A minor mycological miracle

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Understanding doesn’t preclude wonder.

Take airplanes. I know how they fly. I understand Bernoulli’s principle. The wing is curved on top, and flat on the bottom, so the air molecules over the top accelerate and the pressure above the wing drops to less than the pressure below. At speed, you get lift.

Sure. Next time you fly, take a good, hard look at that 757 and ask yourself whether you really believe a behemoth like that can get off the ground.

And it’s not just airplanes. It’s cell phones. The placebo effect. Soufflés.

And herding dogs! Have you ever seen a border collie in action? It’s astonishing. The dogs can manage the sheep because they’ve been selectively bred, over centuries, to do just that. But to watch a dog shed a ewe (separate it from the rest of the flock) is nevertheless marvelous.

As of today, I’m adding mushrooms to my list.

Back in June, we set up our shiitake operation. We ordered a whole bunch of wooden dowels, inoculated with shiitake spore, from Fungi Perfecti. We cut down a couple of oak trees and sawed them into 4-foot sections. We drilled holes into the logs, hammered in the dowels, and sealed the holes with wax.

And then we waited.

I’ve read all about mushroom reproduction. The spores mate and create a fertile mycelium, which colonizes the log and, eventually, produces the fruiting bodies we know as mushrooms. It’s as far-fetched as the idea that a 757 can actually get off the ground.

Today, we had liftoff. There is a shiitake mushroom growing out of one of our logs. Right out of the wood! It’s wondrous.

firstshiitake

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Comments

  1. Oh wow! How cool is that?

    I’m hoping to eventually turn over a corner of my yard to morels. Chanterelles grow here as well, but I’ve never seen one in our neighborhood. Just at my sister-in-laws. They have lots.

    I loves mushrooms.

  2. Not to be pedantic or anything, but Bernoulli’s principle has little to do with why airplanes can fly, since they can fly upside down. It is more a matter of the lift generated by the angle of attack of the wings. Some planes built for acrobatics even have wings that are symmetric about a horizontal plane. As Glen Curtis, an early aviator, once said, “Give me enough power and I could fly a barn door!”

  3. Paula — Good luck with the morels! I don’t know that anyone’s successfully cultivated chanterelles, so that may be an uphill battle. But I’m happy with any kind I can grow — like you, I loves mushrooms.

    Dad — Not pedantic at all. Perfectly true. And I certainly don’t pretend to understand everything that contributes to an airplane’s ability to fly, any more than I have a really solid handle on the placebo effect. It’s just that knowing it’s science, and that it’s within my grasp, doesn’t make me sanguine about the phenomenon.