2023 Plant Talk 15: Plants, Fermentation and Fungi

Plant Talk 15 Plants, Fermentation 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. Killing frost has come and gone though it has been relatively warm subsequently.

A few Asteraceae that are still strong and persistent enough to be blooming include Asters (Symphyotrichum spp.) Daisies/Mums (Chrysanthemum/Leucanthemum spp.) and Golden Asters (Chrysopsis, Heterotheca, Pityopsis).


Some woody plants that bloom this time of year include Camellia spp. and Witchazel (Hamamelis virginiana). (Baccharis halimifolia) is a woody member of the Asteraceae blooming profusely in the Piedmont of the southeastern USA where i have been spending a lot of time lately and probably throughout the southwest where there are many more species of this genus as well.


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 freshly harvested and brought in for the winter. Though some friends are starting to overwinter Turmeric well mulched outside in what was our traditional Zone 6b now treated often as more 7b! Many of you will be familiar with the recent change in climate zones for the first time in 10 years courtesy of the USDA. Would take exception that with the granularity of mountain microclimates the sub-zero temps reflected by 6b are still possible just not as likely for better or worse given how surprising they now can be.


Dahlia’s will also need to be dug or mulched heavily soon. Less commonly known in the USA is that some Dahlias 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 (Wyk, 2019). Then there are the Asian members of the Brassica rapa group such as Asian Cabbage, Bok Choi, Pak Choi and Tat Soi among others (Hong & Gruda, 2020; L.-Z. Lin & Harnly, 2010).  


Wild greens also include members of the Brassicaceae such as Barbarea sp and Cardamine spp. as well as items like Chickweed (Stellaria media),



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., Rose (Rosa spp.), Rowans (Sorbus spp.) Acorns from Oaks (Quercus spp.) are also available along with nuts from Hickories (Carya spp.) and Walnuts (Juglans spp.).


The Fungal Plant Connection


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 (Brodo et al., 2001; Purvis, 2000; Richardson, 1975; Stephenson, 2010). 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 2023.


Ecologically speaking certain Mushrooms tend to cohabitate with certain plants. A classic division being mushrooms of Oak forests versus the fungi growing in Coniferous forests. A great guide by Denise Binion (2008) for the Macrofungi associated with Oaks of Eastern Forests illustrates this trend nicely.


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. 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 sensu lato in particular features many edibles and medicinals and not much that is poisonous. However many groups like the Agaricaceae, Boletaceae sensu lato 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; Kendrick, 2017; D. Moore et al., 2020; Petersen, 2013; Roberts & Evans, 2011; Stephenson, 2010; Watkinson et al., 2016).  Here is a short article by the Guardian entitled the Future is Fungal in regards to the growing importance of Mycology. Here is a short video by the BBC about the Fascinating World of Fungi as well. Here is a website for the late Tom Volk of the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse that has a lot of intriguing information.



Mushroom Field Guides

Guides to terminology may help in interpretation of more technical resources (Hallock, 2019; Hanlin, 2012).


Many regional field guides that i have traditionally relied on for the southeastern USA and Appalachia in particular 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; Woehrel & Light, 2017).

Alan and Arleen Bessette are legends in regards to the publishing of field guides in particular focusing on specific families or bioregions, as well as teaching classes in the field at places such as the Highlands Biological Station (A. Bessette, 1988; A. Bessette et al., 2001, 2018, 2021; A. E. Bessette et al., 1996, 2007, 2019, 2023). They have helped write a number of specialized guides to rather obscure groups like the Ascomyctetes (Beug et al., 2014),  Wax Caps (A. Bessette, 2012) and Tricholomas (Trudell;, 2013). One of the most recent additions to their over 30 book catalog of this power couple is a long needed updated treatise on the Polypores and their associates (A. E. Bessette et al., 2021).

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 as well.

Certain groups like the Boletes have their own specialized literature (A. Bessette, 2010; A. Bessette et al., 2017; Both, 1993; Coker & Beers, 1974; Dentinger et al., 2010; Halling & Mueller, 1999; McNabb, 1968; Murrill, 1909; Smith & Thiers, 1970; Y. Wang et al., 2023; Wu et al., 2014, 2016). 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.

Russula spp. and other genera of the Russulaceae such as Lactarius and associates are some other examples of a well described and often consumed but sometimes poisonous fungal group that grow around the temperate world (Beardslee, 1918; A. Bessette, 2009; Das & Sharma, 2005; Delgat et al., 2019; Earle, 1902; Hackel et al., 2022; Hesler & Smith, 1979; Kim et al., 2010, 2010; S. Lin et al., 2015, 2015; Looney et al., 2018; Matsuura et al., 2016; Vidal et al., 2019).

