This is not just compost!   This is carefully crafted, microscope tested Microbe Compost!    We ensure all the good guys are home!    We do not filter our compost as we care for the good guys!   Many do not understand the difference between our Microbe Compost and regular compost.    I will share that Nic and I studied and perfected this process over 4 years with Dr Elaine Ingham (     It is a science and an art!   The beautiful thing is a little goes a long way if the “terrain” is healthy.   The “terrain” in soil is the organic matter.   That is why we also create aged and treated organic matter for our clients.    And, here in Ecuador due to our heavy rains and HOT sun, organic matter is important regardless to feed the microbes and protect the soils.   

We do not recommend fresh wood chips.   Fresh wood chips need to be off-gased to remove the “anti” (against) compounds that are in the trees used here for wood planks (pine, eucalyptus, cedar, etc).    Over time Mother Nature will deal with this…but it is like going one step forward and two back.   Fresh wood chips also remove carbon (and nitrogen) in the beginning.   Again, over time it will give it back.   But why go back?    

Compost Care Instruction:
  1. This compost is alive. It is filled with beneficial microorganisms and must be cared for if not used within 3 days.
  2. Keep the compost out of direct sunlight, UV causes damage to micro-life, store Indoors at ambient temperature.
  3. Extreme heat or cold can change the microbial environment. 
  4. Moisture is important to micro-life. Use a spray bottle or mist nozzle and chlorine/chloramine free water to keep this small amount of compost moist. Mist the top as necessary to keep the moisture at a level when the material sticks together in your hand, like chocolate cake would if smashed into a ball.
  5. Overwatering can lead to anaerobic conditions, if you ever feel you have gotten the material too wet, just spread it out a bit and make sure oxygen can get to all parts of the compost. If the material becomes completely dry remoisten slowly to avoid overwatering.
Instructions for a  Compost Extract:
  1. Use a paint strainer bag or compost tea bag add  (2-3lbs) of compost inside the bag and then using a 5-gallon bucket as a vessel for water make the extract by moving the bag of compost around in the water. Agitate the material without smashing or grinding the compost.  We like to gently massage the compost.   You will see the water turn a dark chocolatey color as you extract.   This is fulvic and humic acid – a complex compound that is amazing for health (human and soil)
  2. Apply the extract evenly on the soil around the plants you are focused on.
  3. Application rates can vary greatly depending on the goal. For a very strong extract you can use up to three pound per gallon, for a very light inoculation as little a 20 pounds per acre can be used.
  4. Dilute as necessary for covering the space needed.   
  5. Again, it is imporatant your soil has Organic Matter (OM).   Living Ground provides aged and microbe treated OM for this purpose.    OM is food for the microbes and, here in Ecuador, it is important as a mulch to protect the soils from hot sun and heavy rains.

We are very proud of our Microbe Compost and want to help our clients understand why this is so very important for health of the plants and humans.    Please visit our story to order or contact us!    We are happy to arrange a taxi or pick-up.

And, remember, we also offer soil testing to determine the microbiology in your soil.    We are training our local staff to be able to do this for our community too…which is very exciting!

Soil Squad


Most realize that Compost is a mixture of organic materials that have been decomposed by microorganisms. It is a valuable soil amendment that can improve the fertility, structure, and water retention of soil.  Most do not realize the difference between organic compost, obone (manure) and Microbe Compost.  Here we explain the difference and why Microbe Compost is so important….

Microbe compost is made using a science process that encourages the growth of beneficial microorganisms.   Our aim is to remove all pathogens and enhance the environment for the benficial organisms.   We liken this to a probiotic!    Just like in the human microbiome, these microorganisms help to break down organic matter more quickly and efficiently than in regular organic compost.    We often say we are not making compost we are farming microbes.   And, we get to determine how our compost is with the microscope.   This is an important tool of our work.

Regular organic compost is made using a more traditional method that does not specifically target the growth of beneficial microorganisms. This type of compost can still be beneficial for plants, but it may not be as effective as microbe compost.   Also, it takes much longer and in the process may be home to many bad guy microbes.

Obono is pure manure and does contain pathogens most of the time.  Manure also is like the chemical fertilizers as it forces plant growth with Nitrogen.    A big beautiful plant may appear that is air, water and nitrogen and little else.

