Magic Mushrooms: oil-spill clean-ups

My kitchen is almost never caught without mushrooms in the fridge. I love all sorts of ugly mushrooms, with all their goofy-looking gills and super juicy, earthy flavors. But recently I’ve discovered some things about fungi that make me even more of a fan: Oyster mushrooms (which retail for about $12-18/lb) are being applied in phytoremediation – or should I say, mycoremediation. That is, they have the amazing ability to uptake toxins, from soil or water, and to not become toxic themselves.

The deal is this: Mushrooms need a substrate in order to have their mycelium thrive – and a certain about of light, adequate temperature, and humidity. But once they’ve got these basic conditions (which are not at all difficult to accomplish – you can even grow oyster mushrooms on coffee beans in your own apartment!) the mushrooms will grow, and flourish.

In the Ecuadorian Amazon, the guys who write at the Fungal Jungle blog successfully used mushrooms to clean up an oil spill and talk about the whole process. An oil spill recently happened in the San Francisco Bay (see here for the oil spill story) and… you guessed it – mushrooms – with a growing substrate of human hair mats (yes, human hair… bet you didn’t guess that part!) are being used in some experimental sites for cleaning it up. Kudos to the folks at Matter of Trust for collecting human hair for just this purpose. The YouTube video about the clean-up is worth checking out.

I’m all for supporting cancer research and wigs for those treated for cancer, like the Locks of Love and Pantene program of using hair for wigs. But next time I chop off my locks, Matter of Trust is getting my donation; it’ll be my little contribution back to the fungi kingdom, and the Earth.