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81. Tess Burzynski | Growing Organic Mushrooms | Detroit, Michigan
Jamie Todek from episode 72 introduced me to Tess Burzynski who is going to talk to us about growing organic mushrooms!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m definitely a fungi enthusiast. There’s a lot of things that people don’t know about them.
Tell me about your first gardening experience?
Well, I would have to say my first gardening experience. It was definitely alongside my mother, she was always planting herbs. I remember on the back patio she would grow mint and while she was cooking dinner she would have us go pick her mint!
I have 2 sisters, I’m kinda of the one who stuck to gardening, it really influenced me as a child.
What does organic gardening/earth friendly mean to you?
When I think of organic gardening, I think green, steer clear of other synthetic products, pesticides and other fertilizers! Just to grow from natural design.
In terms of mushroom growing using organic media.
Do you want to explain to listeners what organic media is, and maybe me to? Do you mean like the dirt, or soil you grow it in?
There’s different ways of growing mushrooms, some grow on logs, so you want to make sure aren’t diseased or they haven’t been used in a natural way. Mushrooms can be grown in sawdust, make sure that where you collect your sawdust from they haven’t put any synthetic products on the wood like that.
Who or what inspired you to start using organic techniques?
The famous quote you are what you eat!
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer about 5 years ago, she’s all good now, I just want to make sure she’s eating healthy, keeping our bodies green and everyone healthy.
Can I ask what made you go into environmental studies, because when I went to college I didn’t even know there was such a thing as environmental studies.
It’s definitely something that has been brought up in the past 15 years or so, I think, people are becoming more aware of it, because we have to, the way that we mass produce and the wastefulness of humanity, I think it’s something people need to start concentrating on. We have to remember that our planet is here for us, it’s a resource, so we have to make sure we are conscious of what we are using. I’ve always been in tune to the earth since I was a child. It’s a rare field to go into, not as many people are going into this field or really even think about the wastefulness. What we are even doing when we buy plastic water bottles and throw them into the trash. I want to take of our planet.
Me too, I’m glad you’re hear to share your knowledge with us today and that you’re taking that in college, getting that degree and maybe you’ll inspire some other listeners to think about that if they’re headed to college or know someone who is headed to college that might be wondering what to do. There’s a great environmental science program in Missoula at the University of Montana where I went to school. That was how I first heard about it, I had some friends in the program.
How did you learn how to garden organically or even mushrooms in general?
Basically by my own research, checking out books at the library, watching tutorial videos online. Paul Stamets is renowned mycologist out in Washington State, I learned so much from him. His book Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms has helped me a lot. I owe all of my knowledge basically about mushrooms to Paul Stamets!
Tell us a little more about growing the mushrooms, you talked a little about some grow in logs some grow in sawdust, what type of mushrooms do you grow to begin with? The white ones we generally see in the stores? We have morels, and shaggy mains?
I’ll talk about growing on logs for today. I’m growing Shiitake mushrooms, and oyster, blue and pearl oysters mushrooms.
You want to start off collecting your logs, cut down in the fall season. Moisture is heavy in the trees. If it’s older then 6 months old, it’s probably wont’s be as efficient. You want to get your plug spawn. Is basically like a dual rod, and it’s inoculated with mycelia, that is what will start the mushrooms to grow!
Does it matter what type of log you use?
Depends on the type of mushroom you’re growing. Most mushrooms like hardwoods, beech trees, oak trees, maple. I’m growing my mushrooms on Oak. You definitely have to consider that. Softwoods, are more so turkey tail mushrooms, chicken of the woods. So mainly hardwood.
Get a drill bit, about 5/16’s. Drill holes all the way around the log.
Do you drill the hole all the way through the log or just a little way down?
Drill 1 1/4’ deep do not drill all the way thru. Just drill about an inch or so in. About 50 holes per log, for a good flush.
What’s a flush. Is that like a crop?
That’s the fruiting bodies when the mushrooms start growing. Your harvest or crops. for mushrooms that’s described as a flush.
