August 2020 Mycoscope
Umami and the Fungi
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On July 9, Mycoboutique resumed its evening introductions to fungi. For the first time, participants could choose attendance (masked) in the shop or at home by videoconference. Physical distancing was respected, which gave a more studious turn to a recreational event. The success was such that a second evening is announced for August 27. The price is the same ($ 30), but the videoconference is broadcast to your address regardless of the number of people in front of the computer.
Likewise, on July 26, Mycoboutique resumed its forest excursions. Twenty hikers were able to pick their first chanterelles in the Eastern Township. A dry warm spell in the area accounted for a slow start, but the event was a success and a lot of fun.
In addition to those already announced, more outings to promising sites near Montréal are planned: August 22, Sept. 5, 13 and 27. To facilitate distancing, the number of places has been limited. Hurry up!

Unlike the primary flavors (salty, sweet, sour and bitter) perceived in the mouth and through the nose, umami is rather deciphered in the gut. Umami means tasty in Japanese and the flavor is that of glutamic acid. In processed food, salt is usually added to give monosodium glutamate, the famous MSG. It’s typical of high protein food like meat. Though mushrooms are not as high in proteins, they stand out for their glutamate content and, thus, their umami flavor. So much so that, after eating, the signal from the gut to the brain triggers a feeling of satiety. You could say that mushrooms are the meat of vegetarians.
You will soon find Enokitake (Flammulina velutipes) on deciduous stumps and Matsutake (Tricholoma magnivelare) under pines or hemlocks. Often found in abundance, foragers and friends should feel well fed. 

Did you know a popular drink, sake, is distilled from koji? In fact, this mold is the key to the fermentation of many familiar ingredients: miso, various sauces including soy sauce and amazake among them. It transforms the proteins in these foods into amino acids, especially glutamate, thus giving them the desired umami flavor. In his most recent book, Koji Alchemy, Jeremy Umansky arguably asserts himself as the master of the key with his creations: crystal-clear explanations and creative recipes. Both his book and the koji itself are available at Mycoboutique to get you started on your fermentation adventure. Kojito, ergo sum!

Fungi are made up of extremely fine filaments that radiate outwards and creep into the soil, or even into the rock, to extract minerals, phosphate, water, nutrients necessary for themselves or exchangeable for hydrates of carbon that surrounding plants would have in seasonal overabundance. Indeed, countless species like the famous chanterelles, boletus, truffles, live in symbiosis with plants. Not only do they exchange with neighboring plants, but they often carry nutrients and signals from one plant to others in the vicinity. Beneath every step you take in the forest these filaments (hyphae) are hiding. Placed end to end, these they can extend over several tens of km. A brilliantly illustrated book, Fantastic Fungi, explains the exchanges between fungi and their environment and all of their other amazing properties and ecological roles.

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