Mycelium running in Mindo

The first section of this trip is over, the one that was focused on fungi.

Here are some terms that will be useful to know:
mycelium - the underground network of cells that make up most of a fungus. The mycelium excretes enzymes that break down materials into compounds that it can ingest and use for energy. If you compare a fungus to an apple tree, mycelium would be the whole tree, and the mushrooms would be the apples - the fruit.
inoculate - to add mycelium to a substance, in the hope that the mycelium will ‘colonize’ it, or spread all throughout it.
substrate - organic material, like sawdust and corn husks, that mycelium can grow on.
mycofilter - layers of substrate and inoculated materials that soak up pollution, like oil, and use it as food to produce mushrooms. Used to catch pollution before it seeps into the ground or into a water source

Here’s a look back at Mindo:

We went on a hike to look for fungi on the way to a nature preserve. But everyone in the group spent so much time meandering about and looking for mushrooms that we never actually made it into the preserve. We saw some horses, a small waterfall, and had a nice walk, though. That trip was our first introduction to what would be the main mode of transportation for the next week: riding in the back of a pickup truck with five other people.

There is a garage across the street from our hostel that looked like it was potentially letting motor oil and gasoline leak into the adjacent stream. So the founder of AMP, Mia, got the permission of the owner to install a mycofilter in the floor, to catch any pollution before it seeps into the ground or gets washed into the stream. We were originally going to take soil samples to get a baseline measurement of how polluted the soil was, but sending five or so samples to the lab in Quito for testing is logistically difficult because they have to be kept on ice and it costs a few hundred dollars to test for total hydrocarbons. So we will probably just install it knowing that it will do some good, even if we don’t quantify it.

To prepare for the mycofilter, we collected different substrates for the mycelium to grow on, like corn husks and sawdust, and put a bunch of grain and sawdust that had already been inoculated with oyster mushroom mycelium. So our hope is that the mycelium will colonize the bags, and then we can spread the contents of the bags with cardboard and more sawdust on the floor to create a mycofilter in the garage.

Every meal here has been basically the same: soup with yucca (a potato-like tuber), rice & beans with some variation of fish, chicken, or beef. Luckily I’m not tired of it yet, like some of the others. My favorite drink is a colada, which is thick and made using oatmeal and fruit juice. You can also get a “batido” almost anywhere, which is fruit juice with milk, basically a milkshake without ice cream. Breakfast is usually eggs, fried or scrambled, which is fine by me. It’s so much better than in Spain, where I would be lucky to get a small chocolate cookie for breakfast.