2020 Plant Talk 15: Plants, Ferments and Fungi

October 30, 2020


Plant Talk 15 Plants, Ferments and Fungi


What’s Blooming


The Asteraceae is one of the few families still blooming in profusion. Some examples blooming in Western North Carolina currently are included below. Frost may come by Sunday on the heels of yet another hurricane left over! What a year for the weather….

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), Cosmos sp., Dahlia spp., Echinacea spp., Galliant Soldier (Galinsoga spp.), Goldenrods (Euthamia spp., Solidago spp.), Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis), Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium spp.), Marigolds (Tagetes spp.), Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia sp.), Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe), Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.), Thistles (Cirsium spp.), Tickseed (Coreopsis spp.), Wild Lettuce (Lactuca spp.), Wild Quinine (Parthenium integrifolium), Wingstem (Verbesina spp. syn Actinomeris), Yarrow (Achillea millifolium), and Zinnia spp.


Others items include Angel Trumpet (Brugmansia spp.), Borage (Borago officinalis), Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii), Gentian (Gentiana spp.), Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes spp.), Morninglory (Convolvulus spp.), Sages (Salvia spp.), Smartweeds (Polygonum spp.), Stilt Grass (Microstegium vimineum), Tea Camellia (Camellia sinensis), Thimbleweed/Windflower (Anemone spp.), Witchazel (Hamamelis virginiana).

A photo album to this class can be seen at the link below


Food Ready for Harvest


Most of all the Winter Squashes and tender Root crops such as Sweet Potatoes (Ipomoea batatas), Turmeric (Curcuma longa) and Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) are getting dug up and brought in. This will be the same for Dahlia’s soon which most people think of as ornamentals. However, some have potential food/medicine value as well for instance with D. coccinea among other species (Lim, 2014; Whitley, 1985). A lot of research has been done on the use of Dahlia flowers in commercial food preparations due to various compounds as well (Espejel et al., 2019; Mulík & Ozuna, 2020; Pires et al., 2018).


This is a great time for greens both wild and cultivated. On the cultivated side the options are mostly dominated by the Brassicaceae. Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collards, Kale and Kohlrabi are all members of the same species but different varieties of Brassica oleracea. Then there are the Asian members of the Brassica rapa group such as Asian Cabbage, Bok Choi, Pak Choi, and Tat Soi among others.  i am about to make a bunch more pesto from Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) and Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) greens before the upcoming killing frost.

Wild greens also include members of the Brassicaceae such as Barbarea sp and Cardamine spp. as well as items like Chickweed (Stellaria media), Smartweed (Polygonum spp.) and Quickweed (Galinsoga quadriradiata) highlight an overlap between summer and fall greens.


Many wild and cultivated fruits are available for harvest. Some of these include Apples (Malus spp.), Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata), Hawthorns (Crataegus spp.), Pears (Pyrus spp.), Persimmon (Diospyros spp.), Viburnum spp., Rowans (Sorbus spp.) and Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicon). Acorns from Oaks (Quercus spp.) are also available along with nuts from Hickories (Carya spp.) and Walnuts (Juglans spp.).

What is ready for harvest around you?

The Fungal Kingdom and Its Plant Connections

The plant and fungal kingdoms are intrinsically linked in so many ways. No better example being the phenomenon of Lichens that combine in one organism elements of both on a fundamental level (Purvis, 2000; Richardson, 1975). This website focuses mostly on plants specifically, being such a marvelously diverse and never endingly deep area of study unto itself. That said a class highlighting some of the essential interconnections of the botanical and mycological realms especially in relation to current and future resilience and sustainability is clearly in order. A definitive and free resource is available from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London, England. The title is The State of the World’s Plants and Fungi 2020.

Ecologically speaking certain fungi tend to cohabitate with certain plants (Dighton & White, 2017). A classic division in this regard are mushrooms of Oak forests versus the ones that grow in Coniferous forests. A great guide by Denise Binion (2008) for the Macrofungi Associated with Oaks of Eastern Forests illustrates this trend nicely. Another distinction to take note of is that some mushrooms grow directly on wood whereas others are more soil born.

Similar looking and closely related mushrooms tend to grow in similar conditions throughout the temperate world. Lately a lot of splitting from old world taxonomy has taken place. Certain websites may help with the teasing apart of current taxonomy if that is necessary and of interest. Some of my favorites include INaturalist, Mushroom Observer, and Mycoweb Some more can be seen at the following link. Which ones are you aware of?

Mushroom Taxonomy

Mushrooms are thought to be more diverse than plants though fewer species have actually been described. Over 144,000 species are known to science of an estimated 2.2 to 3.8 million and 886 families (Willis, 2018). Focusing on families clearly can simplify things though many new families are getting formalized all the time unlike with the plant kingdom.

Uses can sometimes follow family trends. The Polyporaceae in particular features many edibles and medicinals and not much that is poisonous. However many groups like the Agaricaceae, Boletaceae and Russulaceae feature many edible and poisonous members often sharing the same genus.

A number of books look at the big picture that comprises the fungal kingdom (Alexopoulos et al., 1996; Cannon & Kirk, 2007; Dugan, 2006; Petersen, 2013; Roberts & Evans, 2011; Stephenson, 2010). Guides to terminology may help in interpretation of more technical resources (Hallock, 2019; Hanlin, 2012).

Mushroom Field Guides

Many regional field guides that i have traditionally relied on are fairly outdated regarding taxonomy (Arora, 1986; Lincoff, 1981; McKnight et al., 1998; R. Phillips, 2010; Roody, 2003). However, we are lucky in Appalachia to have a plethora of updated Mushroom guides for the region (A. Bessette et al., 2018; Elliott & Stephenson, 2018; Sturgeon, 2018). Alan and Arleen Bessette are legends in regards to the publishing of field guides that focus on specific genera or bioregions in particular, as well as teaching classes in the field at places such as the Highlands Biological Station (A. Bessette, 2009, 2010; A. Bessette et al., 2017; A. E. Bessette et al., 1996, 2007).