Here are four key differences between microbe compost and regular organic compost:

  1. Microbe compost is like a probiotic. Probiotics are live microorganisms that are beneficial for the gut. 
  2. Microbe compost is more potent. Because microbe compost is made using a process that encourages the growth of beneficial microorganisms, it contains higher levels of these microorganisms than regular organic compost. This means that microbe compost can have a more immediate and noticeable impact on the health of plants and soil.
  3. Microbe compost is more versatile. Microbe compost can be used for a wider variety of purposes than regular organic compost. It can be used to improve the fertility, structure, and water retention of soil, as well as to suppress plant diseases and pests. Regular organic compost is typically used for improving the fertility and structure of soil.
  4. Microbe compost is more sustainable.  It is mimicking Nature.  It is ensuring life “pro-biotic” literally means “pro life”

Organic Matter OM

In addition to microbe compost and regular organic compost, we also offer specialized Organic Matter.  Our OM is like a Prebiotic.  It feeds the microbes.

Living Grounds OM is a blend of woody materials that is aged and sprayed with microbe extract.   Most wood chips contain “anit-fungals” so the aging process is very imporatant.    Our OMis similar to microbe compost in that it contains beneficial microorganisms, but it is less potent. Organic matter is a good option for improving the structure and water retention of soil, but it is not as effective as microbe compost for improving the fertility of soil.

Which type of compost is right for you?

The best type of compost for you will depend on your specific needs and goals. If you are looking for a compost that is effective, versatile, and sustainable, then microbe compost is a best option. If you are looking for a compost that is less expensive and easier to make, then regular Organic Matter is a good option. And if you are looking for a compost that can help to improve the structure and water retention of soil, then both Microbe Compost and OM is a good option.

It is important to note that organic compost is not always safe. The process of making compost is not always monitored closely, so there is a chance that pathogens could exist in the compost and quite often do.    These pathogens can be harmful to plants and humans. It is important to test compost for pathogens before using it.  Here is where the benefit of our microscope come in.

Another thing to keep in mind is that organic compost can force growth. This means that the plants may grow quickly, but they may not be as healthy as plants that are grown with a more natural approach. The plants may also be more susceptible to pests and diseases.

In a way, organic matter is like the food that we eat, while microbe compost is like the probiotics that we take. Both are important for our health, but they work in different ways. Organic matter provides the nutrients that our bodies need, while probiotics help to keep our gut healthy and functioning properly.

In the same way, organic matter provides the nutrients that plants need, while microbe compost helps to keep the soil healthy and functioning properly. Healthy soil is essential for healthy plants, just as a healthy gut is essential for a healthy human.

If you are looking for a way to improve the health of your soil and plants, then microbe compost is for you.   Remember, we are actively consulting with land owners to regenerate lands, soils and homesteads.   We work within the budget and goals of our clients to bring life back to the soil.   Contact us for more information!   

At Living Ground, our mission extends far beyond saving soils – it’s about fostering a holistic connection that benefits plants, microbes, and humanity itself. While nature’s challenges persist, we approach them with a different perspective – one of harmony and mimicry, rather than conflict.

Today, we’re excited to invite you into our world through an informative video courtesy of the Soil Food Web (SFW) school. This captivating footage takes you on a journey through the heart of the Soil Food Web approach in Peru, offering a glimpse into the wonders that unfold when we align with nature’s wisdom.

Leisha is a  Soil Food Web Consultant and Nic is currently on his path toward certification within the same renowned program.

As we embark on this shared journey, we invite you to join us in championing a more harmonious and sustainable world. Come witness the magic of nature’s equilibrium, and be part of the Living Ground movement.

Before you delve into this transformative video, remember to subscribe to our blog and stay updated with our latest explorations, insights, and progress. Your presence and engagement mean the world to us.

And now, without further ado, let’s embark on this enlightening adventure by exploring the Soil Food Web approach through our exclusive video presentation.


Let’s discuss the similarities between gluten sensitivity and glyphosate toxicity. I believe that many  who think they are gluten sensitive may actually be glyphosate toxic.   

Glyphosate was discovered in 1950 by a Swiss chemist named Henry Martin. It was originally developed as a chelating agent, but later found to be an effective herbicide. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, a widely used herbicide that is sprayed on crops to kill weeds. It is also used in other products, such as herbicides for lawns and gardens, and in animal feed.

