How does a mushroom grow?

If you read ours introduction to mushrooms, you’ve learned a little about what an adaptogenic mushroom is and what mushrooms you’ll find at AdaptogenShrooms—namely Chaga, Reishi, Cordyceps, and Lion’s Mane. But if you want to know what really defines us coffee with mushrooms apart, we’ll have to go deeper — literally. Let’s take a look at how a mushroom grows.

Fruiting body vs. Mykelion

As we shared in a previous article, there are two main parts to a mushroom: the mycelium and the fruiting body. The fruiting body is what we usually think of when we imagine a mushroom and it helps the mushroom reproduce. The mycelium is the root system for the mushroom. It is a complex web of fungal fibers (or hyphae) that extends over any material in which the mushroom grows. This material is called the substrate.

Substrates: Wood is good

People grow mushrooms in all kinds of substrates, including grain, hay, and even old composted food waste. But not all substrates are created equal. Adaptable mushrooms such as Reishi, Chaga, Cordyceps and Lion’s Mane all prefer woody substrates, which most closely resemble the hardwood trees they grow on in the wild. That’s why we only source mushrooms from growers who use natural hardwood substrates. Some supplement companies source mushrooms grown on grain substrates, and some still grind up this substrate (and the mycelium with it) and add it to their supplements. This is less than ideal, for reasons we’ll get into shortly.

Look for a higher level

Substrate isn’t the only thing to look for when evaluating mushroom adaptors. At Wunderground, all of our mushrooms are certified organic, and we never source mushrooms from places with lax agricultural standards, where pesticides and heavy metals can find their way into the mushrooms themselves. Nor do we take the organic label at face value—some “certified organic” mushrooms actually showed dangerously high levels of these contaminants laboratory check. That’s why we rigorously test all our mushrooms before infusing them in our Wunderground products.

We choose fruit, not root

Earlier, we talked about how some mushroom adaptogen companies grind up grain substrates, mycelium and all, and add it to their supplements. The mycelium is part of the mushroom, right? Well, yes, but the mycelium occupies a very different role than the fruiting body. The mycelium has a difficult job: it expands through the substrate, fending off competition in the form of bacteria and other fungi, and generating energy to send the fruiting bodies to reproduce. It’s specialized for this tough, unlikely job, which means it has less of the adaptogens—like beta-glucans and triterpenes—that we want from our mushrooms. Much more of these beneficial nutrients are found in the fruiting body.

How do we get these adaptogens out of the mushroom? Find out in this article about mushroom extraction and chemistry.

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