Mushrooms of the western United States have their own literature of course (J. Ammirati & Trudell, 2009; Arora, 1991; R. M. Davis et al., 2012; Underhill, 1982; Winkler, 2011). Commercial level harvests happen out there for choice wild taxa like Chanterelles and Morels. Langdon Cook (2013) wrote a fascinating book about the exploits of mushroom harvesters in various places of the country including out west. California as in many things has its own specialized study (Desjardin et al., 2015; Siegel & Schwarz, 2016; Winkler, 2012). i have come across a few resources for mushrooms of the Midwest as well (Kuo & Methven, 2014; Marrone, 2004; Marrone & Yerich, 2020).

The study of fungi in Costa Rica is rather well developed (Calderón Fallas, 2005; Chaverri et al., 2011; Halling & Mueller, 2004; Mata Hidalgo et al., 2003; Mata et al., 2010; Mata & Navarro, 2010; Mitchell, 2011; Osmundson et al., 2007; Stevens, 2019; Tulloss et al., 1997). Some interesting overlapping groups for there and northern latitudes include Boletes (Boletus spp.) Ear Mushrooms (Auricularia spp.) and Reishis (Ganoderma spp.) i have seen some notable Ganoderma looking mushrooms growing on palms by the beach in particular. i have also come across some other resources for mushrooms in other tropical places. One for Florida  (Kimbrough, 2000) another for the Caribbean in general (Minter et al., 2001) one for  Hawaii (Desjardin, 2002) and another for Trinidad and Tobago (Baker & Dale, 1951). i have come across a couple English resources for cultivation of mushrooms in the tropics as well (Chang, 1982; Quimio, 2002). Here is an online PDF of the subject of growing mushroom in the tropics as well.

Certain groups like the Boletes have their own specialized literature as well (A. Bessette, 2010; A. Bessette et al., 2017; Both, 1993; Coker & Beers, 1974; Smith & Thiers, 1970). Porcini (Boletus edulis) are one of the most famous wild mushrooms of the world and they belong to this family. Other genera that have at least some species that are sometimes consumed for food by people include Austroboletus, Leccinum, Strobilomyces, Suillus and Xanthoconium. Russulas are another example of a genus with lots of dedicated study (Beardslee, 1918; Earle, 1902; Kim et al., 2010; Lin et al., 2015).

Lichen field guides have been developed for various areas as well i.e. Eastern USA (Hale, 1961), New Zealand (Malcolm & Malcolm, 1996), NE USA (Pope, 2005), Pacific Northwest (McCune, 2009) and the Rocky Mountains (McClure, 1992). A couple take on all of North America (Brodo et al., 2001, 2016).

The best field guide is a person and i have been fortunate to have quite a few great instructors about the fungal realm including Alan Muskat, Abby Artemisia, Becky Beyer, Christopher Hobbs, Daniel Nicholson, Doug Elliott, Eric Lewis, Ken Crouse, Mateo Ryall, Mycol Stevens, Paul Stamets, Robert Rogers, Todd Elliott, Tradd Cotter, and William Padilla Brown.

Adam Haritan of Learn Your Land is one great resource on You Tube for fungi and plant foraging and Dina Falconi is another.


The prevalent idea around the science of Ethnomycology is often focused on entheogens also known as psychedelics. The study of these types of practices in indigenous cultures in various parts of the world goes back decades (Estrada et al., 1981; Menser, 1996; Metzner, 2005; Ratsch & Hofmann, 2005; Wasson, 1972).

The use of psychedelic mushrooms is often thought of as a marginal if not outright illicit activity in mainstream industrialized society and sometimes that pigeonholes negatively the whole science around mushrooms. However, the Journalist Michael Pollan (2019) has really popularized the psycho/spiritual/emotional aspects with his book How to Change your Mind. His work among that of others is part of the feature film Fantastic Fungi and the book that is based on it as well (Schwartzberg et al., 2019). A whole literature is devoted to various aspects of the Mushroom world in regards to psychedelics of course  (Labate & Cavnar, 2018; Menser, 1996; Metzner, 2005; Sheldrake, 2020). The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, (MAPS) is probably one of the better known organizations focused in this area.

However, Ethnomycology comprises all the various ways different ethnic groups may interact with different members of the mycological kingdom. Certain studies have been conducted along these lines for specific groups from Africa to Bulgaria to China and also worldwide (Akpaja et al., 2003; Dugan, 2011; Kang et al., 2012; Seid, 2014; Uzunov & Stoyneva-Gärtner, 2015).

Poisonous Mushrooms

Most mushrooms that people like to consume for food also have common poisonous look alikes. Some examples are included below. Polypores are much less likely to get confused with other mushrooms.


Choice Edible

Potentially Poisonous Lookalike

Chanterelle (Cantharellus spp.)

Jack O Lantern (Omphalotus illudens)

Honey (Armillaria spp.)

Autumn Skullcap (Galerina sp.)

Morel (Morchella spp.)

Brain Mushroom (Gyromitra spp.)

Button/Field Mushrooms (Agaricus spp.)

Death Angels (Amanita spp.) Green Spored Parasol (Chlorophyllum molybdites)

Puffball (Lycoperdon spp.)

Earthballs (Scleroderma spp.), Death Angels (Amanita spp.)

Puffball (Calvatia spp.)

Death Angels (Amanita spp.)


As one might imagine the literature on poisonous mushrooms is rather profuse (J. F. Ammirati James A. Traquair, and Paul A. Horgen, 1985; Benjamin, 1995; Besl, 1989; Fergus & Fergus, 2003; Kilkan, 2016; Levy, 1984; Menser, 1996; Murrill, 1910; Ratcliff, 2016; N. J. Turner & Szczawinski, 1995; Nancy J Turner & Aderkas, 2009).