Glyphosate works by inhibiting an enzyme called EPSPS, which is essential for the production of aromatic amino acids in plants. This causes the plant to die. Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide, which means that it kills both weeds and crops. However, it is more effective at killing weeds than crops. EPSPS is an enzyme that is involved in the shikimate pathway. It is responsible for the conversion of shikimate-3-phosphate to 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate.  The shikimate pathway is a metabolic pathway that is used by plants, bacteria, and fungi to synthesize aromatic amino acids.

The shikimate pathway is essential for the production of aromatic amino acids, which are used to synthesize proteins, vitamins, and other essential compounds. Glyphosate inhibits EPSPS, which blocks the shikimate pathway and prevents the production of aromatic amino acids. This is what kills plants that are exposed to glyphosate.

A little side note here…..It is interesting that Glyphosate and SARS-CoV-2 both affect the shikimate pathway, although in different ways. Glyphosate inhibits EPSPS, which blocks the shikimate pathway and prevents the plant from producing aromatic amino acids. SARS-CoV-2 hijacks the host cell’s shikimate pathway and uses it to produce the aromatic amino acids that it needs to replicate.   

Here are similarities between glyphosate and SARS-CoV-2:

  • Both can affect the shikimate pathway.
  • Both can be harmful to living organisms.
  • Both can be found in the environment.

Glyphosate is a controversial herbicide. Some people believe that it is safe, while others believe that it is a dangerous chemical that can cause cancer and other health problems. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified glyphosate as a likely not carcinogenic to humans, but the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified it as a probable carcinogen.

The use of glyphosate is increasing worldwide. In the United States, it is the most widely used herbicide. The use of glyphosate has been linked to the decline of certain beneficial insects, such as bees and butterflies. It has also been linked to the development of herbicide-resistant weeds.

Is glyphosate a toxin and danger?

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. This means that there is enough evidence to suggest that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans.
  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the WHO, has also classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.
  • The European Union has classified glyphosate as a likely carcinogen. This means that there is limited evidence to suggest that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans.
  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified glyphosate as a likely not carcinogenic to humans. However, the EPA’s decision has been criticized by many scientists, who believe that the EPA’s assessment is flawed.

The debate over the safety of glyphosate is ongoing but I think that anyone with any common sense knows it is a dangerous toxin. The weight of evidence suggests that glyphosate is a toxin that can pose a risk to human health.

There’s evidence that glyphosate harms human health in a few ways, including:

  • Cancer: The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, meaning that it is likely to cause cancer. The IARC’s classification is based on a review of several studies that have found an association between glyphosate exposure and cancer, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, and multiple myeloma. However, the EPA has classified glyphosate as a likely not carcinogenic to humans. The EPA’s classification is based on a review of different studies, including some that have not found an association between glyphosate exposure and cancer. More research is needed to determine the true cancer risk of glyphosate exposure.

    Neurotoxicity: Some studies have shown that glyphosate may be neurotoxic, meaning that it can damage the nervous system. For example, a study published in the journal Neurotoxicology in 2019 found that glyphosate exposure can damage the brains of rats. However, other studies have found no evidence of neurotoxicity. More research is needed to clarify the potential neurotoxicity of glyphosate exposure.

    Endocrine disruption: Glyphosate may disrupt the endocrine system, which is responsible for regulating hormones. This could lead to a variety of health problems, such as reproductive problems and thyroid disorders. For example, a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in 2013 found that glyphosate exposure can disrupt the production of testosterone in rats. However, other studies have not found an association between glyphosate exposure and endocrine disruption. More research is needed to determine the true risks of endocrine disruption from glyphosate exposure.

    Reproductive problems: Glyphosate may cause reproductive problems, such as decreased sperm count and fertility problems. For example, a study published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology in 2018 found that glyphosate exposure can decrease sperm count in rats. However, other studies have not found an association between glyphosate exposure and reproductive problems. More research is needed to determine the true risks of reproductive problems from glyphosate exposure.

    Gut health: Glyphosate may disrupt the gut microbiome, which is the community of bacteria that live in the gut. This could lead to a variety of health problems, such as digestive problems and autoimmune diseases. For example, a study published in the journal Nature Microbiology in 2020 found that glyphosate exposure can disrupt the gut microbiome in mice. However, other studies have not found an association between glyphosate exposure and gut health problems. More research is needed to determine the true risks of gut health problems from glyphosate exposure.

