Ag report: A fun guy growing fungi in Natural Bridge

Much about mushrooms
Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 5:46 AM EDT
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NATURAL BRIDGE, New York (WWNY) - “Hi, my name is Liam Carney. My business is Cogumelo Mushrooms in Natural Bridge.”

As the name suggests, Carney grows a variety of mushrooms to sell in the north country. This time of year is perfect for the good ole fashioned way: pawing them from the ground.

“I really do prefer using less plastics and growing in the woods or garden more,” Carney said, “but the season is really short for that, so I do both.”

From the grass to the glass, there are several ways to grow mushrooms. Starting with pure cultures.

“So, 70% isopropyl and gloves are key to getting a clean culture,” Carney said. “When we’re talking about cultivation, we’re cloning an ideal specimen from the wild, or being cultivated actively in a lab environment, using a scalpel to take the culture from the interior of the mushroom, and that allows you to maintain genetics to create a beautiful lion’s mane or pearl oyster or baby chestnut mushroom.”

After cloning, the fungus can grow in liquid.

“Mycelium is the equivalent of the vegetative part of the fungus, the mushroom being the fruiting part, so this is mycelium suspended,” Carney said.

It can also grow in jars.

“These are huge networks of threads.”

And against plastics.

“The oyster mycelium is spreading on the outside because of the protective cover on it,” Carney said.

And sometimes, you can trick a chopped log into growing mushrooms at your will.

“Several species lend themselves to outdoor propagation. none more so than the shitake, Carney said. “It’s able to grow shiitakes on a schedule by taking a fully colonized log and putting them in cool water overnight. That tricks the log into thinking the humidity and temperatures that make mushrooms fruit are happening. Mushrooms will produce seven to 10 days later.”

Between all of these methods, and continually learning more, Carney has his hands — and bags — full of mushrooms. You can buy the grow-it-yourself kits or just the mushrooms themselves on the farm or at the Watertown farmers markets.