Tony Migas and Ed Foy Grow Lots of Mushrooms
For two weekends in April, I attended classes about how to grow mushrooms at home. The first was taught by local cultivator Tony Migas, recently the president of the Oregon Mycological Society and an intrepid home cultivator who once tended 45 shitake logs in one small room of his home. (He also claims that he lowered his cholesterol by 100 points over 12 weeks simply by eating 3 to 4 ounces of fresh or dried shiitakes a day!)
The class took place on a wonderful farm oasis in Vancouver that’s been preserved as home base for Washington State University’s Small Acreage Program, which offers workshops, trainings and tours for rural landowners. Tony walked through the basics of growing oyster mushrooms in straw. The lesson was exceptionally technical, but the audience seemed totally onboard, and everyone walked away with a bag of what looked like slightly chewed up and spit out hay, and the promise of little budding oyster mushrooms in 1 to 2 weeks.
The following weekend, I visited Portland Nursery at 90th and Division for an overview of what kinds of mushrooms you can grow at home, and the best medium and environment for each. Ed Foy, an old timer who has been experimenting with ways to grow mushrooms for several decades, led the conversation. Tony stood to the side, sharing his own perspectives on their many ongoing experiments. It turns out the two have been friends and collaborators for many years.
“Fungus is fantastic,” Ed said as the class began. “It predates photosynthetic plants. It came from the sea!”
Ed helped explain why it’s nearly impossible to cultivate wild mushrooms, such as chanterelles, boletus and matsutake: These species are mycorrhizal, which means that they depend on a symbiotic relationship with the roots of a plant, and in these cases, with a tree.
As off-kilter encouragement for the folks who were heading home with a shiitake log, Ed told the story of a woman who had a log for ten years that never fruited. “She threw her mushroom log into the fire, and saw a mushroom trying to grow out!” Ed reported. “As a mushroom starts to grow, it’s really got a lot of thrust.” (Could that really be true? Is that mushroom humor?)
I’ll be sharing more details on what I’ve been learning, and offering opportunities for others to get hands-on instruction, in the weeks and months ahead.
Oregon Mushroom Stories is thrilled to be partnering with Tony (and maybe Ed too!) on future projects, including our sculptural installation in November.
[Interested in trying to grow your own mushrooms? Check out fungisupply.com, Tony’s website where he sells home kits, and consider joining the Oregon Mycological Society, which has a cultivation club.]