Saturday, May 3, 2014

Growing Stones

(Inspired by a prompt to write 640 words, with the words musky and vermillion in the first 250.)

Accessed from http://everythingmushrooms
Men who grow mushrooms for a living seem to take on an essence that exemplifies the mushrooms themselves. They seem not to be of the soil but rather of the matter from which mushrooms spring themselves: wood, water, and this odd thing called mycelium.
We met a new mushroom grower today while visiting the farmers market. We actually had visited them at a different farmers market from our regular one about a month earlier, so I should have been prepared for the fast-paced pitch on teas, powders, injections, and other purported healing uses for mushrooms.
Mushroom Man -- yes, that was his name -- delivered a litany on the healing properties of mushroom teas, powders, and tablets as he stood beside a vermillion specimen protruding from what he described as a block of gypsum and sandpaper. He also was wasting his breath; we had already bought shitakes from a vendor whom we frequent but don't entirely trust because he purports to hate the very mushrooms that he sells. Plus, I'm in my fifties now and have quit drinking and take cholesterol and high blood pressure meds. Although I continue to distrust the allopathic credo that there's a pill for every ailment, I have concluded that in some cases I am just too old to argue.
Don't get me wrong. I believe mushrooms can make you feel better. I still remember how my husband and I felt one night after sautéing farm-raised chanterelles in butter, inhaling their musky aroma and savoring the burst of woods-like earthiness that each forkful left upon our tongues. The delight continued through the remainder of the meal, and through a very good night sleep. Both of us reported upon waking up that we'd experienced a kaleidoscope of brightly colored, psychedelic dreams. The experience was enough to prompt my husband to start making inquiries into how we might acquire the "real" psychedelic shrooms so that we could be stoned in more than just our dreams, but I have never been much of a recreational drug user so I wouldn't go for it.
But I have thought that it might be cool grow my own chanterelles, oyster, shitake, and portabella mushrooms, which was one of the reasons that I stopped by Mushroom Man's booth in the first place. He got wildly excited at the prospect of taking on an apprentice, invited me and my husband to his farm, and began promising pre-inoculated logs in exchange for a day's work on the farm.
It seemed like a plan, but the spiel -- and his odd appearance -- couldn't help but throw me off. Could I trust a guy standing behind a vermillion piece of fungus protruding from a sawdust block, which didn't offer any promise of a musky odor and seemed somewhat frighteningly and appropriately known as the snake?
I averted my eyes from the snake and searched a bit hesitantly for a price list as he launched into an animated monologue about how mushrooms had a level of nutritional quality that surpassed even kale. When I finally got a chance to get a word in, I said, "Ok. Consider me converted. Now, I need to ask you to slow down."
He laughed and somehow turned into a human. And then I got the lowdown -- sort of. An inoculated mushroom log that's about four feet in length will produce about four ounces of mushroom in about two weeks. Eight weeks later, another four ounces will show up, and so on -- for four to seven years. The cost for one is about $50, but there's a price break if I were to buy, say, 30 or so. I felt too baffled to do the math so I gave him my business card -- figuring that if he were seriously a Mushroom Man, he'd write me off as a stuffed shirt corporate executive but if he were interested in helping me grow mushrooms, he give me a call.

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