The Amanitaceae are both well described and one of the most important to know as they are responsible for a lion’s share of the mycophagic poisonings in the world (Bunyard & Justice, 2020; Cui et al., 2018; Davison et al., 2021; Kumar et al., 2021; Pegler & Shah-Smith, 1997; Zhou et al., 2023; 祝良 & 祥兌, 1999). They also have their whole own website www.amanitaceae.org .

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, Ken Crouse, Mateo Ryall, Mike Hopping, Mycol Stevens, Paul Stamets, Robert Rogers, Todd Elliott, Tradd Cotter, and William Padilla Brown. Alan in particular has been the subject of a lot of local and National Press like the NY Times article about Mushroom hunting and mushrooms that glow in the dark. Some great printed guides as well as mushroom related tours in the Himalayas and South America can be found courtesy of Daniel Winkler at the following website. www.mushroaming.com.


Lichen field guides have been developed for various areas as well

California (Sharnoff & Raven, 2014)

New Zealand (Galloway, 1985; Gordon, 1980; Malcolm & Malcolm, 1996)

Costa Rica (Kappelle & Sipman, 1992; Lücking et al., 2008; Purvis, 2000; Umaña & Sipman, 2002)

NE USA (Pope, 2005)

Colorado (Tripp, 2017)

Pacific Northwest (McCune, 2009; Vitt et al., 2007)

Eastern USA (Hale, 1961)

Rocky Mountains (McClure, 1992)

Midwest USA (Walewski, 2007)

Smoky Mountains (Lendemer et al., 2013; Tripp & Lendemer, 2020)

Mt. Mitchell (Lendemer et al., 2017)

Sonoran Desert (Nash, 2002, 2004; Nash et al., 2007)

Namib (Wirth, 2010)

Urban (Allen, 2021)

A number of mostly older treatments at the genus level across North America have also been pursued (Gowan, 1989; Thell et al., 1995; Thomson, 1967, 1991).


A couple books take on all the lichens of North America (Allen et al., 2019; Brodo et al., 2001, 2016; Payette & Delwaide, 2018). Here is a guide developed especially for young people as well (McMullin, 2022).

Many lichens are famous as natural dyes (Bolton, 1972; Casselman, 2001, 2011; Gordon, 1980; Lindsay, 1855; McClure, 1992; McGrath, 1977). Though growth rates can be VERY slow and conservation is an important concern (Allen, 2017; Allen et al., 2019; Casselman, 1994; Giordani et al., 2020; Miller et al., 2020). Only using species that are windblown from storms or otherwise elementally disturbed is one ethical practice to implement.

Ethnolichenology around the world in general is also very much a thing (Allen, 2017; Devkota et al., 2017; Ignace et al., 2017; Kalle & Sõukand, 2012; Richardson, 1975; R. D. Rogers, 2014; Schenk, 1997; St.Clair & Seaward, 2004; Uzunov & Stoyneva-Gärtner, 2015; Yang et al., 2021).


The prevalent idea around the science of Ethnomycology is often focused on Entheogens also known as psychedelics. The academic study of these types of practices in indigenous cultures in various parts of the world goes back decades (Estrada et al., 1981; Mandrake & Haze, 2016; McKenna et al., 2018; Menser, 1996; Metzner, 2005; Ratsch & Hofmann, 2005; Stamets, 1996; 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 this 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  (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. Here is an interesting BBC article on psychedelic mushrooms. Here is a Guardian article on the subject as well.

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 various parts of Africa to Bulgaria to China and also worldwide (Akpaja et al., 2003; Degreef et al., 2016; Dugan, 2011; Dzomeku, 2009; Ellen, 2008; Fernandes et al., 2021; Guissou et al., 2008; Kang et al., 2012; Ngom et al., 2022; Njouonkou et al., 2016; Osarenkhoe et al., 2014; Papp et al., 2017; Seid, 2014; Sitotaw et al., 2020; Uzunov & Stoyneva-Gärtner, 2015; Yamin‐Pasternak, 2011).

Poisonous Mushrooms

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

Choice Edible

Potentially Poisonous



Chanterelle (Cantharellus spp.)

Jack O Lantern (Omphalotus illudens)

Honey (Armillaria spp.)

Autumn Skullcap (Galerina sp.)

Milk Mushrooms (Lactarius spp.) sensu lato

Milk Mushrooms (Lactarius spp.) sensu lato

Morel (Morchella spp.)

Brain Mushroom (Gyromitra spp.)

Button/Field Mushrooms (Agaricus spp.)

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

Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus spp.)

