With today’s entry, we welcome a new work-study student helping with Botany Photo of the Day, Katherine Van Dijk. Katherine is a fourth year student enrolled in the UBC’s Environmental Sciences program. Katherine writes:
Commonly known as an oyster mushroom, the name of this species comes from Latin: pleurotus meaning “sideways”, and ostreatus relating to its similarity to the oyster bivalve (possibly its taste as well). This species is edible. First cultivated by Germany for sustenance during WWI, it is now cultivated world-wide. Due to its prevalent culinary uses, other names include píng gū in Chinese, nấm sò or nấm bào ngư in Vietnamese, and chippikkoon in Malayalam.
Wikipedia provides a fairly comprehensive description of the uses and prevalence of Pleurotus ostreatus, including its potential for lowering cholesterol, and its use in “mycoremediation”, as termed by Paul Stamets.
Dr. Paul Stamets conducted an experiment with Dr. S. A. Thomas, whereby piles of soil contaminated with diesel are remediated using mycelia of oyster mushrooms. The results were compared to conventional remediation methods. A discussion of this study may be seen and heard in the TED Talks video “6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World” or Stamets’ Fungi Perfecti site. The fungi act by breaking down the long chains of organic carbon from contaminants in the same way as they decay lignin and cellulose, their usual source of carbon.