The Amanita spp. are some of the most deadly poisonous mushrooms in the world and sometime confused with look alikes. The Galerina has similar chemistry. It has now been shown that sometimes the life of people suffering from this type of poisoning may be saved in part by the administration of Silymarin an extract from Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) (Abenavoli et al., 2018; Ward et al., 2013).

Not many mushrooms will kill someone outright upon ingestion like the ones mentioned above. However, the not so funny Mycological joke is that few mushrooms will kill you but there are more that may make you wish you were dead! Mixing mushrooms like Inky Caps (Coprinus spp.) and Morels (Morchella spp.) with alcohol can be a cause of sickness as well (Rumack & Spoerke, 1994).

Mushrooms also may possibly accumulate toxic substances like heavy metals as a prodigious amount of literature reflects (Árvay et al., 2014; Barcan et al., 1998; Chen et al., 2009; Cocchi et al., 2006; Kokkoris et al., 2019; Liu et al., 2015; Radulescu et al., 2010; Zhu et al., 2011).

Mushrooms also can cause various diseases on plants. The Honey Mushroom (Armillaria sp.) which is the biggest known organism in the world is a predator of the forest in which it lives.

Choice Edibles

Mushroom harvesting is rather seasonal where i live. The season starts with the Morels who deservedly have their whole own literature (Kuo, 2005; Lonik, 2012; Maybrier & Maybrier, 2011; Pelouch, 2008; M. E. Phillips, 2012). Pheasant’s Back (Cerioporus squamosus) and the Deer mushroom (Pluteus cervinus) are some other mushrooms that may be found in the spring.

After the Morels the Mushrooms of summer start to come on such as the Chanterelles (Cantharellus spp.), Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus spp.), Milk Mushrooms (Lactarius spp.) and Russula spp.

The late fall and winter still feature some diversity of mushrooms including Blewit (Lepista nuda), Hedgehog (Hydnum repandum), Honey (Armillaria spp.) Oyster (Pleurotus spp.) and Puffball (Lycoperdon spp.) mushrooms.

Mushroom cultivation often focuses on choice edibles like Oysters, Portobello and Shiitakes. In Asia Wood Ear (Auricularia spp.) and Enoki (Flammulina populicola) are cultivated in large quantities as well. A number of good resources take on the subject of farming mushrooms specifically (Ciju, 2012; Cotter, 2014; Lynch, 2018; Randall, 2012; Sewak & Sewak, 2016; Stamets, 1984).  What are some of the most choice edibles around you?

Mushroom Jerky is one of my favorite ways to make use of a large amount of Hen of the Woods or Berkeley’s Polypore. My brother, colleague, friend, and mentor Eric Lewis is really good at this process in particular. A bunch of videos describe the process on You Tube as well.

Some truffles are a highly sought after gourmet food item of  the fungal realm (G. Brown et al., 2008; Price, 2009; Renowden, 2005; Trappe et al., 2007). Around Asheville, NC we have had a Truffle Festival in recent years. Dr. Jeanine Davis has been conducting research along with others in the cultivation of Truffles as well (Meadows et al., 2020).

Mushrooms for Medicine

Mushrooms have a tradition of use by groups all around the world. Some major families containing famous medicinal mushrooms include the Agaricaceae, Cordycipitaceae, Heriaceae, Hymenochaetaceae, Marasmiaceae, Pleurotaceae and the Polyporaceae. The Polyporaceae is the biggest focus for medicinals in regards to diversity. The genera Fomes, Ganoderma, Grifola, Laetiporus and Trametes are some major examples. Other famous medicinals include Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), Honeys (Armillaria mellea), Lion’s Mane (Hericium spp.), Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and Wood Ear (Auricularia auricula) (Abdullah et al., 2012; Gründemann et al., 2020; Hobbs & Beinfield, 2003; Marley, 2009; Powell, 2014; R. Rogers & Wasser, 2011; Sullivan et al., 2006; Wasser, 2002).  

Chaga has become very popular in particular but there are some questions as to the sustainability of its harvest in certain areas. (Balandaykin & Zmitrovich, 2015; Diao et al., 2014; Géry et al., 2018; Lee et al., 2007; Patel, 2015; R. Rogers & Wasser, 2011; Stamets & Yao, 1999; Wolfe et al., 2012).

Some debate has ensued about the benefit of the fruiting bodies of the mushrooms versus the medium that they are growing on and its associated mycelium. Methods of extraction are also an important distinction, The complex sugars known as polysaccharides are more readily extracted into hot water versus the inositols, mycoflavanoids and triterpenoids that are more readily extracted into alcohol.

Making alcohol based tinctures is common with medicinal mushrooms. Adding sweeteners to these turns them into liqueurs. i am a fan of brewing with them as well. i have tended to favor fungi in honey wines that i call Mycomels but my friend Mycol Stevens makes an incredible Porter/Stout type beer and i have had similar items at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Sustainable Agriculture Conference as well.

Many medicinal effects are attributed to Mushrooms including actions as follows: Anti-Cancer, Anti-Diabetic, Anti-Fatigue, Anti-Fibrotic, Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Microbial and Anti-Oxidative (Stamets & Yao, 1999). Gold standard clinical based trials with placebos are more recently being conducted and distributed to the public at large (R. D. Rogers, 2020).  There is an International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms as well that some may want to access especially if you have a complimentary institutional membership. Other great sources for scholarly articles on medicinal mushrooms and Ethnomycology in general include the Society for Economic Botany, Society of Ethnobiology and of course PubMed.