Then you insert the plug spawn. It’s not necessary, but to keep them sterile, you can get cheese wax and melt it, and with a clean paintbrush, cover the hole so bugs can’t get in there, it will seal it up nice.
It’s good to keep in mind, it takes a good 9-12 months. You won’t receive a flush for like a year from the time that you do it.
Where do yo keep it, do you have to keep it warm or dry?
A damp spot in a wooded forest, if you don’t have access to that in your backyard, you can cover it with some sort of cloth, heavy duty cloth, keep the moisture content right with a sprinkler system or so or misting it.
If you don’t have a forest area, you can leave it close to the ground, probably under a tree or something.
Didn’t you say you’re in Detroit? Are you growing them at home?
On the campus we have a garden, a garden club. It’s right under our library. We have a few trees and some mulch. That’s where we keep them, and it’s not a forest but it’s a shaded area, they’re fine there. We keep it damp and the trees provide shade.
Anything else you want to tell us about the mushrooms?
About cultivation. We covered just about what beginners should know.
Remember to keep the size manageable, so you can move them around, 3-4 feet. Get your plug spawn from a good organic source. You’d be surprised at how easy the process can be.
It’s very interesting and rewarding, as is all gardening.
Tell us about something that grew well this year.
Herbs always do well. tomatoes. My peppers are doing amazing I grow cayenne and jalapeño, that was probably my best crop. Definitely my best crop was my peppers.
The tomatoes, here in Michigan, it took a while for summer to come, it stayed cool for quite a bit. Tomatoes are a tropical plant, they’re just starting, to turn. I made a lot of fried green tomatoes!
When’s your first frost? My husband said we lost our cantaloupes and watermelons the other day, I think froze. We were on the other day of the spectrum! We had a hot dry spring. June was unprecedented with 100 degree days!
Maybe the coolness. I haven’t done much research, I’ve just been excited! I made jalapeño poppers!
Were they hard to make? I wouldn’t say hard, it’s a process, stuff with cream cheese, then the breading, it’s a long process. but they’re so good! It makes it worth it!
I’m drying my cayenne pepper to make homemade hot pepper flakes! Crushed red pepper flakes. Pretty much anything I eat is a vehicle to put hot peppers on! I love the hotness!
I was going to ask, what herbs do you have growing?
I have lavender, sage, thyme, lemon balm, basil, my dill I didn’t replant my dill this season.
Our dill usually comes back? Does yours not come back?
I used to grow it for my neighbor for his pickles, we’d trade off.
I don’t think it’s a perennial, I think it just goes to seed and so it scatters and comes up everywhere.
I have Chamomile too.
When you think there’s not any more to know that’s definitely a false statement! I would like to talk about something I had never heard of. My corn, something was eating it. I put a cage around it, I thought maybe it was a rabbit or something small, as soon as the plant was getting about 3 feet, 2-3 feet, it looked like something had nibbled off the bottom and it was left there, and I read up on this problem and found it was cut worms. That’s probably why the fence didn’t work. so unfortunately It took me a while when I found out about that, it says you can put a toilet paper roll.
Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?
I think with the mushrooms, I would like to expand on different species, I would like to grow many different times. I the garden club there are wayne state I want to try a mushroom bed. Like growing a mushroom patch. If you want to build a bed above ground and fill it with hard wood chips and sawdust. I’m gonna do a little more research.
Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.
The corn! I was so excited for it too! I never had this issue, I don’t know where they come from.
I don’t know where they come from either, but I’ve heard of that.
(I googled organic control of cutworm and decided other then having toads, or beneficial insects and birds like blackbirds and meadowlarks, I liked this solution the best: It’s said that if you push a small twig, nail, or toothpick into the earth right next to a seedling, the cutworm cannot wrap around the stem and fell the plant. It’s from a Mother Earth News post.)
Something that you find is easy to grow and is generally successful every-time.
Herbs. Herbs are great, a lot of them just come back I don’t even have to do anything. It’s a little difficult with Chamomile because it spreads everywhere, I’ll be finding it over by the tomatoes! Spreads like wildfire. It’s amazing all the uses you can do with it, for teas and salves so I don’t mind it too much!
