Science Pub Presentation
Growing, hunting and preserving edible mushrooms was discussed by Washington State University researchers at the inaugural Science Pub 7- 9 p.m. Thursday, May 21, at Paradise Creek Brewery downtown.
“Famous fungus throughout history” and “growing culinary mushrooms” were the topics discussed by Zack Frederick, a Ph.D. student in plant pathology who recently has begun cultivating oyster mushrooms.
Notes from Zack: The presentation focused on the influence of fungi on human history. We technically started our journey long before humans with the arrival of plants on dry land approximately 470 million years ago. The fossil record has led some to conclude that fungi already existed on dry land at this time, and there is a theory that the colonization of land by plants required the support of fungal symbionts that were drawn from these existing populations. I tied this into humans in that land-based plants are important to life forms such as ourselves. Our evening progressed with the story of how fungal toxins have shaped human history. More specifically, we explored how fly agaric mushrooms are thought to have fueled the beserkergang rage that some Viking warriors experienced, to madness and St. Anthony’s fire induced by ergot toxins in the rye supply, and finishing off with Turkey X disease being driven by aflatoxins in peanut feed. My goal was not only to highlight the linkage of fungi on human history but to also remind the audience that the past is closer than we think, and current successes are not guaranteed into the future (i.e. those that don’t learn from their history are doomed to repeat it). There were lots of questions from the audience before, during, and after the presentation that lead me to believe it was thought-inducing.