Financial health of a community is something else i consider under the medicinal category. My favorite source for mushroom medicine on the national level is Fungi Perfecti/Host Defense. Locally to the Asheville, North Carolina area some examples include: Asheville Wild Foods, Ferafarm Apothecary, GAIA herbs (also national), Mirth Tree Herbals, Mushroom Metta, Mushroom Mountain and Pisgah Gourmet. These places mostly make mushroom medicine in food, liquid or pill form. Unorthodox ideas of medicinal fungi that also may help the communities financial health include Breads, Cheeses, Ciders, Kefirs, Kombuchas, Krauts, Kvass, Jerkys, Juns, Misos, Pickles, Tempehs, Vinegars and many other items of fermentation that i talk about more extensively below.

Fungi for Crafts

The Bessettes oft cited above are also part of the specialized literature focusing on natural dyes from the fungal realm (A. R. Bessette & Bessette, 2001; Bolton, 1972; Casselman, 1994, 2001, 2011; Gordon, 1980; Lindsay, 1855; McClure, 1992; McGrath, 1977; M. Rice, 2007; M. C. Rice & Beebee, 1980).

The use of Lichen dyes specifically has a rather well developed literature in particular (Bolton, 1972; Casselman, 1994, 2001, 2011; Gordon, 1980; Lindsay, 1855; McClure, 1992; McGrath, 1977).

Mushrooms also have a history of use in paper making especially members of the Polyporaceae i.e. Daedalea quercina, Fomitopsis pinicola, Laetiporus sulphureus, Lenzites betulina, Phaeolus schweinitzii, Piptoporus betulinus, Stereum hirsutum, Trametes versicolor (M. Rice, 2007). A tradition from Eastern Europe with felting for crafts with Piptoporus betulinus and Fomes fometarius has been documented as well. (Papp et al., 2017).

Dried mushrooms from the Polyporaceae family and others can also be used for nature altars and ornament. Several members of the Polyporaceae have also been used as tinder conks to carry the embers of a fire from place to place.


            Much attention has been given to the concept of using Mushrooms to clean up the environment known as Mycoremediation. Cleaning up petrochemicals like oil spills has been a particular focus. Paul Stamets (2005) wrote a fundamental text in this regard known as Mycelium Running. Since then a number other texts in both the academic and popular press have taken this concept further (Cotter, 2014; Darwish, 2013; Kanwal, 2016; McCoy, 2016; Prasad, 2018; Schindler, 2014; Singh, 2006; Umolo et al., 2017).

The science of Mycology of the soil is closely tied to Mycoremediation. Regarding Agriculture it is ever more clear that plants often need much more than NPK and a short list of other nutrients (Lowenfels, 2013; M. Phillips, 2017). A common term used now to describe the interconnectedness is the Wood Wide Web. Peter Wohlleben (2016), a forester in Europe and Suzanne Simard a professor in Canada are two great proponents of this knowledge. Elaine Ingham is another western scientist looking at the overall soil food web that mycological elements play a part in (Ingham, 2005; Ingham et al., 2000).

Fermentation Overview

Much fermentation is the product of fungal processes from organisms like molds and yeasts. However, some is also bacterial. Fermentation is a fundamental aspect in the legacies of all cultures around the world that i am familiar with! It would well behoove one to learn some of the basic processes described in the pages below regarding future general sustainability but specifically the core functions of food preservation and tasty food palatability.


Lots of products are the beneficiaries of the fermentation process. Below are a few main ones from various world cultures.

Vegetable ferments: Pickles are a collective term for a variety of items from various cultures

Sauerkraut (European), Tempeh (Indonesian), Poi (Polynesian), Kimchi (Korean), Gundru (Himalayan), Gv no he nv (Cherokee), Tamari, Soy sauce, Natto, Miso, Mochi (Asian)

Breads/Porridges: Sourdough wheat breads and porridges are common to a number of cultures. Njera (Ethiopia) and dosas/idlis (India) are a couple notable examples

Beverage/Liquid/Stimulant ferments: Hot Sauces and Vinegars are common around the world. Coffee (Ethiopia), Tea (Asia), Chocolate (Latin America), Kombucha (Asia), Jun (Asia), Kvass (Eastern Europe) and Rejuvelac

Alcohol ferments: Mead, cider, beer, liquor, wine are prolific throughout the world. Amasake/Sake (Japan) and Tepache, Tiswin and Chicha (Latin America) are a few varieties.

Dairy ferments: Buttermilk, Cheese, Kefir (Eastern Europe/Middle East), Skir (Iceland), and Yogurt

Meat ferments: Procuitto, Salami (Italy), Bacon, Ham. The folks of Sudan i.e. Miriss (fat), and Doddery (bone)  and the Artic (fish) are masters at this form of animal flesh fermentation (Dirar, 1993; Hesseltine, 1986; Katz, 2012; Steinkraus, 2004).

Which others are you aware of that might be added to the lists above?


Fermentation has been used for thousands of years all over the world by every indigenous group that i am aware of. It was one of the first methods used to preserve food. It empowered the age of exploration on long voyages to prevent scurvy. Fermentation has also held spiritual significance for a number of cultures i.e. Christian, Jewish and Lituanian in the case of the spirit known as Roguszys (Katz & Morell, 2016). Certain food products are almost synonymous with the human cultures they have evolved with.  Some of the first major global ferments were all bitter stimulants for the most part in their places of origin. They were later watered down with milk and sugar. Some think of these stimulants as part of the fuel that led to the industrial revolution. Fermented products are often used sparingly as condiments in their places of origin and is probably a good practice to follow. This is one example of the Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) package that comes with the legacy of intact cultural landscapes and their food processes (Nelson & Shilling, 2018).


i would encourage everyone to try as much as possible to track down your particular lineage of fermentation processes whether it be Himalayan (Tamang, 2009), Phillipine (Chinte-Sanchez, 2009), or some other part of the world (H. Davis & Katz, 2019).