Brown spored fleshy grey mushrooms growing on wood

Puffball (Lycoperdon spp.)

Earthball (Scleroderma spp.) 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; Hall et al., 2003; He et al., 2022; Kilkan, 2016; Levy, 1984; S. Lin et al., 2015; Menser, 1996; Murrill, 1910; Ratcliff, 2016; Saviuc & Danel, 2012; Schenk-Jaeger et al., 2012; Trestrail, 1991; Turner & Aderkas, 2009; Turner & Szczawinski, 1995).

The Amanita spp. mentioned above are some of the most deadly poisonous mushrooms in the world and sometime confused with look a likes. 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 quite a number 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.

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 can cause various diseases on plants. The edible Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria spp.) that is the biggest known organism in the world is a predator of the forests in which they live.

Choice Edibles

Mushroom harvesting is rather seasonal where i mostly live in southern Appalachia. 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). Deer mushroom (Pluteus cervinus), Pheasant’s Back (Cerioporus squamosus) and Platterful (Megacollybia platyphylla) 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), Honey (Armillaria spp.), Oyster (Pleurotus spp.) and Puffball (Lycoperdon spp.) mushrooms.

Mushroom cultivation often focuses on choice edibles like Oysters, Portobello and Shiitakes. Wood Ear (Auricularia spp.) and Enoki (Flammulina populicola) are cultivated in large quantities in Asia as well. A number of good resources take on the subject of farming mushrooms specifically (Bray, 2019; Ciju, 2012; Cotter, 2014; Lynch, 2018; Randall, 2012; Russell, 2014; Sewak & Sewak, 2016; Stamets, 1984, 2000). A few companies for supplies and further info include Mushroom Mountain,  Mushroom People and Field & Forest.

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 (Bailleu, 2016; G. Brown et al., 2008; Czarnecki, 2019; Jacobs, 2019; Maser et al., 2008; Price, 2009; Renowden, 2005; Séguret, 2021; J. M. Trappe et al., 2009; M. Trappe et al., 2007; P. Wells, 2011). Around Asheville, NC we have had a Truffle Festival in recent years. Dr. Jeanine Davis has been conducting research along with other in the cultivation of Truffles as well (Meadows et al., 2020). At the 2023 meeting of the North American Mycological Association i learned of the work of researcher and Ph.D. candidate Ben Lemmond  (2023; 2022) which is at the cutting edge of this space.

Mushrooms for Medicine

The Polyporaceae is the biggest focus for medicinals in regards to diversity. The genera Ganoderma, Trametes are some of the most studied and cited. Other famous medicinals include Cordyceps spp., Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus), Shiitake (Lentinus spp.) and Wood Ear (Auricularia spp.). The literature in book form regarding medicinal mushrooms has greatly proliferated in the last couple of decades (Babel, 2011; Bray, 2020; Halpern, 2007; Hobbs, 2021; Hobbs & Beinfield, 2003; Ley, 2001; Marley, 2009; Powell, 2013; Press, 2020; R. D. Rogers, 2020; R. Rogers & Wasser, 2011; Stamets & Yao, 1999; Stengler, 2005; Sullivan, n.d.; Sullivan et al., 2006). There is also the academic periodical publication dedicated to the subject the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms.

Financial health of a community is something else i consider under the medicinal category. Some of my favorite sources for mushroom medicine include on the national level: GAIA herbs, Fungi Perfecti, and Herb Pharm. Locally to the Asheville, North Carolina area include Ferafarm Apothecary, Mirth Tree Herbals, Mushroom Metta, Mushroom Mountain, Pine’s Herbals, Pisgah Gourmet, Red Moon Herbs and the Well Seasoned Table to name a few good sources. Here is a nice short article courtesy of Mountain Rose herbs about some of the prominent medicinal mushrooms.

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 as cited above too.

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. A tradition from Eastern Europe with felting for crafts with Piptoporus betulinus and Fomes fometarius has been documented (Papp et al., 2017). Here’s a short You Tube video on the subject. Here’s a great website for exploring the color range of fungi https://mushroomcoloratlas.com/.

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 conchs to carry the embers of a fire from place to place (Hume, 2018).


            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; McCoy, 2016; Prasad, 2018; Schindler, 2014; Singh, 2006; Umolo et al., 2017).

The science of Mycology of the soil is closely tied to Mycoremediation. The case of agriculture makes it 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 in Canada are two great proponents of this knowledge. Elaine Ingham is another North American scientist looking at the overall soil food web that mycological elements play a part in (Ingham, 2005; Ingham et al., 2000). Michael Phillips (2017) was an orchardist who has written about the fungal plant connection in relation to fruit trees. Here is an article by the Guardian about an attempt to map the fungal networks underground. Here is an interesting website exploring the applications of mycoremediation on the ground with often disadvantaged communities. http://www.amazonmycorenewal.org/.

