be passed, to
market such products.

Have / does the Medicinal Fungi market go through the same issues and red
tape or is there sign of it to come? Examples if any?

Ivan:
Yes, it’s true of everything. You can sell products, but as soon as you
sell a product with a claim that it is going to cure this or that, you
would run into problems. One of the strangest rules is the 1939 Cancer
Act, which prevents anyone offering any help, advice or product that has a
beneficial effect on cancer, unless it is a regulated drug. It has often
been claimed that this act has killed more people than it has saved. It is
old, clumsy legislation that really needs to be updated.

Jeff:
If a person decides to start growing mushrooms at home lets say someone
with a garden whom are open to growing outdoors as well as indoors, they
email you and ask you to recommend 3 or so maybe 4 mushrooms to grow,
what would your 3 – 4 personal choice / advice to a person starting out be
– lets say that they are interested in their health and are asking you to
recommend something?

Ivan:
Outdoor growing is very different from indoor growing. The main issue is
that of pests – in an indoor environment, the mushroom is protected to a
greater extent from woodlice, bees and slugs which eat the developing
mycelium, and from competitor species. So species that do well indoors,
don’t necessarily do well outdoors, and Outdoor growing is always more
hit-and-miss.

Growing on logs is the simplest method outdoors, but it is very slow
(minimum 6 months, and can be a few years before mushrooms appear). For
log-growing, the best two options are shiitake and blue/grey oyster.
You can also grow in beds of woodchips – in which case King Stropharia
(aka Garden Giant or Wine Cap) is a fantastic mushroom to grow.

Jeff:
Do you have a preferred favourite? What species and why? what are your
top 5?

Ivan:
Hmm. That’s a difficult question. For growing, my favourites are oysters
(pinks, blue greys, yellows and elms) as they are all fantastically easy,
quick and reliable. For taste, I enjoy the unusual flavours such as nameko
and shaggy manes, but the oysters are all good too. The King Stropharia
tastes fantastic, and when it does crop (you need to wait, as there’s no
hurrying it) you usually get a big crop.

Jeff:
Is this a full time job/ business for you or something on the side? if
yes (full time) is it a busy / time consuming trade?

Ivan:
Our business provides part-time work for two family members who are
employed. At some times of year, it is virtually full time work for them,
at other times of year it is relatively a lot quieter (eg mid summer).
There is a lot of preparation work needed, and it’s probably a combination
of our low costs and the fact that we ship to all of Europe and many
countries beyond that give us a reasonable slice of the market.

Jeff:
Is there a ”Mushroom Bible” out there that you would recommend as
a book for anyone interested in perhaps foraging or growing?

Ivan:
Without hesitation, I (and most of the mushroom community) would recommend
‘Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms’ by Paul Stamets – it’s widely
regarded as the ‘Bible’ of Mushroom-growing and for good reason.

Jeff:
Do you understand the inter symbiotic relationship between plant /tree
roots and the below surface (mycelium?) / Web known in permaculture as
the Soil Food Web? I have heard it explained briefly but I would like to
hear what an expert on Fungi has to say about it?

Ivan:
I think this is a very complex area, and many species of mushrooms haven’t
given up their secrets of symbiosis – which in many species is necessary
for producing the fungi. It’s odd that many species can be propagated
quite easily as mycelium in an artificial environment, but cannot for love
nor money be persuaded to produce mushrooms. In an oversimplified
explanation, mycelium channels soil nutrients (eg minerals) to the plant
roots, and exchanges them for sugars which the tree roots donate to the
mycelium. Both species benefit. There have been experiments done showing
huge benefits

Jeff:
Many, many thanks for your time in this Ivan! I know it is currently a bit of a busy season for you so I and future readers are grateful you were able to answer these questions for us and all of your inputs, hopefully we now have a better understanding about the world of edible Fungi.

Mushroom kits, Spawn, inoculated Dowels for logs, Growing Mediums and other equipment can be bought online from Mushroom Box (Click Here).

For anyone who prefers to use eBay, Click Here as they have an Ebay Shop too!

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