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Unlocking the secrets of truffle aroma

Scientists say soil microbes key to fungi’s distinctive aroma

An Oregon white truffle, courtesy Oregon State University

An Oregon white truffle, courtesy Oregon State University

Staff Report

FRISCO — Mushroom season may be over the Colorado high country, but in parts of Europe, it’s the peak of the truffle season, as hundreds of gourmets scour oak forests to find the fragrant buried fungi, often with the help of animals.

Now scientists say that the scent of the hidden edible treasures is largely produced not by the fungi itself, but by soil bacteria trapped inside truffle fruiting bodies, a discovery of interest not only to mycophiles, but to scientists speciazing in food flavors.

The study involved white truffles from the Piedmont region in Italy, which can cost up to 5,000 Euro per kilo (about $4,000 a pound), and black truffles from the Périgord region in Southern France. Particularly large specimens even fetch prices of up to 50,000 Euro per kilogram at auctions. Continue reading

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Morning photo: Treeline!

‘Shroom hunting in Colorado

Evening vista in Mayflower Gulch, Summit County, Colorado.

Evening vista of the Tenmile Range, Summit County, Colorado.

FRISCO — Aug. 31 is a bit late for the peak of the mushroom season in Colorado, but after a stream of rainy days, we headed up high, near treeline, to search for fungi. In some of the moist, north-facing draws along the rough road into the Tenmile Range, we found a profusion of mushrooms, as many as 10 species in a square meter, including funky corals, puffballs and tasty wild agaricus, an edible variety closely related to grocery store mushrooms.

Seeing the mushrooms at peak season, bursting through a living tapestry of moss and lichen, makes me realize how big a part of the forest life force these humble fungi really are, locking carbon deep in the soil and helping the trees, old and young, absorb nutrients from the thin Rocky Mountain soil. Continue reading

Morning photo: ‘Shroom hunting!

Prime time for Colorado fungi

Colorado mushrooms

Clavaria purpurea, purple coral mushroom growing in the Tenmile Range near Frisco, Colorado.

FRISCO — For a couple of weeks every summer I need to set aside extra time every few days to search for wild mushrooms. It’s not just the eating — I’m totally fascinated by the role fungi have in forest ecosystems, with some recent studies suggesting that they may be the key drivers of the forest carbon carbon cycle because of how they interact with plants to sequester carbon deep in forest soils. This morning, during a short walk in the Tenmile Range, I found one decaying section of a log, about two square feet, home to at least six species of fungi (that I could see), along with many more types of moss and lichen, all woven into a living, organic mat on the forest floor. And, as icing on the cake, I did find a couple of Boletus edulis, delicious edibles sought after around the world under various names, including porcini and cep. Continue reading

Forest fungi help stabilize climate during low CO2 times

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Yet another study shows how fungi may play a key role in regulating carbon.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — While most current climate research focuses on increasing levels of carbon dioxide, scientists in the UK recently studied long-past eras when CO2 levels were much lower, and discovered a biological mechanism that could explain how the Earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide and climate were stabilized over the past 24 million years.

When CO2 levels became too low for plants to grow properly, forests appear to have kept the climate in check by slowing down the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The report has been published in Biogeosciences, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union.

“As CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere fall, the Earth loses its greenhouse effect, which can lead to glacial conditions,” said lead-author Joe Quirk, with the University of Sheffield. “Over the last 24 million years, the geologic conditions were such that atmospheric CO2 could have fallen to very low levels … but it did not drop below a minimum concentration of about 180 to 200 parts per million. Why?” Continue reading

Study: Fungi play key role in global carbon cycle

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The role of fungi must be considered in carbon models.

Interaction between plants, fungi and bacteria determine how much carbon is stored in soils

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Certain types of fungi that live symbiotically with plants play a crucial role in the global carbon cycle by regulating how much carbon is stored by soils.

According to a new study by scientists with the University of Texas at Austin, Boston University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the fungi have a bigger effect that most other factors, including including the amount of plant growth, temperature and rainfall.

Another recent study from Sweden also showed that mycorrhizal fungi are trapping the carbon deep in the ground as part of the process of nutrient exchange between the fungi and plant species. Continue reading

Morning photo: Mushroom madness

Forest comes alive with fungi

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A wild Agaricus mushroom, closely related to commercial button mushrooms found in grocery stores.

FRISCO —It’s pretty hard to walk anywhere in local forests and fields without stumbling across a patch of mushrooms. Lingering monsoon rains and relatively warm temperatures have fostered an incredible diversity of fungi this year.In many years, we’ve had at least a couple of frosts by this time of year, which generally means the end of the season for all but the heartiest species. During a short walk near Officers Gulch Thursday I spotted more than 30 species in less than 15 minutes before losing count, and there are at least a half-dozen species growing in the landscaped areas around our Frisco townhome complex. Get out and enjoy it now, because it may well be several years before we have another season like this one. Continue reading

Morning photo: Fantastic fungi

They’re everywhere!

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A russula pushes up through forest litter.

FRISCO — It’s hard to take a walk in the woods these days without stumbling on mushrooms. They’re everywhere — pushing up through the hard dirt of roadside berms, growing on stumps, pine needles and leaves and hiding beneath the wet grass. Some of the species showing themselves are only found when there’s a late and sustained rainy season in the high country, and the emergence of species like shaggy ink cap (below) means that it’s getting to the end of mushroom season. All the shots in this set were taken during a 20-minute walk near the Meadow Creek trailhead. All the fungi were growing within 50 feet of the road. Continue reading

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