There is growing evidence that glyphosate can damage the proteins in gluten, making it less digestible. This can cause symptoms in people who are sensitive to gluten.   The symptoms of gluten sensitivity and glyphosate toxicity can be very similar. They can include:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Skin rashes
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

It can be difficult to tell the difference between gluten sensitivity and glyphosate toxicity, especially if you have been exposed to both. However, there are a few things that you can do to help you determine the cause of your symptoms.

  • Get tested for gluten sensitivity. There is a blood test that can be used to diagnose gluten sensitivity.
  • Avoid gluten for a period of time and see if your symptoms improve. If your symptoms improve when you avoid gluten, then you are likely gluten sensitive.

There are a few things that you can do to naturally cleanse your body of this toxin.

  • Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will help to detoxify your body and improve your overall health. These foods are high in antioxidants and help the microbiome which can help to remove toxins from the body.
  • Drink filtered water. Glyphosate can be found in tap water, so it is important to drink filtered water whenever possible.
  • Supplements. There are a number of supplements that can help to detoxify your body from glyphosate, such as activated charcoal, chlorella, and spirulina. Activated charcoal is a natural substance that can bind to toxins and help to remove them from the body. Chlorella and spirulina are types of algae that are high in antioxidants and other nutrients that can help to support the body’s natural detoxification processes.
  • Use herbs. There are a number of herbs that can help to detoxify your body from glyphosate, such as dandelion root, burdock root, and milk thistle. Dandelion root is a natural diuretic that can help to flush toxins out of the body. Burdock root is a liver tonic that can help to support the body’s natural detoxification processes. Milk thistle is a liver protectant that can help to repair damage caused by toxins.  These herbs are all in our Liver Love The Blood Tincture.

Other ways to reduce exposure to glyphosate

  • Buy organic foods whenever possible. Organic crops are not sprayed with glyphosate.   Even better, buy microbe grown plants.
  • If you do not know where you produce is coming from, wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them. This will help to remove any residual glyphosate that may be on the surface of the food.
  • Avoid processed foods. Processed foods are often high in glyphosate.
  • Avoid drinking tap water. Glyphosate can be found in tap water, so it is important to drink filtered water whenever possible.
  • Avoid using herbicides and pesticides around your home.Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is what gives these grains their chewy texture. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, a herbicide that is widely used to kill weeds. It is a systemic herbicide, which means that it is absorbed by the plant and moves throughout its tissues.

Microbe extracts are more environmentally friendly, less harmful to humans, and can be more effective than glyphosate.  Microbe extracts are not known to be harmful. Some studies have shown that microbe extracts can be as effective as glyphosate at killing weeds, and they can also help to improve the health of the soil.

Here are some of the specific reasons why microbe extracts may be better than glyphosate:

  • Microbe extracts are more environmentally friendly: Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide, which means that it kills both weeds and crops. This can have a negative impact on the environment, as it can kill beneficial organisms as well as harmful ones. Microbe extracts, on the other hand, are more targeted and are less likely to harm the environment.
  • Microbe extracts are less harmful to humans: There is some evidence that glyphosate may be harmful to human health, as it has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, and gut health problems. Microbe extracts, on the other hand, are not known to be harmful to humans.
  • Microbe extracts can be more effective than glyphosate: Microbe extracts can be as effective as glyphosate at killing weeds. In addition, microbe extracts can help to improve the health of the soil, which can lead to healthier plants.


I am begining to understand that the desception of the matrix in ways deeper than imagined and it is digusting.   Species banking is becoming big business…and it is putting a “worth” on nature. The deception forms as many are participating  thinking they are “protecting” nature. It appears good…and it is not. The worth of a species or a sector of nature is now determined by the law of economics – when there is low supply, demand and value increases.

Under the layers….more is being revealled.    Can economics blend with ecology?

“Eco” is our dwelling, our house. “Ology” is the study, observation and learning. Nomics is “law”. The study of our dwelling and the law of our dwelling. Again, can they be blended?

Giving “credit” to nature is how the matrix is connecting ecology and economics. It is already big business as it snuck in from the sidelines disguising as something “good” for nature. It gives value on nature as exchangable credits…good credits offset bad credits. It is giving permision for destruction as long as good credits are held.

Biodiversity is now an economic farm of capital, nature capital.  This is the business of nature. They have made nature a commodity.

This IS THE MATRIX!     

