Ken Miller received a national award for his article on Paul Stamets which was featured in Discover Magazine.
For Paul Stamets, the phrase mushroom hunt does not denote a leisurely stroll with a napkin-lined basket. This morning, a half-dozen of us are struggling to keep up with the mycologist as he charges through a fir-and-alder forest on Cartes Island, British Columbia. It s raining steadily, and the moss beneath our feet is slick, but Stamets, 57, barrels across it like a grizzly bear heading for a stump full of honey. He vaults over fallen trees, scrambles up muddy ravines, plows through shin-deep puddles in his rubber boots. He never slows down, but he halts abruptly whenever a specimen demands his attention.
This outing is part of a workshop on the fungi commonly known as mushrooms — a class of organisms whose cell walls are stiffened by a molecule called chitin instead of the cellulose found in plants, and whose most ardent scientific evangelist is the man ahead of us. Stamets is trying to find a patch of chanterelles, a variety known for its exquisite flavor. But the species that stop him in his tracks, and bring a look of bliss to his bushy-bearded face, possess qualities far beyond the culinary.
He points to a clutch of plump oyster mushrooms halfway up an alder trunk. These could clean up oil spills all over the planet, he says. He ducks beneath a rotting log, where a rare, beehive-like Agarikon
dangles. This could provide a defense against weaponized smallpox. Read PDF