We took our second Herb Walk with Naturopath Maggie Conklin of Douglas’ LadyHawk Nutrition this week. Cooler temperatures coupled with the shift in evening light made for a pleasant saunter through our backwoods, richly populated with flowers, plants and herbs indigenous to Michigan’s Northern hardwood forests. This night’s particular walk focused on mushrooms, those fleshy fungi of the class Basidiomycota, with their often umbrella shaped caps borne on a stalk. Amateur Mycologist Anthony Blowers was in or rather behind the house to help lead the way, pointing out and identifying edible Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus Ostreatus), the lilac of Purple Tooth (Trichaptum Biforme), and the unique shape and colors of Trametes Versicolor, or Turkey Tail, the name derived from the mushroom’s resemblance to a wild Turkey’s back plumage.
A seven-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health found Turkey Tail boosts immunity in women treated for breast cancer, and its merit as a supplement and immunity boost for dogs is widely known. Mushrooms’ general immunomodulating ability to stimulate or suppress the immune system and help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases, is, for lack of a better term, mushrooming. It’s wild, literally, leaning about the nutritional and medicinal value as well as the history of interactions between our species and those of the timberlands, with Oyster Mushrooms first cultivated in Germany as a subsistence measure during World War I. We also came across Chlorociboria Aeruginasens - tough to say but easy to see - the Green Stain Fungus that often brightly colors felled trees on the forest floor. Woodworkers have prized the stained lumber for ages, 14th and 15th century Renaissance Italian craftsman using the wood to provide the emerald coloring in their intricate inlaid intarsia designs. Paul Stamets’ name came up, a whole other discovery and story (teller), the author and Master Mycologist who’s given a Ted Talk on Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save The World. Check him and the new wave of technologies harnessing the inherent power of these magical plants out at fungi.com.
The number of treasures we walk right over and past in this world because of our lack of spiritual awareness can be astounding. With that, we’ll be growing our knowledge of the healing power of the natural world at Maggie’s next herb walk in Saugatuck, a quick 20-minute jaunt from South Haven, on Tuesday, September 25th at 6 pm. And given Tony’s expertise and added experience as a chef, we hope to have him back in the near future to make his offerings a part of all the wild things cookin’ at The Higher Haven.