These usually hidden away lifeform is rarely discussed. We work with these magical beings all the time. They help us in our gardening, improve our health and fight diseases, maintain the soil structure, and do a thousand other wonders.

Mushrooms growing on a dead tree trunk.
Mushrooms growing on a dead tree trunk.

Did you know that the US won WWII with help of a fungus?

Many varieties of mushrooms are eaten and a lot many have various important health benefits. They are well known to supplement the diet and improve immunity. Some of them even fight off organisms that cause diseases in humans.

Metallic Purple Mushroom
Metallic Purple Mushroom. Not edible as such, but has medicinal properties.
Turkey Tail Mushrooms
Turkey Tail Mushrooms – These have medical properties too including anti-cancer activity.

Fungi help in our gardening. They bring about the decomposition of organic matter, providing the much-needed nutrients to the plants and trees. One of the major players in composting is fungi.

White Mushrooms on a dead tree
Mushrooms on a dead tree. These hasten the decomposition and provide media for various other organisms to grow.

We use Mycorrhizae, fungi that enhance the roots of the plants and trees in our garden. They also help link the roots together. Recent research has shown that these fungi make a very strong communication network between the trees.

Some fungi like Trichoderma, help in preventing other harmful fungi from taking over the plants.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms
Turkey Tail Mushrooms

In our kitchens – Apart from the all too common button mushrooms, there are many other interesting edible varieties. Oyster, Shitake, Portobello, Enoki are some more commonly found edible varieties.

Even the uber-expensive Morel mushrooms (Guchchi mushrooms) can be found growing wild, especially a day or two after thunderstorms. However, be sure to not confuse Morels with look-alikes called False Morels.

False Morel
False Morel – These may look similar to Morels to an untrained eye. Consumption of False Morels can cause sickness. Take our help when in doubt before consuming mushrooms that you think are Morels.

Potato Mushroom
Porcini Mushroom. Edible, with a very strong taste. The villagers call it Potato Mushroom. It does look like a Potato on a stalk.

Old Ink-Cap Mushroom
Old Ink-Cap Mushroom – These are not to be eaten when the edges start turning black, and never with alcohol.

The growth of fungi mycelium and mushrooms indicate a very healthy ecosystem. Sometimes these mushrooms also pop up on our lawn.

Mushrooms growing wild in our lawn
Hare’s Foot Inkcap mushrooms growing wild on our lawn. These last just a few hours. Within a short time, these open up, and die.
Purple Mushrooms
Purple Mushrooms

Not all mushrooms are edible. In fact, most are not. So, don’t go around foraging on your own. Take us along when you want to gather these wild mushrooms.

Huge Mushrooms
Huge Mushrooms – These were about a foot in diameter and yet nowhere close to some of the large ones that we find in our region.

Fungi have immense unexplored potential. It can help in rewilding the garden, making the ecosystems healthy, purifying water resources, fighting off pests, preventing landslides, and even in fast reforestation of otherwise barren lands. Mycorestoration is the term that researchers have given to this aspect of fungi.

Copper Coloured Mushroom
Copper Coloured Mushroom

Orange Flat Mushroom
Orange Mushroom – Growing Wild deep inside a Forest

Fungi is present everywhere. Yes, inside the homes, it can be bad for health too. But, if we can understand its life, fungi can be prevented from taking over the homes, and that too without using any harmful chemicals.

And, in the garden? Learn to understand what they are trying to say and do, and then let them flourish and improve the ecosystem.

The beauty of fungi is unmatched in rains. Just take a walk in the woods and see the lovely mushrooms popping up everywhere.

Mushrooms on a Log
Mushrooms on a Log

Mushrooms growing on a wall
Mushrooms growing on a wall

Mushrooms are one of the easiest to spot signs of healthy growing fungi. They grow on walls, on old logs, from under the trees, and between the foliage on the ground.

Red Mushrooms
Bloody Brittlegill Mushrooms (Russula sanguinaria) growing in a colony. These are poisonous, but a marvel to look at.

When you visit us next time, let us go walking in the woods, and explore the wonder that these fungi are. Spot some colorful mushrooms, feel their presence in the soil, and be impressed by how important they are for our ecosystem.

Purple Mushroom
Purple Mushroom – Growing from a pile of freshly gathered soil.

Mushroom and Moss
This is an old trunk of a dead tree underneath, with large turkey-tail mushrooms. The mushrooms are further providing a surface for the moss to grow on. This is the beauty of a forest.

Fungi! What a wonder that nature has provided us.

Do you want to learn more about fungi? How to grow them and use them? Which mushrooms are edible?

Do you want to understand how mycorestoration can save our forests, gardens, water bodies, even the human race itself? Let us discuss this when we sit around the bonfire next time.