My big one that spread is oregano!
I do have oregano too!
Sometimes I forget what they are and say what’s this one again.
I was gonna ask you do you bring them in in the winter?
I just keep my basil on my window sill, because of our frost, I’ve lost so man plants, so it’s always fresh. but I don’t bring anything else in. My mom talked about bringing Rosemary in, but I don’t bring mine in. I have sage, and some thyme down there, mostly oregano. They just come back down there, and another reason I like herbs is because they generally do well without much watering etc in Montana’s dry climate.
Something you would steer new gardeners away from that you find is typically challenging to grow in your climate.
Pumpkins, I wouldn’t say steer away. Before you plant your pumpkins, find an area, maybe on a hillside, or a ledge or something, pumpkins is a little difficult, do a little research because choosing where to plant them. The vines are huge, they take up a lot of space.
Has anyone talked about rotation?
Very little, if you want to talk about it a bit more that would be great!
I don’t know too much, I just know that it’s good for your soil and for your plants overall, to rotate where you grow them, if you’ve been growing your tomatoes in the same spot and corn in the same spot, and your peppers, it’s good to switch it up! Switch the spot in which you’re growing!
It helps replace the nutrients right? Also they talk about putting nitrogen fixing plants to grow!
So the next year maybe grow in the opposite area.
I’ve heard people say “nitrogen for roots, phosphorus for shoots!” I think that’s what it was!
I worked on a hops farm over in Oregon for a little while, they would have the sheep come in and they would eat the bottom part of the hops essentially trimming it, and leave their droppings as fertilizer cause they’re droppings are high in nitrogen. So it was a good little cycle they had on, was very interesting!
It’s a climber it grows usually on a rope!
Joyce Pinson recommended the Market Gardener on episode and it had a picture of a holding pond.
Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.
I would have to say weeding, it’s kind of meditative to be out there in the dirt. They’ve been popping up so much lately with all the rain we’ve been getting, it’s just like not again, you know!
I can handle only so much weeding. We don’t really get a lot of weeds, between our water shortage and mulch, we just don’t get that many, my husband kind of keeps on them. I was a little worried this year with the sprinklers, but it wasn’t that bad.
What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.
Oh, I think as a lot of people would say, the harvesting, watching things grow looking at the life, it reminds you everything is alive and should be taken into consideration. and definitely watching my mushrooms.
I’ll come back and 2 hours later, and they have grown so much! I’m like this is crazy! I’d like to do a time lapse video. They’re so cute mushrooms!
How doe is work? Do you have to wait a whole year after you pick a mushroom?
You can have multiple mushrooms, the log will essentially cultivate all throughout. Mushrooms will pop out! You can have 4 coming out of one little hole in one little area. Sometimes it’s just one in an area. The whole log essentially collinates.
After you harvest your first flush, it takes probably a few weeks for a flush to come back. You can force the log to come fruiting, as well if you soak it for a few hours hat will bring them back faster, it will force the mushrooms if you’re selling them.
at the base of them kind of rotate it with your fingertips it will break off
part of the Michigan Mushroom Hunters Club
We all have a special mushroom knife, so you don’t disturb the mycelium, basically the roots of the mushroom it’s good not to stress out that part of the mushroom.
What’s the mushroom club do you go out an pick like we pick wild morels?
Yeah! yup! we have public and member only forays! Different areas, we actually had a hunt up in the area up in the U.P. Morel season here in the spring time mushroom season is big! You have to look out for those. If you have your own area you kind of keep it for yourself…
It’s so fun! I can still remember the first time I went… and my friends are like … oooh I got one! Oooh I got one! And your’e like what are you looking at? What are you finding them? And then someone will pick one next to you and you’re like oh!
Tell us about the best crop you ever grew.
