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Mushroom Mystery

Two mystery mushrooms at the base of a dying oak tree.

Two of my mystery mushrooms at the base of a dying oak tree.

I discovered these mushrooms growing at the base of a dying oak tree out at the Farm in November, and I’ve just kind of been watching them ever since.

I thought (and hoped) then that they might be reishi mushrooms since I know they’re in the area. From foragingtexas.com: “Reishi mushrooms abound throughout the wooded areas of Texas. Most commonly found growing at the base of dead pine tree stumps, they will also be seen poking up through the pine needles and wood duff of forest floors. Dying hardwood trees such as oaks, sweetgums, elms and locusts are also common homes for these shiny, red mushrooms.” Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) are one of the most respected medicinal mushrooms and have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2000 years. It’s Chinese name, Lingzhi, translates to “supernatural mushroom”.

Another mushroom at the base of the oak.

Another mushroom at the base of the oak.

Mushroom with center-back stem.

Mushroom with center-back stem.

The other option is that these could be some kind of turkey tail mushroom. A Google search did nothing to help me narrow it down, as my mushrooms don’t look 100% like either a reishi or a turkey tail.

One of the things that is keeping from being convinced that my mushrooms are reishi mushrooms is that they don’t have the glossy, varnished look that they supposedly should have; however, this picture, from the Foraging Texas website, looks an awful lot like the mushrooms in my pictures.

An image of reishis from foragingtexas.com.

An image of reishis from foragingtexas.com.

I tried to take a spore print (reishi should have brown spores, turkey tail white ones) but I didn’t get much. There was some brown on the paper but was it just soil? I don’t know. I think my mushrooms may have been too old to print.

So for now this is still a bit of a mystery. When I first discovered these mushrooms, I took a picture of one and texted it to my mentor, Jason, for some identification help. From the very limited information I was able to give him then, he ID’ed it as a “LBM” — little brown mushroom. What do you think now, Jason?

The mushrooms in November.

The mushrooms in November.

Sneaky Snails Slaughtered My Seedlings!

The sad remains.

I even caught the little bastards in the act. Yes, they were fed to the chickens.

Let me start by saying that, despite a few past attempts, I’ve never successfully grown my own transplants so I went into this whole thing with pretty low expectations of success. Now that said, damn this loss stings! Particularly because it was going so well up until now.

I started cucumbers and three kinds of tomatoes — Texas Wild Cherry, Punta Banda, and Cherokee Purple. In an effort to mimic a cold frame setup, I kept the flat in a plastic bin with a clear front window that I moved out into the sun during the day and back into the house at night as I went too and from the chicken coop. I was even remembering to water them, sometimes twice a day!

I just read How to Grow More Vegetables, so once the seedlings were big enough, I followed John Jeavons ‘pricking out’ method. I really was trying so hard to take good care of them!

Cucumber close-up.

Seedlings about to be ‘pricked out’.

For two weeks, I kept them up on the deck. Then, after watching them for a few days, it seemed like they weren’t growing very well. I thought maybe a little more light and heat might help so I put them on the ground in the greenhouse. Bad call. The next day the little plants I was so proud of were just sad, chewed off stems. And now even the stems are gone. To say this makes me a sad panda is putting it lightly.

In order to harvest before the heat becomes an issue, these plants would have gone in the ground around March 15th (two weeks from now) so it’s too late in the season to start again with these vegetables.

My only consolation at this point is that I made some progress this year. I can get seeds started now and I couldn’t before, so I’ll just have to be satisfied with that and this painful snail lesson for now.