We have been trying to save nature because it is the “right thing to do” and systems have been created to “save”. My gosh, this is so horrible. The scales have tipped…and the pricelessness of nature is now given value. Whenever we put a “value” on nature, we are participating. I don’t know what the answer is…and I am not sure we will find one now other than taking a good look out our personal selves and where it is participates in that Matrix and buy into it.

Personally, I am committed to doing more research and taking a good scrutinizing look at the model created for Living Ground. Where is it buying into this matrix? Where can it be separated so that it is NOT in that matrix?

Philosophically, this is a challenge!  But it is not impossible.   Our task at Living Ground is to consider and ensure we are not swallowed into the matrix.   We are not sure how to do this…but placing attention on this the future.

To start, we are detailing our “values manifesto” so that now and in the future, it is a map or frame-work so that deceipt can not penetrate.     We also are considering offering a mandatory “Living Ground Boot Camp” mini course for any current and future leader of Living Ground.   This mini course will educate on the “little guys” and challenge the programs of our thinking and concieving that has been muddied and muddlied form our cultural learning.   All leaders must go through this mini course!

Our task now is research and deep thought.   I think it is time to change the view of “as above, so below” to “so below as above”.    What can the community of microbes teach us about operating?

…The Soil Biology Primer represents a new era in our agency’s soil science contributions to natural resource conservation. In the past we have focused primarily on the chemical and physical properties of soil . This publication highlights another integral component of soil , its biological features. The Primer explains the importance of biological functions for productive and healthy agricultural systems , range lands, and forest lands.

The Soil Biology Primer is intended for farmers, ranchers, agricultural profes sionals, resource specialists , students, teachers, and NRCS conservationists, specialists , and soil scientists as a reference for enhanced understanding of the critical functions performed by soil life. I hope you enjoy reading about the fascinating diversity of soil life under our feet and gain a deeper appreciation of the intrinsic value of soil organisms to sustainable civilizations . Protecting our Nation’s soil for future generations is of greatest importance.

ENJOY click to read, explore, learn, download……


Soil. It’s our greatest treasure.

It can take hundreds of years and many natural processes to make even a centimetre of soil. The mechanical and chemical weathering of rock makes up around half of any soil’s composition, with around 5% supplied by organic material, and the rest made up by air and water.

Put another way, soil is a complicated mix of both the non-organic, abiotic components- minerals, water and air, and the organic biotic components- bacteria, archaea, fungi, plants and invertebrates that live and die within it.

In addition, and bound together with any basic discussion about soil, is the reality of a living soil, the soil food web and soil biodiversity. Soil is a complex, sustainable and dynamic ecosystem, sustained through the complicated interaction of countless soil fauna like worms, woodlice, springtails, nematodes and mites, together with fungi and bacteria.

“Despite all our achievements, we owe our existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.”

However, within a few generations, we have seen the world’s soils rapidly and increasingly degrade, losing nutrients, carbon and fertility, turning saline or actually blowing away. Crops are losing yield and not responding to NPK fertilisers. Fields and farms are being abandoned across much of the world, forcing even more poverty, suffering and human migration. This degrading is mostly human-driven, due to bad farming practices, pollution, acidification, compaction, deforestation and climate change across the world. It’s a sobering and worrying time. Soil biodiversity is dying, with soil fauna like springtails and soil mites reducing to almost zero. Worms are disappearing, fungal activity ceasing.

Soil scientists and farmers are finally being listened to.   People are learning and gaining more knowledge and understanding.  Research is now well funded and positive changes are being discussed at a governmental level and implemented on a regional and local level. Sustaining, improving and increasing soils is a lengthy and time consuming process, but no dig, microbe compost making and regenerative agriculture are showing great results. Feeding the soil rather than the plant has become a well known mantra amongst gardeners and organic growers. The ship may be sinking, but all is not lost.

Whoever you are and whoever you will become, tread lightly on the earth.”

Is your favourite fruit about to go extinct? 

The deadly disease pathogen Fusarium wilt TR4 (previously referred to as Panama Disease) has been wreaking havoc and ravaging the $25 billion global banana industry – with infected plantations experiencing 100% loss and being quarantined for decades.  Colombia has already declared a National State of Emergency, but it may be too late.  A flurry of apocalyptic media accounts have followed, revealing a race to save bananas from extinction after the disease has left a trail of scorched banana plantations in its wake.

The world’s most destructive banana disease is spreading, and there are currently no chemicals available to kill the disease.   This might be a blessing in disguise as it is highly likely that chemical use has actualy contributed to this problem in the first place.   