Yes, my peppers, even this year, every year they grow so fast, faster then I can use them, so my neighbors I can share with, that’s why I’m drying a lot too, to keep them good, making different things. Im making a hot sauce! I never tried that before. I’ve never made hot sauce. I’ll probably look up a recipe and go from there, it seems pretty simple, vinegar, water, a little garlic powder.
I had no idea where to start, I was thinking like a salsa, mixing some tomatoes in. I make a killer guacamole! Basically just cilantro, lime, avacados, and I put salsa in my guacamole and mix it up in my food processor.
What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?
I would have to say, it’s probably not something people would think of as advice, I can always remember my mother telling me, as I was planting something, always have a peaceful mind and happiness and be joyful while you’re doing it. I really took that to heart, every time I’m out in the garden, I say a good word, maybe a prayer if you think of it that in that way. Just having a peaceful mind. I think that’s really good for plants, just the energy connection.
Have you ever entered a fair? How’d that go?
No, I haven’t but we plan in the garden club at Wayne State, we plan on selling the mushrooms at our Farmer’s Market at school. That will be very fun. And see how that goes
Some people can’t stand em, you either love em, or hate em!
Every Wednesday from 11-4.
From 11-4? How many people go to your university? How many vendors do you get about like 10 or 5 or 20?
Probalby about 10. It’s nice to see how many people stop by, going from building to building.
I looked pretty quick, it looks like there’s over 25,000! That’s like a small city!
Detroit is very big, but the population is very small. There’s a lot of vacant places. A lot of younger people moving down there for school! It’s the cool thing to do these day!
Can I ask, what do you want to do when you graduate?
I’m like an ultra senior, it’s not about the time. They’re pretty tough classes! You have to get into the whole science of organic chemistry and physics. It’s not easy!
I’ll be graduating next fall, I am working on my application for the Peace Corps! It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I think if I don’t do it right now in my life, I don’t want to come 10 years and think back and say I wish I did that. It’s a 27 month commitment, I’ve thought about it for a long time, I think I’m ready for it!
Well good for you!
Tesses and my converstation about the peace corps is continued in Part 2 (down below)
A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.
I would say with my mushroom growing, I’d have to say my knife, a special knife I use for harvesting. It’s like a little pocket knife. It has a brush, on one side, I ordered if from fungiperfecti. They sell all kinds of different stuff and I saw it and said I had to have it. In the other garden I would have to say my best tool is seeds.
I just collect my own.
Wait till they go to seed, if you just cut off that part, and hang them upside down and put a little bag underneath, seeds will just fall down.
keep your own, have an organic source.
Then they’re climated to grow in your area.
Bill McDorman and Belle Star are on a seed saving mission.
Eating or harvesting vegetables or fruit on time?
With the harvesting, just having too much?
Depending on what it is, freezing is great alternative, drying, pickling, canning. My mom and I were canning tomatoes. It’s great to pull out a jar, make some sauce out of it.
consistent gardener, beans, a skill.
Do you have any secrets for preserving food-making it last?
For mushrooms, I can talk a little bit about harvesting them as well, it’s a good thing to know. Once you start seeing the fruiting bodies, the mushrooms themselves. Probably ready to pick in a week, they don’t stay fresh long. It’s good to pick them, the maturity is different depending on what species you’re growing,
For shitakes, when the caps are 2-3 inches in diameter
you can tell when their mature. If you don’t want to cook them right away, they do stay good in the fridge. You can dry them use them later on for soups, they’re good to dry in a food dehydrator
If you put them in the sun, and put the gills, under-cap side up, they will absorb vitamin d from the sun! Content will be higher. They are just fascinating in so many ways. I have a screen for my herbs, it actually closes, a screen is good, a paper plate or paper towel. that sort.A food dehydrator is a blessing, I love it!
on a hanging device.
Stay good for a long time, throw them in a soup or a tea.
How do you rehydrate them?
If you are making tea, or putting in soup, you can do it like anything else that is dried. They’ll retain flavor.
Do you have any special techniques for cooking weird or unusual foods?
I love sautéing things, I usually like to just throw the fresh shiitakes, in a pan with garlic, onions, and some Worcestershire sauce, with a steak, even with a baked potato!
