Sunday, March 14, 2010

Book Review #4: Mushroom Cultivator: A Practical Guide to Growing Mushrooms at Home by Paul Stamets and J. S. Chilton

It's been exactly a dozen years since I've first read Mushroom Cultivator. At the time, I was finishing my Botany degree at Miami. I was immersed in plant cell tissue culture,taking a scanning electron microscopy course, doing a little help at a Cinci shiitake farm, hunting morels in the spingtime, and reading other mushroom texts.

With all that being said, Mushroom Cultivator is not the masterpiece that I remember from my days of old. The terms "practical" and "home" don't actually seem to apply. The writing and general presentation of the book is choppy-choppy. This may be the result of two authors. Then, there's all the scientific jargon and the always reader popular latin names. Don't get me wrong, Mushroom Cultivator is full of awesome information and is an encyclopedia of growth parameters; however, it feels like a trip to the dentist office, extraction is just painful.

I know home is where the heart is; however for the purposes of literature, "home" needs to be defined to determine if this book may be "practical" to you. One defining question could be, in your town/village/city/hamlet/countryside oasis/suburb/farm, could you have a five foot tall by four foot deep and wide horse manure compost pile? If so, this book may be "practical" to you.

I use the compost pile as an example because after an exhaustive 30 page discourse on the details of hot composting a one ton pile of horse manure straw bedding, the authors switch gears to non-composted substrates. Immediately, the non-composted substrates seem more practical to the home grower and include simpler materials like straw and woodchips. However, this section is breezed through, which basically left the door open for Mr. Stamets next book (a classic marketing technique). And of course, I own the next book and will review it in a few months.

By the way, this author, here and now, being Justin Husher, wants to say that as much as I find Mushroom Cultivator frustrating, I find his next, next book, or maybe even his next, next, next book, Mycelium Running to be worthy of a Nobel prize. I, hereby, nominate Mr. Stamets for a Nobel. So, none of this criticism is meant as a knock against what-will-be-truly re/evolutionary work that Mr. Stamets has pioneered. It's a criticism of format and presentation.

Mushroom Cultivator is a bit difficult to digest. However, it is packed full of information. With a little teeth pulling, you could filter through your personally relevant parts. I think this book could almost be classified as a historical document. And thus should be on your shelf, at least as reference. If you're a total beginner in mushroom cultivation, then COMPLETELY skip the 100 pages of mushroom contamination because then you'll never be motivated to start. And starting is what it's all about.

At this point, it seems rather clear that the door is wide open for these mushroom hort techniques to be applied in the urban setting.

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