Oyster mushrooms in Argenta?

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The Friends of the Lardeau River Society invites you to join them at the Argenta Community Hall on Saturday, April 20, at 1 pm for an introduction to How to Grow Oyster Mushrooms, a two part presentation by Robert Macrae. The first part is an illustrated talk on mushroom cultivation in Japan with an emphasis on how mushroom cultivation is integrated into the Japanese economy to complete an ecological circle. Mr. Macrae will discuss the Japanese tradition of collecting food from surrounding mountains as well as cultivating rice and vegetable crops. Collection evolved to cultivation of edible mushrooms. Presently, there are perhaps a dozen different species of wood decay mushrooms cultivated commercially in Japan. All of the cultivated species are wood saprobes (decayers of dead wood) including the oyster mushroom (hiratake, Pleurotus ostreatus), velvet stem (enokitake, Flammulina velutipes) and hen of the woods (maitake, Grifola frondosa).  

Many mushroom species cultivated in Japan are found growing wild in the Pacific North West and within the West Kootenay and Columbia Valley regions. This is significant because it means mushrooms that grow in the local forests can be cultivated without need for major environmental modification (no need for heating in the winter or cooling in the summer and the mushrooms have some resistance to local pests and disease). Initially, in Japan, people would place logs close to trees naturally producing edible mushrooms in hopes that the mushrooms might spread to the logs. Post WWII, techniques to grow sterile spawn and inoculate logs ensured greater success in propagating edible mushrooms. 

The second part of the presentation is a hands-on workshop. Mr. Macrae has collected oyster mushrooms from the local forests and used them for preparing spawn. He will supply this locally-sourced oyster mushroom spawn (and possibly some shiitake and chicken of the wood spawn) to the participants and will demonstrate how to inoculate logs and how to care for the inoculated logs in order to cultivate mushrooms. The process is not difficult and does not require agricultural land. It is suited for a hobbyist curious about trying to grow a few mushrooms and may be scaled up for someone wishing to explore commercial mushroom cultivation. Once the logs are inoculated, it may take a year or two before any mushrooms are harvested. Thereafter, mushrooms will appear every spring and fall until the log is fully decomposed, about three to seven years depending on the size of the log.

Robert Macrae has an MSc from the University of Toronto, where he majored in plant pathology and mycology, and a BSc Agr from the University of Guelph. He was a post-graduate student at the University of Tokyo where he studied mushroom cultivation and forest chemistry. Mr. Macrae has taught environmental chemistry and applied microbiology courses at Selkirk College since 1996. He has presented talks on mushrooms, Japanese mushroom cultivation and has led many walks (fungal forays) throughout the region to introduce people to the fascinating world of fungi. Prior to working as a college instructor, Mr. Macrae was a production manager on commercial mushroom farms.