Creates like a sauce, I put it on a baked potato, it’s so good!
I have a feeling my mom puts wine, in hers.
I’ve heard of people doing that with tomato sauce.
I think she just uses a very basic white wine or a vermouth, anything you would use for cooking.
A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?
I love fried green tomatoes, make my own breading, it’s this roman spice, it’s like the secret ingredient for my fried green tomatoes . If you have a big supply of tomatoes, it’s something to do with them.
It’s funny cause you don’t think of a tomato as being fried, cause when you think of a tomato
when it’s green it’s hard consistency it
you cut it up.
once you bread it and fry it, it’s almost like a meat,
So many guys, my boyfriend etc said I never thought this would be this good. I’m always surprised how much they like it.
I slice them and dip them in egg, scrambled egg, then dip them in the breading, I would think tho if there was an issue for using an egg, you could try with the breading, and they are a little bit wet, it might work just dipping it in the breading. I don’t know once they’re cooked the bread crumbs might fall off.
A favorite internet resource?
For my mushroom growing mushroomvideos.com
From spore syringe,
mushroom showed me ways to be sterile
A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?
I love the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Final question- if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?
OK, I could talk so much about this, here we go, right now something i’m really big on, the plastics and synthetic products that take so long to break down in our landfills. And garbage island there’s so much pollution, something that might fascinate people is that mushrooms can break down plastics and other synthetic material. The oyster mushroom can break down a disposable diaper in like 4 weeks! And polyurethane, there is this mushroom in brazil that can break it down in 2 weeks! I would like to see Evocative design take off!
Replacing plastics works like a glue to keep molds together, replace a lot of packaging material that is unnecessary and very wasteful and a big pollutant.
If anyone is interested ecovativedesign.com and learn more about mushroom based materials. They’re biodegradable. It’s very interesting!
Do u have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?
I would just say remind people that it’s so rewarding to be able to walk outside or on your balcony it’s so rewarding to watch something grow and you’ve done it your self. And create healthy meals from it! It’s so rewarding!
How do we connect with you?
I am working on my own company called the Detroit Spore Company basically spreading fungi knowledge. if people want to learn more about their role in the environment. and how they can help with our whole pollution situation.
email@example.com for fungi enthusiasts! My slogan is reuniting mushrooms and mankind!
these aren’t just icky squishy things, they play a huge force in our entrainment!
Tesses and my converstation about the peace corps is continued in Part 2:
I do know that UMT has a large percentage of alumni that do go back and join the peace corps in later life! (We’re listed #6 for medium colleges in 2015 with 27 alumni volunteering) But I think it’s probably easier to do when your young. I have a friend who went.
That’s good to know that people go back later in life.
I remember reading that in the Alumni magazine or something, they were saying how nice it is to have so many alumni that volunteer. I was kind of disappointed because wanted to join the Peace Corps out of high school. I actually got in an argument with a friend of mine who had been in the peace corps, and she said that you’re too young because you’re not ready. I said, you’re telling me our our government can train people to go to war but they can’t train people to go help people in other countries. She said yeah, but you’re going to be sent to this strange country and you’re gonna be all by yourself, it’s not like in the army where you have all this training and you’re going to be with big troops etc, and I said, well that’s just a management problem. They need to have people go to less areas, and have more people go together and have more intense training. I know they say they want people to have a college degree because you can bring more skills. It seems to me it would be better for our planet if we had more people joining the peace corps then the army.
It’s funny you say that because I actually applied right out of high school and I was so disappointed when I got the rejection letter. I didn’t know either that you needed a degree. I heard that it was because so many people were applying to go. They were trying to keep the standards higher, because it’s growing so much people are so interested. Which is Great! I had no idea, but I applied. I didn’t have much experience but it was something that I really wanted to do.
Isn’t that part of why you want to join to get experience. I still have the hardest time, you can train someone in boot camp for 3 weeks, and you can’t train someone to join the peace corps.
I agree with you.