Current Inspirations

Chelsea Green is a great publishing house for many great resources on fermentation and sustainable lifestyles. i have participated in the production of a couple publications through them (Katz, 2012; Zimmerman, 2015). Jeremy Zimmerman has written another book for them as well (Zimmerman, 2018). Sandor Katz (2006, 2020; 2016) is a living legend in the realm of fermentation and alternative/sustainable living in general. 

Pascal Baudar is incredibly inventive and inspiring as well (2016, 2018, 2020). He is probably the closest person i have seen to the style i and others are working with to help popularize the cuisine of the Appalachian region. Tara Whitsett is someone who i also feel privileged to have met in her travels around the country spreading the good word about fermentation technology (Whitsitt, 2017).

The area around Asheville, NC is full of really inspiring fermenters. We even have a whole Fermentation Festival!

Some examples of  local businesses featured at that event include Booda, Buchi, Fermenti, Locally Good, Miso Master, Pure Fire, Serotonin Ferments, Shanti Jun, Smiling Hara, Soul Shine Farm and Ferments, Sweet Brine’d, and Yoga Bucha and they are all linked above. Dare Vegan Cheese is one local favorite plant based ferment business not featured among the plethora of vendors at the previously mentioned festival. This is a great example of ideas for every community throughout the world to potentially adopt. Think Dosaries, Junneries, Krauteries, Kvasseries, Meaderies, Picklers, Seed Cheeseries, Sodaeries and Vinegar Makers.


Fermented foods act as probiotics which help aid digestion and ward off disease. Challenging microbes may also be held in check through the presence of beneficial micro-flora thereby improving the overall microbiome. Lactobacillus for instance can ward off Shigella, Salmonella spp. and Escherichia coli 0157:H7.

Microbiome considerations include the fact that we have 10 times the microbiological cells as human cells and 300 times the genes within our body (Marchesi, 2014). The microbiome is affected by many factors including method of birth, breast feeding, prebiotics, antibiotics, genetics, travel exposure and pets (Blaser, 2014; Courage, 2019; Kellman, 2014; Perlmutter, 2015; Yatsunenko et al., 2012; Yong, 2018).

Nutrients are also made more available through the process of fermentation. Digestive enzymes are created that help the body break down complex proteins. The complex proteins of soybeans for example are broken into more simple amino acids. Lactose in milk is broken into lactic acid. B vitamins are created. However, the B12 is an inactive analog. Detoxifying compounds created include glutathione, phospholipids, and beta 1,3 glucans. Some fermented products are also alkalizing (Katz & Morell, 2016).

Potentially deleterious compounds may be broken down in the process of fermentation. Phytic acid which blocks the absorption of zinc is broken down. Other compounds potentially removed by fermentation include oxalic acid, nitrites, nitrates, nitrosamine, radiation, heavy metals and glucocides (Katz, 2012).

Fermentation also adds variety, unique textures and flavors to foods. Umami is a term used to define this flavor (Anthony et al., 2014; Matsuhisa et al., 2009; Mouritsen & Styrbæk, 2014; Umansky et al., 2020).


There are various forms of fermentation that keep out air. These include crocks, carboys, and jars. Don’t use aluminum, chipped ceramics or many plastics they may leach compounds into the food. Most fermentation processes are aerobic including vinegar, kombucha, seed cheese, dosas, dairy cheese and sourdough.   

Major factors in all ferments: Time, Temperature, pH, non-iodized Salt, Non-Chlorinated Water, Air, Light


Problem Solving

Things to look out for include fluorescent, fuzzy growths, and butyric acid. Downsizing containers as necessary to minimize air is also helpful. Stirring ferments so mold is not able to set up and proliferate on the surface may be necessary especially outside of refrigeration. It is important first and foremost to realize that fermentation is a very safe way to preserve food and enhance its flavor in general with attention to a few basic details.


Below are a few fundamental recipes that most everyone may benefit from incorporating into their dietary regime.

Essene Bread

Soak wheat berries overnight. Drain and then water and drain for a few days until well sprouted.  After that grind and dehydrate or bake at low heat.  The ground wheat can be left for a day or so to ferment/sour further as well. Great flavorings include sea salt, rosemary and olive oil. Named after a group of Middle Eastern people (Peterson, 2018).

Dosa/Idli Batter

Soak 2 cups rice and 1 cup lentils for at least 8 hours in non-chlorinated water. Strain and blend with 1 cup yogurt whey, kefir, kraut juice or water. Ferment at room temperature with permeable cover for at least 12-24 hours or longer depending on flavor desired. When ready add 1 cup water and any seasonings desired (i.e. parsley, cilantro, garlic, salt, curry, hot pepper, etc) Cook as you would pancakes or bake in an oven like cookies or muffins. Make sure to use some type of fat liberally as they have a tendency to stick! This is a legendary food item from India. These are always a favorite in my classes with a very flexible format that can be savory or sweet. Well worth diving into some good books or videos on this subject in particular!


The difference to me between Sauerkraut and Kimchee is straight European cabbage with one or two flavorings i.e. (Caraway or Juniper berries) versus Asian Cabbage and the addition of Garlic, Ginger, Hot peppers and Root vegetables. Combine about 5 pounds vegetables and 3 tablespoons of sea salt per gallon into a clean ceramic or glass vessel. Vegetables should be pressed tightly into container a potato masher normally works well. Put a cover on top of vegetables and weight down. Make sure that water rises above the vegetables within a couple days or add a brine at 1 tablespoon of salt per 1cup of unchlorinated water. Allow one to two weeks for fermentation to complete. Fermentation will occur faster at higher temperatures. A temp in the 70’s or at most 80’s is ideal. If any mold appears on top then scoop it off. Mold is prevented from entering the kraut proper by lack of air and high salt concentration. The plain base can be augmented with various flavors including caraway seeds, juniper berries, hot peppers, celery seeds, etc once the kraut is done. These flavorings can be added at the beginning but this limits your options if you want to tailor small amounts to fit certain tastes. Some of the juice from mature kraut will ideally be used as a “starter” for your current batch. Sauerkraut and Kimchi are fundamental ferments for all people to try and possibly add to their repertoire (Howe, n.d.; Kaufmann & Schoneck, 2002; Shockey & Shockey, 2014)


Seed Cheese

Soak seeds or nuts of your choice overnight in enough chlorine free water to allow doubling of seed volume.