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 process 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)



Sourdough wheat breads and porridges are common to a number of cultures.

Njera from Ethiopia and dosas/idlis from India are a couple notable examples


Beverage/Liquid/Stimulant ferments:

Coffee (Ethiopia), tea (Asia), chocolate (Latin America), vinegar, rejuvelac, kombucha (Asia), jun (Asia), kvass (Eastern Europe)

Alcohol ferments:

Mead, cider, beer, liquor, wine are prolific throughout the world

Amasake (Japan) and tepache, tiswin and chichi from Latin America are a few varieties.

Dairy ferments:

Buttermilk, cheese, kefir, skir, yogurt,

Meat ferments:

Procuitto, salami, bacon, ham, fish, miriss (fat), and doddery (bone). The folks of Sudan and the Artic are masters at this form of fermentation (Dirar, 1993; Hesseltine, 1986; Katz, 2012; Steinkraus, 2004).


Fermentation has been used for thousands of years all over the world by every indigenous group. 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, Lituanian (Roguszys) (Katz & Morell, 2016). Certain food products are almost synonymous with the human cultures they have evolved with.  First global ferments were all bitter stimulants. Later these were watered down with milk and sugar. Some contend that these stimulants provided essential fuel for the industrial revolution. Fermented products are often used sparingly as condiments, which is probably a good practice to follow. Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is a concept explored in anthropology that tries to incorporate holistically the nuances of cultural regimes.

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; Mollison, 1993).

Current Inspirations

Chelsea Green is a great publishing house for many great resources on fermentation. 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, 2021; 2016) is a living legend in the realm of fermentation and 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 in 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!

e.g. April Rainstar, Booda, Botanist and Barrel, Buchi, Fermenti, Locally Good, Miso Master, Pure Fire, Serotonin Ferments, Shanti Jun Elixers, Smiling Hara Tempeh, Soul Shine Farm and Ferments, Sweet Brine’d, and Yoga Bucha are all examples of businesses featured at the festival 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 more microbiological cells than 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 ferments factors: 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 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. Important to realize that fermentation is a very safe way to preserve food and enhance its flavor in general.



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


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,


The difference to me between Sauerkraut and Kimchi 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).

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 sour further as well. Great flavorings include sea salt, rosemary and olive oil.

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. Make sure to use some type of fat liberally as they have a tendency to stick!

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.

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. Here’s a great article from the website Nourishing Plot that cites academic literature about the probiotic count of dairy Kefir.



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).

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). MSN has an interesting article about some of the World’s Most Outrageous Soda Flavors. Here’s a BBC article about the neat Finnish beverage known as Sima. i came across a shocking article about the Nazi past of the Coca Cola owned Fanta soda as well.

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 (People, Places, Times of year, etc)

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.


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, they 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. Add one cup of fresh herbs or half a cup dry per gallon of mead mix for starters and then adjust to taste.

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). These dried yeast come in a packet with sufficient quantity to make 5 gallons. If making less volume than that one can use a portion and fold up the packet and store it in fridge for a few weeks to months. Dried bread yeast from the grocery store can be used as well but does not taste as good in wine.

White labs liquid yeast features some strains 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. Here are a few books 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.

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, Tangerines)

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

There are various kinds of clearing agents i.e. Pectin Enzyme, Bentonite, Egg shells. I have rarely used any of these as i find 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; Ga, 2016; Gayre & Papazian, 1998; Koguchi et al., 2009; Kublickas, 2016; Lee et al., 2012; Minnick, 2018; Morse, 1980; Piatz, 2014; Ratliff, 2017; Schramm, 2003; Šmogrovičová et al., 2012; 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 liquid to carboy, cool to around70 degrees and pitch culture. Follow directions for mead above for bottling.  Charlie  Papazian (1994, 2003) 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; Buhner, 1998; Kunath, 2018; Loftus, 2014; W. 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).

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; K. Wells, 2004). Here is an article by Vinepair about the biggest breweries in each state of the USA.

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. It remains to be seen what the current global disruption will cause to the industry.

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). Here is an

interesting BBC article about the history of beer.

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).

i came across a non-alcohol containing liquor alternative called Ritual Zero Proof but don’t know how applicable that would be in this circumstance especially stored without refrigeration as the alcohol acts as a preservative.


            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 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 December 1st

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

-          Look up some of the families mentioned in this post in Botany in a Day and share some information about

them with the group. Or provide info from your personal experience

-         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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