Can You Grow Chanterelle Mushrooms?

by Graham on November 24, 2010

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While walking through Whole Foods in Boulder, I noticed that they had a wonderful selection of mushrooms for the Thanksgiving season. Bluefoots from France, Maitake from Oregon, Oysters from Colorado, King Trumpets, Black Poplar mushrooms, Shimeji mushrooms, Shiitake mushrooms, Enoki mushrooms, but what got my attention, was the huge bowl full of Chanterelles. The wonderful orange and gold color and smell gets me every time. I had to pick out a pound to bring home for the holidays. But all this got me thinking about growing Chanterelles, so I did a little research and found out some interesting information. First let me explain a little bit about mycorrhizal fungi and give a little background on the genus Cantharellus before we get too far ahead of ourselves. The word ‘mycorrhizal’ comes from Greek; ‘myco’ (fungus) and ‘rhizal’ (root). Mycorrhizal fungi have adapted a clever way to survive, by associating themselves with a specific vascular plant or plants, so as to uptake various carbohydrates (starches and sugars) that aid in the fungi’s development. The fungi achieve this by encasing/injecting mycelia into the roots of the plant, while not harming the plant’s growth. In fact, through this symbiotic relationship, the plant receives various minerals and nutrients (some of which are generally unavailable in some climates, locked up in the rock/soil), a greater ability to absorb water, resistance to parasitic fungi (i.e. blight) and soil-borne pathogens, as well as resistance to many toxic heavy metals. ectomycorrhizae cantharellus e1290574753376 Can You Grow Chanterelle Mushrooms? As you can see, this situation is very advantageous for both the plants and the fungi. So beneficial in fact, that it is believed that this is the most widespread form of symbiotic association found in the entire plant kingdom and according to dated fossils, is a relationship that is at minimum 400 million years old (for more information, and something cool to check out, Google ‘The Rhynie chert’). That is a long time to live together. Can you imagine the connection plants and fungi must have? Do they ever get sick of each other? Are fungi and plants emotional beings? These are all questions for a different blog post. Let’s get back to the topic at hand… Chanterelles! Chanterelles are a part of the genus Cantharellus which abounds with many very beautiful and very delicious fungi, all which happen to be… you guessed it, mycorrhizal fungi. For a cultivator of mushrooms, growing mycorrhizal mushrooms is a very daunting task. As I just explained above, you need specific plants to partner up with specific fungi. Did you ever see that MTV dating show, ‘Next’? There are multiple ‘dates/contestants’ picked for one person to go on a date with. This person must choose which of the contestants was what they were looking for in a mate. The mushroom cultivator is like the matchmaker in this situation. The only problem is that just like dating, each species of fungi needs different things than others for the relationship to work. Just like in the show, some relationships are more compatible than others. But beyond just finding the correct partner plant to grow with, the cultivation of Chanterelle mycelium is more difficult still. As you probably already know, mycelium is the organism of the fungi that produces the fruiting body/mushroom. To grow the mycelium away from its host plant’s roots means the cultivator must have a medium to grow it on that contains all of the essential nutrients that the host plant and environment are feeding to the fungi. While searching for information on this subject, I found a very interesting patent invented by Eric Darnell (Chanterelle Mycelium US Patent #6173525) that explains a process of selecting a viable strain of Cantharellus cibarius, the golden chanterelle. If you would like to read it in its entirety, Click Here. In this process, he uses a media called Modified Fries Medium (a medium generally used in test tube plant culture) or Murashige and Skoog Medium with several of his own additions including activated charcoal. He uses these mediums because chanterelle mycelium has very slow/non-existent growth on the standard mediums, Malt Extract Agar (MEA) and Potato Dextrose Yeast Agar (PDYA). They just don’t contain the right types of nutrients for these mycorrhizal fungi. He then also adds several antibiotics that keep the co-inhabiting bacteria and fungi sequestered. These live in symbiosis with the fungi in the wild, but would proliferate in the Petri dish and slow the growth of the chanterelle mycelium. After 17-53 days, chanterelle mycelium begins to grow inside and through the agar. He is then able to transfer pieces of the mycelium to new MFM Petri dishes, this time without antibiotics as they are no longer needed. The co-inhabiting fungi and bacteria are left behind in the previous Petri dish. They then performed genetic sequencing on the mycelium they had isolated just to make sure that it was indeed Cantharellus cibarius mycelium they were growing. Sure enough, they had come up with a way to grow chanterelles in vitro.cantharellus cibarius mycelium e1290574585859 Can You Grow Chanterelle Mushrooms? Cool and exciting stuff! But to top it off, in 1997, E. Darnell and F. Camacho produced the first ever successfully cultivated Cantharellus cibarius in a potted 16-month old Pinus sylvestris with a mycelium grown for only one year in culture. (In fact the photograph of the chanterelle at the top of the post is the first ever cultivated chanterelle) Hopefully with time, Eric Darnell can make this idea a commercially viable concept. Recently, Darnell started a Swedish company called Cantharellus AB to do just that, but has had mixed success. Many different animals and insects love his concept for chanterelle orchards, and have been giving him problems consuming and disturbing his mushroom harvest. They have planted thousands of inoculated trees that should start producing in 10 years. pot pinus cantharellus e1290574945637 Can You Grow Chanterelle Mushrooms? So far, the study of mycorrhizal mushrooms and their cultivation is still in its infancy, but is rewarding for those who have the patience to study these amazing and delicious fungi. For more information visit Eric Darnell’s Cantharellus Site or Chanterelle Mycelium US Patent. Another interesting pdf I found at David Arora’s site that he helped write is called A New, Commercially Valuable Chanterelle Species, Cantharellus californicus sp. You should check it out! Well, that’s all for now. Have a good and happy Thanksgiving!
References below:
Danell E & Camacho F (1997) Successful cultivation of the golden chanterelle. Nature, 385: 303. In the same issue of Nature on pages 299-300, Professor Roy Watling presents “The business of fructification”
Oh and all the pictures from this post were from Eric Darnell’s site with link above.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniel December 17, 2010 at 5:46 pm

great post, thanks for sharing

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Graham January 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Thank you for stopping by!!

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