Blend seeds in food processor and allow to sit for 8-20 hours depending on temperature and strength desired.

The mixture may be dehydrated for firmer consistency. Whey or kraut juice can be added for stronger flavor or faster fermentation.


Yogurt is easy to make. At its simplest, heat up ½ gallon of milk to around 115 degrees. Heat milk to 145 degrees if you want to pasteurize raw milk and then cool to 115. Add in two tablespoons of yogurt from the store. Get one with a lot of different cultures as labeled on the container. You can even add a combination of varieties to get the maximum amount of beneficial cultures if you like. Immerse warm milk preferable contained in a ½ gallon mason jar into a pot partly filled with hot water. Wrap pot containing jar in blankets or sleeping bag. Let sit for 8-12 hours until desired consistency is reached. You can also put your jar in a cooler filled with hot water or possibly in the oven with a pilot amount of heat. Temps above 115 will kill the culture below 100 will leave the mix watery. Use 2 Tbs from your last batch to make a new one. You’ll find that making your own yogurt even from store bought milk can be cheaper than getting it at the store. It’s even better and often cheaper if you can find a local raw product. There is no need to buy a high priced yogurt making machine!  Yogurt cheese can be made by simply putting your finished yogurt in a strainer until the desire consistency is achieved. Kefir can be made in a similar way though best to have the culture grains. Kefir can be used with seeds or nuts but yogurt cultures only like soymilk and don’t like rice or other seeds. Some species include Bifidobacterium bifidum, B. infantis, B. longumLactobacillus bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, L. casei, L. delbrueckii, L. rhamnosus, Streptococcus cerevisiae, S. salivarius,

Non-Alcohol Fermented Beverages

Water and Dairy Kefir

Two cultures are both called water kefir according to Sandor Katz  (2012) one called Tibicos and one sometimes called Root Beer Plant. For either add ½ cups sugar per quart of water or possibly coconut water, and put in grains. You may also experiment with other sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, rice syrup, juice, etc. Drink after two days. You may bottle for a couple days longer to carbonate and also add ¼ by volume juice during this process. BOTTLES MAY EXPLODE IF LEFT TOO LONG!!!

Species identified may be the widest ever in water kefir totaling over 453 bacterial species and strains with particular species including

Known Possible Bacteria

(Lactobacillus brevis, L. casei, L. hilgardii, L. hordei, L. nagelii), (Leuconostoc citreum, L. mesenteroides), (Acetobacter fabarum, A. orientalis), (Streptococcus lactis)

Known Possible Yeast

(Hanseniaospora valbyensis), (Lachancea fermentati), (Saccharomyces erevisiae), (Zygotorulaspora florentina)

Source: http://biologiageral.com.sapo.pt/Ficheiros/Gulitz.pdf (May 2013) and www.cultures for health.com  

Milk Kefir can be made by adding about 1 Tbs of grains per half gallon and leaving at room temp for 9-12 hours. The culture for milk kefir can also be used with seed milks. From inspection of various products from the store the stated species composition can include Bifidobacterium lactis, Candida kefyr, Lactobacillus casei, L. kefyr, L. lactis, L. rhamnosus, Lactococcus cremoris, L. diacetylactis, Leuconostoc cremoris,  and Saccharomyces unisporus.


1 cup sugar, one gallon of typically black tea. Jun is the same process except use honey instead. Store in glass or unchipped ceramic covered with a cloth. Avoid using metal when possible and never use Aluminum. The beverage will be ready in one to two weeks. Refrigerate to stop process. Bottle with top sealed to make sparkling (MAKE SURE TO USE THICK BOTTLES WITH BALE TOPS AND CHECK PRESSURE PERSIODICALLY TO PREVENT EXPLOSIONS). Kombucha has quite a bit of literature as one might imagine (Crum et al., 2016; H. Davis & Katz, 2019; Evans, 2018; Hobbs, 1995; Lewin & Guajardo, 2019).

Ginger Brew

Make ginger “bug” by adding 2tsp ginger, 2 tsp sugar to 1 cup chlorine free water in a jar with a breathable cover. Continue adding the same amount of sugar and ginger every day or two until ready to brew (at least a few days to get bug bubbling) Boil 15 cups water plus 2-6 inches ginger and 1½ cups sugar for 15 minutes.

Cool then strain mixture and add strained bug and juice of two lemons. Bottle and leave to ferment two weeks. BOTTLES MAY EXPLODE IF LEFT TOO LONG!!! Cool, open and enjoy. May be effervescent, have a glass ready and open away from people and things you want to keep dry!

Beet Kvass

This is a recipe adapted from Sally Fallon’s  (1999) foundational book Nourishing Traditions. Peel and chop 2-3 beets add ¼ cup whey and 1T of salt and enough water to fill a ½ gallon. Allow to sit at room temperature with a breathable cover for 48-72 hours. However, Kvass can mean a wide range of things including a bread and mint based beverage as well (Evans, 2018; Katz & Morell, 2016).