The other day I was watching part of an Officer and a Gentleman, and I was thinking this is what you need to do. They were getting ready to go into the flight simulator, go down into this swimming pool, and this one guy almost drowned, couldn’t get his seat belt off, if you can do this kind of intense training, if you send them off in a group somewhere, they’re gonna get more done anyway instead of sending them off with one person and a college degree by themself… I don’t know, I certainly don’t have any experience … I don’t really understand war movies, because we spend more money on bullets then you do so we win, we spend more money on that kind of thing so we win? … Makes no sense to me…
I hear what you’re saying definitely…
Do you have a country you want to go to? Do you have a project you want to work on? Do you have plan? Do you have a country you want to go to?
While singing up for the peace corps there are different areas of expertise, 2 of them I am interested in are both environmental and agricultural, that’s where my field of studies is in. Certain areas I’m interested in are Benin in Sout Africa and Nepal. I think I would like to get far out there and be completely absorbed in a new culture. To see parts of the world and connect with people that I thought I could never connect with. I would like to work in the environmental field or the agricultural area. Helping people in developing countries learn how to grow efficiently be able to have access to knowledge on growing and being sustainable. Growing your own crops and clean water and stuff like that.
Do you want to tell us a little bit about the process? You said your in the middle? Is it a long application? Do you have to have recommendations from professors? What’s it take to get to go to the Peace Corps these days?
Well, I am working on it, you have to write, a page why you want to go into the Peace Corps, it’s good to have references. If you talk to an advisor he/she will kind of steer you in the right direction, they’ll give you an example of how your application or resume should look it.
Im not rushing, I’m gonna graduate in a year. They say to apply 9-months to a year before you want to go. So if I wanted to leave on a project next fall, I would apply now, but I think I would like a little bit more time to spend some time with family and friends before I take off. That is if I get accepted!
Well we’ll all send some thoughts and prayers out there that you get accepted!
So there’s a lot of people applying these days, I think you millennials are a generation that rocks! The more I hear about millennial the more they seem so socially minded, and environmentally conscious!
It definitely is, it’s wonderful to see people taking the initiative and becoming environmentally conscious. Reminding each other, it can’t keep going on this way, it’s about time.
There was a big thing about Glacier Park this morning, how people should come see the park, because the glaciers are melting, and that’s just right in our backyard.
And then Bill McKibben, do you know who he is from 350.org. Last Sept, they had a huge march in NYC to raise awareness for the environment. Ban Ki Moon the UN Secretary General, kind of called for this big green movement and Bill McKibben took it on.
Actually he was on Democracy Now! yesterday talking about how their divestment movement, is taking off and how many colleges are divesting their funds from the fossil fuel industry and that’s the biggest thing starting a huge movement. California just made a university all the big universities of California like UC Berkley etc, said they are not going to use their investment portfolios to invest in fossil fuels anymore. They’re stocks and things, really pulling out of the fossil fuel industry.
Wow, that’s great to know.
It’s kind of weird because Obama just went up to the Arctic and said we need to pay attention to climate change and then allowed Shell to drill. Say one thing and then let another thing happen, I don;t really know how it all works, it seems like things are more hopeful, where the dollars go…very Grassroots organization
Media didn’t cover very well, it was just a huge march, so many people marching in NYC.
350.org because 350 parts per million is the amount of carbon dioxide we can have in the atmosphere to sustain life as we know it right now. And we broke 350 back in December of 2013 I think and we’re well over 400 ppm now. That’s what’s making the temperature rise, we’ve gone 1º and we can’t go over 2º And people say what difference is it gonna make? We can’t raise the temperature 2º. It means you’re not gonna have maple syrup from maple trees in Vermont. It means you’re not gonna have apples grown where they were grown. Some people say, I don’t like the cold, what do I care? But you do care. Some people say there’s kids already born who aren’t gonna have a planet. We never know if we keep going at this pace. But on a positive note we have people like you in the world and Bill McKibben making change!
Thanks you so much for sharing with us! Good luck with everything! Such a great woman I see a great future for you!
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