July 28, 2020, at 10:56 AM (0 comments)
How we got into Kombucha
Where to begin!!!?? It all starts with curiosity with the world, how things works;Goal: finding efficient, sustainable and practically applicable life improvements. My whole life my father taught me to "Use My Wits". I've taken this to heart, and now with the internet, using your wits got incalculably easier. Anything you are interested in can be found online, albeit with some crafty searching. Often what I search for isn't readily found in its entirety. I have to piece together bits of information, interject my own creative process, and come up with recipes and new ways of doing things. Kombucha is no different.
My first exposure to Kombucha came 10 years ago, when my friend Geordie Schimmel talked to me about "Mushroom Tea". I already had a fascination with Mushrooms, and a mushroom tea... "Hello, nice to meet you mushroom tea". After sampling his brew, and enjoying it, I knew it was something I would want to dive into on my own at a later point.
One of the things I always tell my kids, and kids at schools where I talk is... Observe your surroundings, take notes of everything you see. If you have questions about something, look it up... find out about it.. Explore your world. Now more than ever, learning anything you want to know is at the tip of your fingers.. literally...
My first Kombucha experience occurred in Corpus Christi, TX, and that experience was researched a bit and then filed away under cool things I would like to try one day. Fast forward 10 years later, and a move to Houston, TX, little did I know that opportunity was about to come up. Moving from a beach town where we spent free time on the water, to North Houston where we were surrounded by forests was a bit of a culture shock for me. Here I was in one of the largest cities in the US, no friends, and surrounded by unfamiliar surroundings... This was when my mental rolodex started throwing ideas to me. Mushrooms, gardening, permaculture, worm farming, hiking...
Mushrooms were the first thing I noticed when I got to Houston. There were new types around and I started noticing and documenting all the new species I saw. In addition to just observing, I started getting more serious about inoculating loads of ShiitakeLogs. Living in the forest, there is no shortage of hardwood, so I quickly assembled the materials needed, and had the family assembly line in full effect. We inoculated logs for weeks. Everyone helped, it was really fun. In addition to inoculating logs, which is really fun, but its what I call a BeignNeglect project. Which is one of my favorite type of things to participate in. Basically, its a project that takes preparation, attention to detail, a solid, well planned execution, and then, you do nothing... And your work starts to blossom with little to no extra work. For someone like me who works full time, has a family of 5, these types of projects are ideal. I can do all the research needed to make something successful, do the work on weekends and after work, and then sit back and let nature do its thing. BenignNeglect is one of my favorite themes to the projects I take on. The idea that you set things in motion, and rely on science to do its thing makes me very happy, and fits into my current lifestyle.
My family and I did all kinds of other mushroom projects. We inoculated a bed of GardenGiantMushrooms in our backyard. Which was another cool project because it taught us how to inoculate areas of the ground with mushrooms spawn. So in addition to being able to grow on logs, we were now growing them in prepared beds in the backyard. From there we started cultivating ShiitakeMushrooms, OysterMushrooms indoors in pre-made grow kits. While these were very cool, they were taking too much daily interaction for us to be prolific in our production. We did have many good meals out of them, and had fun watching them grow day to day, but it took too much daily interaction to keep the conditions right. Indoor Mushroom growing was eventually shelved into the mental rolodex, for a later date when I could setup a dedicated growing facility,and have it setup for a BenignNeglect scenario.
I know, you are wondering, where is the Kombucha?!? Isnt that where this story is supposed to be going.. And yes im getting to it.
So, one day on a bike ride with my kids, it was getting dark in our neighborhood And at the time my son was young, and ready to get home... we were about a block away when something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. It was a bright yellow mushroom. I tried to stop to take a look at it, but my son wanted nothing to do with it. So, that went to a temp folder, and I quickly brought him home. Once home, I told my wife, I needed to head out real quick before it got too dark, I saw something and wanted to go investigate further.
As I ran out of the house with the sun going down, I rushed back to try and piece together just where the yellow apparition had appeared.... Low and behold, I found it!!! It was a little yellow mushroom, unlike any I had every found in the forests previously. Its color is what caught my eye, but upon further inspection, it had all kinds of interesting characteristics. Falso Gills ( Almost like veins on the underside), it had stout stem, and smelled fruity. I harvested it and took it home.
My gut instincts were telling me this was a ChanterelleMushroom, but I had never found one in the field before. In fact, I had never in my life eaten a mushroom off the ground that I did not intentionally cultivate. My anxiety was through the roof. One thing you may want to know about me, is that I am very careful with putting things in my body. I don't like medicines, and when I have to take them, I am always paranoid about dosage, and the effects they have. I think this inherent paranoia, combined with the fact that I knew some mushrooms could kill you, combined with an inner/deeper voice calling out to me to be very careful, led me to not eat it. Infact, it stayed on my counter for a few days while I researched the heck out of it. In retrospect, the ChanterelleMushroom is one of the easiest mushrooms to identify in the wild, but mushrooms have a strange visceral response in people. They conjure up deep seeded gut feelings related to mysticism, power, hallucinating, death... This is one of the things that has really drawn me into being interested in mushrooms. They are an archetype that seems to go back a millenia. Everyone has a deep seeded, immediate gut check when it comes to mushroms. PaulStamets calls this the Mycophile / Mycophobic paradigm. How cool is it that a species can have such visceral reactions in people.
When I started to find more of these mushrooms, I began to come closer to being comfortable consuming them. I was still terrified of getting a wrong identification. Even though I had some so much research, and was 99.9% sure they were chanterelles, I was still nervous.
Finally one day, I decided to cook a few of them. I sautéed them in with olive oil and butter until they were well cooked, and added some salt. Of course, I waited until I was alone in the house, and went ahead and tried them. I thought they tasted good, and felt comfortable with my decision and research confirming the species. Sure enough, a few minutes later, the dread and fear creeped in and I started to have an anxiety attack of sorts. I even called my wife and asked her to be on standby in case I needed medical attention rapidly. Of course, I was 100% fine in the end, as they were chanterelles. From that day on my life was changed!!! I could identify an amazingly bountiful mushroom found in the woods near my house, and felt comfortable eating it!! Not to mention they cost about $40/lb in the store.