Mycelium vs Fruiting Bodies? A Wildcrafter's Take

Posted by Garrett Kopp on

The fixation on 100% mushroom fruiting bodies vs products with mycelium additives is intriguing to me as a wildcrafter. Particularly because mycelium is not something that is harvestable in nature.

I picture myself at the base of a fallen hemlock teeming with Reishi mushrooms, faced with the task of ripping its mossy trunk apart in search of massless, fragile, off-white yellow strands of fuzz. That would be the most impossible job I can think of. Merely unearthing the mycelium would immediately destroy it. It simply can’t be done.

Cultivation is the pretext for mycelium becoming a raw material (by colonizing a bag of substrate as an isolated unit) which some brands are adding to their mushroom products in addition to the mushrooms (fruiting bodies) themselves. So if you ask me this question, the answer is of course I sell fruiting bodies, it is because I am a sustainable wild forager. Whether or not mycelium has any novel value or synergistic abilities to potentiate the fruiting bodies is up for debate.

My two cents is that this topic really doesn’t have a simple answer because the variables and science at play could not be more nuanced. Anyone with a budget will be able to perform some form of lab work that contributes to THEIR side of the argument. Make no mistake, lab tests to quantify active ingredients are variable too.

Each mushroom vary from the next, each colony of mycelium will vary, and each fungal organism is likely to produce a different answer to these questions. Mushroom A may be exclusively valuable through nutrients in the fruiting body, while Mushroom B may have unique compounds present in its mycelium that are missing in the fruiting body. That only scratches the surface.

The grain, spawn, or 'substrate' material is extremely relevant. We don’t really know how certain mediums affect the biochemistry of the final fruiting bodies. We should all be aware that sometimes, pellets, sawdust, grains, and other spawn materials undergo chemical treatments while being made into wood products (I’m pretty sure most cultivators know this and are careful to choose natural substrates).

At the end of the day, I believe the micro-nutrient composition and overall quality is more rich in wild fungi that decompose 100+ year old trees. Fungi that are not isolated in a sterile environment but instead form exposed colonies with intricate symbiotic partners, becoming stronger from exposure to wild natural stress & competition.

There is a more important question to ask, which is less black and white, less us vs them. Actually, there are a lot!

Where and how are the mushrooms sourced?

How are they handled, stored, and produced?

What is the mushroom to water ratio in a liquid extraction?

How long is it brewed for and at what temperature?

I wish it were as easy as ARE YOU SELLING WHOLE MUSHROOM FRUITING BODIES!?

You’re lucky my friend Chaga is not easily offended. Chaga is no fruiting body, nor is Chaga mycelium. Chaga is a fungal sclerotia.

Garrett Kopp with chaga discussing fruiting bodies & mycelium

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