Riddle #1 - February 2022: What looks like bacon, tastes like meat and grows like a cottony web underground? With its help a tree can greatly increase its functional root surface. These fungal threads are better appreciated above ground by wild mushroom hunters as porcini, cepe or bolete. Now some producers of plant-based meats are growing them in layers in fermentation tanks using only water, sugar and nutrients. The resulting slab has only a few processing steps and the texture of a cut of meat. Vegan never tasted so good. So, at your next Meatless Monday dinner, say “I’ll have the ???, please mam.” ANSWER: Mycellium
Research Background: Peter Wohlleben in The Hidden Life of Trees Pages 50-51. Fungi cell walls are mode of chitin – substance never found in plants – which makes them more like insects. In addition, they cannot photosynthesize and depend on organic connections with other living beings they can feed on. A fungus’s underground cottony web is known as mycelium. With the help of mycelium of an appropriate species for each tree… a tree can greatly increase its functional root surface so that it can suck up considerably more water and nutrients. You find twice the amount of life-giving nitrogen and phosphorus in plants that cooperate with fungal partners than in plants that tap the soil with their roots alone.
The fungal threads grow into the tree’s soft root hairs. The fungus also allows its web to roam through the surrounding forest floor. It connects with other trees’ fungal partners and roots. And so a network is created and now it’s easy for the trees to exchange vital nutrients and even information – such as impending insect attack.
In an interview on Milk Street Radio [Episode 601, 1/9/22 Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley’s Mission to Change What We Eat] Larissa Zimbaroff explained that the fungi demand payment in the form of sugar and other carbohydrates, actually demanding up to a third of the tree’s total food production in return for their services.
Mycelium is the threadlike network under the forest floor. Its mushroom is the fruiting body above ground. Companies are growing it in steel fermentation tanks layer upon layer. The resulting slab can be cut like bacon, then soaked, flavored and colored to resemble red meat. The process uses only water, sugar and nutrients. Burgers produced by companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat use genetically engineered hemoglobin for color. Or processing the starch, carbohydrates and protein in peas to eventually produce pea milk. Plant-based meat is really big ag – controlled by a few in the interests of a few.
“Here at Impossible Foods, our plant-based heme, in a protein called hemoglobin, is made via fermentation of genetically engineered yeast. Heme is also responsible for the unique flavors and aromas that make meat taste like meat.”
Colorado-based startup Meati-Foods harvests a fast-growing strain of mycelium from grasslands around the world. It is put into big metal tanks with sugar and left for 18 hours. The result is easily mouldable chunks that mimic the texture of real meat.
As nouns the difference between mycelium and mycorrhizal fungi: mycelium is the vegetative part of any fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, threadlike hyphae, often underground while mycorrhiza is (biology) a symbiotic relationship between the mycelium of a fungus and the roots of a plant.
The mycorrhizal fungi are made up of a root-like structure and possess a network of myceliumexternal to the tree roots that extends into the soil.
The word “mycorrhiza” means fungal root. The fungus, because it does not photosynthesize, cannot fix its own carbon. Consequently, it receives all of its necessary carbohydrates from the host plant. In return, the mycorrhiza absorbs nutrients from the soil which are passed along to the plant.
– Karen Delahaut, University of Wisconsin – Madison
KWOA Wood Post: Woodland Riddle Feature
How many times has terminology in your woodlands management plan furrowed your brow? What exactly did that service forester mean when he/she suggested releasing the canopy during an inspection of your woodlands? Is that like raising the sunroof on your convertible??