Root and or Shoot, Fruit Soda

Make ginger “bug” by adding 2 tsp ginger, 2 tsp sugar to 1 cup chlorine free water in a jar with a breathable cover. Continue adding the same amount of sugar and ginger every day or two until ready to brew (at least a few days to get bug bubbling) Boil 15 cups water plus half cup any roots of choice then steep any leaves, seeds, fruits until strength desired. Add 1.25 cups sugar. Add 1.5 cups if using honey. You can also just use juice. Cool, then strain mixture and add strained bug or packaged culture and optionally the juice of two lemons. Bottle and leave to ferment for up to two weeks for bug and one to two days at most for packaged culture. Flip top bottles with thicker glass are ideal.

Cool, open and enjoy. May be very effervescent, have your glass ready! Brews left at warm temps for too long may EXPLODE forcefully! Fermenting in plastic two liter bottle allows for a visible notification of the level of carbonation. Store the soda in covered boxes to avoid big messes and potentially dangerous situations. i have come across a few great resources for making your own sodas (Christensen, 2013; Cresswell, 1998; Schloss, 2011).

Shrubs, Switchels and Oxymels

The items above are some classic vinegar based beverages (Dietsch & Clarke, 2016; Han, 2015; Malle & Schmickl, 2015; Rosenblum, 2017). These offer a great alternative for people that want to avoid alcohol. A whole industry around the preparation of Mocktails has understandably ensued (Bobrow & Dobard, 2015; Muir, 2015, 2018).

Alcohol Containing Beverages


Mead making can be as simple or complex as you’d like to make it. At its simplest mead making is a very affordable way to make many delectable alcoholic beverages. With greater complexity the world of possibility is practically limitless. The story of Honey diversity is one to celebrate for one. Some examples include Wildflower, Sourwood, Tupelo, Orange Blossom, Blackberry, Clover, Buckwheat, Star Thistle, Saw Palmetto, Basswood, Gallberry, Black Locust, Mangrove, Brazilian Pepper, and Tallow. Local honey is reputed to help with allergies and buying in bulk from beekeeper helps keep cost low…

The Story of Mead making culture and cultural fermentation in general is as important as the beverage itself (People, Places, Times of year, etc). i think of this as cultural topsoil borrowing from a concept learned from my friend Zev Friedman and he from his teacher Martin Prechtel.

Basic Mead Making Recipe


Honey (add 3-4 cups/gallon total liquid) Stainless Steel Pot, Carboys/Fermentation Vessels, Airlocks, Stirring Spoon, Measuring Spoons, Funnels, Tubing, Racking Cane/Tube, Bottles, Corks, Caps, Corker, Capper, Yeast, Hydrometer, Strainers. Most Important some type of record keeping apparatus.

i have in the past, but now don’t personally often use acid blends, tannins, yeast nutrient, or sulfites just for simplicity sake. Meads and wines i have made seem just fine without them. However, after about 5 – 8 years they may lose some characteristics without the use of preservatives such as some of the ones mentioned above.


The process for making mead can be very simple literally just adding honey to water at its most basic. I normally take the process a bit further in complexity. Heat water, herbs, roots, fruits and honey to 150 degrees Fahrenheit or at least warm enough to blend. Cool to 90 degrees. Pitch yeast into mixture. A primed starter culture will help the process go faster but is not always necessary with small batches or fresh yeast. Affix airlock. Place in a location out of light in a temperate place. Wrapping in a blanket etc is one way to attain such conditions in the winter. Wait until bubbling in airlock is down to once every few minutes or completely stopped. Rack into a new container as many times as desired to achieve appropriate clarity. Sterilize bottles and fill. Meads taste best after at least six months to one year of aging. However, it may be enjoyed at every stage of development.



Leaves            (Strain before pitching)     Fruits                 Seeds               Roots (ex. ¾# per 5 gal ginger)

Variations of Mead:

You can add fruit juice or ground whole fruit. This would be a Melomel. Add one gallon fruit for a five/six gallon batch. Particular melomels include: Grape (Pyment), Apple (Cyser), Pear (Pyser), Mulberry (Morat) Elder/Blueberry (Sambucinium). You can add medicinal elements. This would make it a Metheglin. Adding roots creates a (Rhizomel) and when adding Mushrooms I have coined the term (Mycomel). You can add various other culinary herbs and spices and i have documented use of over 200 species of plants and fungi among myself and my friends. For starters try adding one cup of fresh herbs or half a cup dry per gallon of mead mix.

Types of Yeast

         Companies include Lalvin, Red Star, Fermentis, White Labs. Saccharomyces bayanus or Champagne  is the sp. that makes the most alcohol and works in a wider temp range  i.e. (EC-1118, Lalvin  & Yellow Packet, Red Star). S. cerevisiae Montrachet, Red Star (good for fruit/color extraction), D 47 Lalvin (a favorite but low alcohol tolerance). White labs liquid yeast features some strain especially formulated for Mead and Cider. It is clearly more expensive. i have only worked with these on a limited basis and am hard pressed to say whether it is a better product. i have come across a few resources on the subject (Boulton & Quain, 2006; Swiegers & Pretorius, 2005; White & Zainasheff, 2010).

General Processes and Principles

“Design to Recline” a concept i picked up on from Earthaven Ecovillage and interpret to mean Do the least work necessary that is still effective and requires minimum upkeep and maintenance. Alcohol content can be measured with a Hydrometer. This is a low tech and inexpensive piece of equipment that basically measures density as related to sugar concentration and thereby potential alcohol production. There are a lot of types of sanitation i.e. One Step (Oxygen), Acid, Bleach, Baking, Campden (Sulfite) Tablets, Boiling Water, Iodine. i tend to use boiling water or Iodine. Be careful with the ability of boiling water to both break glass that is cold and burn skin that it comes in contact with!

Sometimes ferments get stuck and stop working prematurely. One may raise temperature or add more yeast or simply drink sweet. Insulate brew vessels from cold temps in winter to keep the ball rolling. Temperatures (70-90 Fahrenheit is ideal) Above 90 can get funky. Below 70 fermentation moves slower and might stop.


