About these ads

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

About these ads

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

Summit Voice: Weekly roundup

Water wars, chapter 33?

sd

A new study spells out environmental impacts of new diversions from the Colorado River Basin.

By Bob Berwyn

The tug of war over western water is a never-ending source of fascination and a vital topic for everyone in Colorado. In the past couple of weeks, water users on both sides of the Continental Divide have started digesting details of a massive environmental study that spells out the impacts of new diversions from the Fraser River, a key headwaters stream in the Upper Colorado River Basin.

The story is complex and deserves in-depth and sustained coverage. I took a stab at an overview for the Boulder Weekly after talking to some really smart people about how the proposed Moffat Tunnel Collection System expansion might play out. Will there be enough common ground? Or will the push to take even more water from the Colorado spur an all-out water war?

One thing is for sure: Cheap water shouldn’t be the fuel for population growth and speculative real estate development, and water planning needs to be more fully incorporated into land use planning, including in the upcoming state water plan. If there is a disconnect between the state water plan and land use, the plan is doomed to fail.

Read more about the latest push to divert more of the Colorado River: “Water has never come easy in the West, and when people start eying the last few drops of an already dying river, things can get tense in a hurry, even in an era of Colorado River Kumbaya …”

Morel madness

M-mmmmorels! Photo courtesy Donald Hughes.

M-mmmmorels! Photo courtesy Donald Hughes.

I also reported on the start of the wild mushroom foraging season in Colorado, which starts in the grassy cottonwood bosques along the Front Range, when tasty morels start to sprout in hidden clumps. Morel, along with several other fungi, are important players in wildfire ecology, helping to prepare the soil at a very mollecular level for new shrub, grass and tree growth.

Read more: “Mushroom hunters are a strange bunch to begin with, scurrying through the forest with their eyes glued to all the damp and shady spots on the ground, hoping to find that treasure trove of delectable fungi …”

Frack no more!

And in case you missed it the previous week, the Boulder Weekly also let me ramble on about beer, fracking and travel in the food section, as I tried to track down whether there is any real threat to Colorado brewers. Read the story here: “As a red-blooded American beer enthusiast with deep roots in beer culture, I got a little riled up when I read a press release a few months ago from a group of brewers concerned about the potential impacts of fracking to their water supplies …”

Deep sea dump

For Summit Voice I interviewed marine ecology professor Kerry Howell about her study of human garbage that’s piling up in some of the most remote ocean depths. Heineken beer cans, Uncle Ben’s rice packets and more, all washing off land and down into submarine canyons, where samples across wide swaths of sea bottom, from the Arctic to the Azores, showed as many as 10 pieces of garbage per acre. Rea the story here: “It’s not the best when your feeding apparatus is covered with plastic …”

Pay to play?

Nobody in Colorado covers recreation fees like Summit Voice. The controversial pay to play program is back in the news, as a California judge ruled that the Forest Service violating the law by charging a general public lands admission fee with a widespread adventure pass program. At stake is free access to trailhead parking on public lands across the country. Read: “The Forest Service is prohibited from charging a fee solely for parking. If a visitor does nothing other than park, the fee is solely for parking and is, therefore, plainly prohibited by the REA,” the court ruled, referencing previous court decisions …”

A few more headlines:

Feds see $470 million gap in firefighting budget

Climate: Scientists surprised by level of ocean acidification impacts off the West Coast of U.S.

Can Squaw Valley slow the development juggernaut?

Wolves just can’t catch seem to a break in the West

 

 

Mushrooms create mini-windstorms to spread spores

Releases of water vapor create convective movements

sdfg

A parasol mushroom growing in Austria. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — We’ve all heard of microclimates, where topography and other factors can affect weather on a very local level. But new research suggests that mushrooms take that concept to whole new level, creating their own mini-windstorms to help spread spores.

Biologists have long thought that the spores produced by a mushroom’s cap simply drop into the wind and blow away. But observers have noted that spores disperse even when the air is still. It took a detailed study by fluid dynamics researchers find the answer.

Using high-speed videography and mathematical modeling of spore dispersal in commercially grown oyster and Shiitake mushrooms, they found that the fungi created their wind by releasing water vapor. The vapor cools the air locally, and this creates convective cells that move the air around in the mushroom’s vicinity. Continue reading

Morning photo: Mushroom madness

Forest comes alive with fungi

df

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: Saturday …

Whew!

asdf

Here’s how the day started in Summit County, with a little help from Instagram.

FRISCO — Labor Day weekend got off to a good, if somewhat soggy, start, with visitors from the Front Range and around the country thronging the high country for one last summer weekend, even as ski resorts started ramping up sales efforts for season passes. But the lingering monsoon has kept things pretty warm. The moist air acts like a blanket; so far we haven’t had those first few crisp nights that often do in late August, but nobody is complaining. Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,761 other followers