Porcini mushrooms are rare and expensive, truffles even more so. Actually, why can’t you cultivate them like you do with mushrooms and oyster mushrooms? You have to search for them with great effort – not always with success.
Wild mushrooms only grow where the location is right. Therefore, mushroom pickers carefully guard the secret of their discovery sites. In addition, you can only find them in “their” season and when the weather cooperates.
Cultivated mushroom growers, on the other hand, not only harvest their mushrooms from June to October as they do outside in the meadow, but all year round with consistent quality. In 2014, for example, German companies supplied mushroom lovers with 66,000 tons of fresh mushrooms.
What a dream to be able to do the same with porcini mushrooms and truffles. But will that become a reality one day? Getting there is extremely difficult. The reason is the different way of life of the fungi.
Most of the fungi live as decomposers, as decomposers. That means they break down weak or dead organic material. They decompose the cow dung on the pasture just like the fallen tree and ensure that the minerals bound in the cells return to the material cycle.
All cultivated mushrooms from button mushrooms to shiitake mushrooms belong to this group. Cultivated mushroom growers grow them on a substrate of horse manure, straw, or wood chips, depending on the species of mushroom, which, as is their nature, they decompose.
The other fungi live as so-called mycorrhiza fungi in symbiosis with plants (myko = fungus and rrhiza = root). The fungal roots, called hyphae, encase the roots of trees, shrubs and herbs and from there grow deeper into the soil.
In this way they increase the root surface of the plant and open up more soil than the plant could on its own. The fungi supply “their” plant with water and minerals and in return receive carbohydrates from it. Porcini mushrooms, truffles, but also chanterelles, birch mushrooms and chestnuts are among the mycorrhizal fungi.
Most of these fungi completely lack the enzymes to break down organic matter. You absolutely have to find a plant partner in order to be able to grow and bear fruit.
Around 90% of all land plants live in symbiosis with one or more fungi. While most could grow without the fungus, they do better with it. Therefore, many tree nurseries and landscape gardeners nowadays inoculate the soil of their cultures or new plants with mycorrhizal fungi, which can be reproduced quite well in culture.
Only the next step, to get them to grow and fruit in culture, presents mushroom growers with a task that is almost impossible to solve. It cannot do without birch, pine or heather, the roots of which they can envelop.
We will probably have to dream of porcini and truffles as cultivated mushrooms for a long time to come. But fortunately there are mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms and the many less well-known species such as rose and lime mushrooms, herb mushrooms, velvet hood, porcupine’s mane, golden riding hood, squid knightling, etc. etc.