Perspectives: Tobias Lavely Mycologist and Spawn Cultivator

When I started cultivating edible wood-loving mushrooms, I immediately searched for a spawn dealer close to home. I went to Stamets’ Fungi Perfecti for guidance and got the information for Tobias Lavely, Founder of Organic Galaxy in New Richmond, Ohio. Every time I went out there to pick up grain spawn, something drew my back and that is when I asked Tobias if he would be willing to sit down to discuss some of his perspectives on nature, mycology, biodiversity and more. He kindly obliged and Tobias and I sat down in the library on the banks of the Ohio River.

Tobias got his start looking for inspiration as a media animator in college when he looked to psilocybin mushrooms for a creative muse, that soon evolved into cultivation for personal use, then a delve into literature to solve other questions that arose with cultivation, then during a 12 gram psilocybin infused tea trip he came upon the idea for Organic Galaxy, which has guided his life ever since. During first part of the interview, I asked about experiences in nature for better or worse, his best experience may have led to him discovering a new species/variety of oyster mushroom!

Tobias went on to answer my second generic question about discomfort in nature.

Both of us being mycophiles, I asked Tobias about what his thoughts about a fungal future looks like. I presented my thought about a myco-centric perspective, where would fungi develop into the future. Here are Tobias’s thoughts on a fungal future.

This next portion of the conversation fascinated me. When he started to speak of liquid inoculation in nature, it was something that I had only considered in the cultivation world. Tobias offered an image of spores from one fungal mass being carried downstream from food source to food source in a happenstance way that only nature can engineer. Listen to how Tobias describes liquid inoculation occurring in nature.

Once spores are spread throughout a system and mycelium takes over and starts to consume whichever food niche it inhabits and then what? Tobias and I spoke about how mycelium functions overall and in its role in a world dependent upon biodiversity.

Another topic that Tobias and I connected on was mycoremediation, the function of fungus to trap and remove toxic substances in the environment. This ability that restores balance to an ecosystem is purportedly present in a number of known edible and medicinal mushrooms such as oyster and turkey tail (pleurotus species and trametes versicolor species respectively), among many other known and unknown varieties. This ability can transfer the toxicity into the mushroom, thus making them unsafe to eat. Turkey tail is versatile and has been shown in research to be an effective anti-tumor supplement. Trametes Versicolor is known for its array of colors that are situated in a fan like pattern and its spore releasing apparatus are pores or tiny tubes on the underside. It is a saprophytic species found throughout the forest on fallen logs. If one can imagine the vast networks that his species has set up across the forest floor, regulating toxins, nutrients and passing information sometimes simultaneously throughout the network.

Our conversation progressed to talking about the Garden Giant, King Strophoria, also known as the Wine Cap Mushroom. These are prevalent in cultivated gardens and act as a support to growth in a garden bed. The King Strophoria will propagate throughout the soil creating air pockets and habitats for beneficial micro-organisms, driving away plant disease and doing the heavy lifting for roots to spread throughout a garden bed. The King Stropharia will myceliate an entire bed’s soil popping up mushrooms here and there, adding to the garden’s output. Knowing when to harvest and hot to prepare King Stopharia is important because once the mushroom starts to produce its spores, the taste starts to degrade and it’s edibility status quickly declines.

As we spoke about different species of mushrooms, we came upon the question of cultivation of mycorrhizal species, is it possible? Cracking this code would make very valuable mushrooms only procured by foraging plummet in price and honestly, I think that part of the appeal of eating chantrelles, truffles or matsutake is their rarity and the limited method of acquisition. Even if the mycorrhizal species method was cracked and cultivation became commonplace, there a number of technical issues that continue to impede what would be desired by a capitalist operation, including timing in terms of inoculation, harvest and other unknown variables that prevent scalable production (it may be a good thing).

As we wrapped up the interview, I asked Tobias if he had an essential message that he wanted to share. The message that came out was once of collaboration, mutual understanding and respect and a general comradery among nature lovers worldwide.

***THIS IS NOT A PAID PROMOTION***

Check out Organic Galaxy for all of your gourmet and medicinal mycelium spawn needs:

https://www.organic-galaxy.com/

Insta:

@official_organic_galaxy

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Adam Ganson

Adam Ganson

Adam Ganson is a forager, cultivator, rollerblader, & artist. His career centers around sustainability & agriculture. He draws inspiration from natural wonder.