        Sterilize infrastructure otherwise vinegar organisms like Acetobacter spp. and Gluconobacter spp. can infect. Use a siphon and fill bottles to within 1-2” of the top. Avoid pulling up yeast from below by securing racking cane at least an inch off the bottom. For sparkling beverages add about 1tsp sugar, 1.5 tsp honey or one raisin per 12 oz bottle. Open carefully! Don’t overprime!!! Otherwise bottles may explode!!! Flip top bottles have thicker glass and are easier to use for releasing pressure.


Yeast nutrient is not something that i typically use as it has never been observed by me to be needed.

There are a lot of different kinds of acids:

                        Tartaric, Acid, (Grapes)

               Malic Acid, (Apples, Apricots, Blackberries, Cherries, Plums, Nectarines,   

               Rhubarb, Gooseberries,)

     Citric Acid (Oranges, Lemons, Currants, Strawberries, Raspberries,             


               Tannins: Store Bought, Natural (Oak, Chestnut, Grape leaves, Rubus spp.


There are various kinds of clearing agents i.e. Pectin Enzyme, Bentonite, Egg shells. i have rarely used any of these due to no need to have such a refined product.


Store around room temperature or cooler. Wait a few weeks to enjoy the bulk of your beer/ale/cider and ideally a year for the majority of wine and mead. However, you can enjoy tasting at every stage of development.

Quite a literature has explored the story of Mead around the world (Duncan & Acton, 2013; Gayre & Papazian, 1998; Minnick, 2018; Morse, 1980; Piatz, 2014; Ratliff, 2017; Schramm, 2003; Stuckler, 2013; Vargas & Gulling, 1999; Zimmerman, 2015).

Herbal Beer

1 gallon water, 1.5 lbs liquid malt, 1 cup chopped leafy material, ¼ cup sugar for priming. Heat malt in

water at around 150 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 minutes. Steep leafy material in hot liquid for at least half hour. Transfer strained liquid to carboy, cool to around70 degrees and pitch culture. Follow directions for mead above for bottling.  Charlie  Papazian (2003; 1994) is a legendary author of instruction guides regarding brewing beers. Of course many other guides have been written in the meantime as well (P. Brown, 2018; Kunath, 2018; Loftus, 2014; Moore, 1991; Shapla, 2012; Zimmerman, 2018). Hops (Humulus lupulus) are probably the most famous plant ingredient in what people think of as beer beyond the  barley or other grain (Beach, 2001; Edwardson, 1952; Eyck & Gehring, 2016; Heilshorn, 2017; Hieronymus, 2012). Ale hoof (Glechoma hederacea), Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) are a few other famous additives (Buhner, 1998).


Quite a number of authors have celebrated the diversity of beers across the world (Colen & Swinnen, 2011; Colicchio, 2011; Hampson, 2014; Hoalst-Pullen et al., 2017; Jackson et al., 2007; McGovern & Calagione, 2017; Mosher et al., 2017; Webb & Beaumont, 2016).


Some have focused on the beer traditions of the United States in particular (DeBenedetti, 2016; Donovan, 2020; Hieronymus, 2016; Lebow, 2020; Ogle, 2007; Wells, 2004).

Still others have taken a bioregional approach to looking at industries in certain states or cities of the USA (DeNote, 2014;  Flanigan, 2017; Glenn, 2012; Myers & Ficke, 2016; Revolinski, 2018; Staudter & Krakowski, 2014).


            Beer making is big business as there are now over 8,000 breweries in the United States alone comprising billions of dollars in business and over 20,000 in the world according to one source from 2018. It remains to be seen what the current global disruption will cause to the industry. A lot of consolidation has happened already in the “craft” beer space. So much so that the term craftwashing has come in to parlance. That said quite a number of publications have looked at the beer business from economic and entrepreneurial perspectives (Calagione, 2011;

Cantwell, 2013; Hennessy, 2015; Reeves, 2019; Swinnen, 2011).

Simple Liqueur

Immerse plants of choice into an 80 proof alcohol or stronger. Agitate bottle periodically for a period of two weeks to two months. Tasting until desired strength is attained. Add honey in a ratio of about 1:4 or to taste up to 1:3 to your strained alcohol tincture for a simple medicinal liqueur. Liqueurs are one of my favorite things to make and a number of great authors have taken on this subject matter (Bobrow, 2013; Durkan, 1998; Parsons, 2016; Schloss, 2013).

A great literature has cropped up around the botany of alcohol containing botanical beverages in general as well (Ahmed et al., 2018; McGowan, 2018; Stewart, 2013; Walker & Nesbitt, 2020).


            Plants and fungi are intrinsically linked. This class has elucidated many of the fantastic ways in which we can witness these connections. i hope you are encouraged to get out and find some fungi to forage and or make use of various organisms from the fungal realm in your culinary preparations. i have found the fungal kingdom to be a never ending source of learning and fascination and one of my greatest goals in life is to spread that feeling and knowledge to as many people as possible far and wide.

For the next class we will cover major Desert Plants and it will be posted around November 21st

Below are items to think about/comment on. Please write me directly at marc@botanyeveryday.com or leave information in the commentary under this class.


-          Make a list of the mushrooms around you and share that info with some people.

-          Make a ferment

-          Attend a workshop or a class and write up a brief description of fungi/plants or

information learned.

-        Post any clear photos of question plants to Facebook or send in an email.

Praises to all that have donated to the cause!!! i encourage everyone reading this to donate as they are able financially, commentarialy, or energetically... Your contributions greatly help me continue this crucial work of ethnobotanical research and education. Please let me know your thoughts in general and any way i can help this class serve you best.

Thanks, marc




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