In August 2021, the Ecuadorian Government has raised the banana disease Fusarium wilt TR4 to pandemic level.  “Ecuador’s message to the global banana community is clear: Fusarium is not just a pest; it is a lethal pandemic for bananas that currently has no solution and that threatens one of the most important industries for the Ecuadorian economy.”

Fusarium wilt is a common fungal disease that attacks many types of herbaceous plants, including banana trees. Also known as Panama disease, fusarium wilt of banana is difficult to control and severe infections are often deadly. The disease has decimated crops and has threatened an estimated 80 percent of the world’s banana crop. Read on to learn more about banana fusarium wilt disease, including management and control. Banana Fusarium Wilt Symptoms Fusarium is a soil-borne fungus that enters the banana plant through the roots. As the disease progresses upward through the plant, it clogs the vessels and blocks the flow of water and nutrients. The first visible banana fusarium wilt symptoms are stunted growth, leaf distortion, and yellowing, and wilt along the edges of mature, lower leaves. The leaves gradually collapse and droop from the plant, eventually drying up completely.   A good article 

The good news is there probably is a natural organic solution, simply utilizing the natural defense mechanism of microbes.

Fusarium Wilt is a problem in the soil…a bad guy is taking over!    Raise the good guys and let them do their magic!

Bananas As We Know Them Are Doomed VICE News

Disease Is Ravaging the $25 Billion Banana Industry Bloomberg

Why The World’s Most Popular Banana May Go Extinct Business Insider

The world’s bananas are in trouble BBC World Service

Why The Banana Business Of Chiquita And Dole Is At Risk CNBC

The most common conception of corruption is the theft of public money through unscrupulous methods. However, there are many other ways to deceive the public and one of the most notorious is the promotion of industrial chemical agriculture.

Most people in Ecuador, visitors and residents believe that the food is natural and therefore organic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Only 0.3% of the 14 million agricultural hectares are certified organic. That means that those farms have to conform to a rigid process of certification. In the U.S., by the way, the Federal Department of Agriculture allows farmers to use pesticides and still be considered organic.

There are rural campesinos that do not use excessive nitrogen and pesticides, but they are very few and many of them do not follow acceptable practices of not using fresh manure to fertilize plants.

The reality is that almost all farmers, with a few exceptions, are controlled by an industry that has zero interest in the quality or nutritional quantity of the food.

The Big 6 becomes the Big 3

Last year there were the Big 6 and today there are only the Big 3. Bayer bought Monsanto, DOW and DuPont merged and ChemChina bought Syngenta. They combine for about $375 billion in sales in a $450 billion market worldwide of chemical and biological amendments in agriculture.

The concentration of capital is due to over-production and increased competition at a time when farmers are beginning to reject chemicals. India is the best example with the hundreds of suicides due to destroyed families from high costs of the chemicals and lost production. The chemical industry is now switching to biologic products. That may appear to be good but it is not because it follows the same philosophy, but with a different product. I will explain in a minute.

Small farmers are hurt by ag-industry practices too.

The results from the intensive approach from the chemical ag-industry in Ecuador are devastating. They now control the entire university system, so that any agricultural engineer in the country gets almost no training in soil microbiology. There is absolutely no focus on true food nutrition and what used to be a sovereign food system — that is now as foreign as the salchipapas are to the traditional diet.

The excessive use of urea that is freely distributed by the government through the Ministerio de Agricultura Y Ganadería (MAGAP) is the prime reason for toxic watershed system which causes cancer in humans and animals alike and can only be filtered out with active carbons filtering.

The soils are loaded with salts from the excessive use of chemicals and fertilizers which requires the excessive use of irrigation and increasing erosion everywhere. Ecuador has lost between 20 and 40% of the organic material that normally occupies the top 10 inches of soil. The constant tillage to increase production has freed millions of tons of carbon normally sequestered in the soil upon which the bacteria and fungus use for 50% of their diet, not to mention the destruction of the mycorrhiza and bacterial species that have existed or millions of years.

The UN report on Trade and Commerce published in 2013, “Wake Up Before It Is Too Late” pointed out that the largest contributor to global warming and the green-house effect is industrial agriculture which accounts for 71% of all carbon in the atmosphere. In Ecuador, that means increased flooding on the coast and loss of glaciers and the eventual evaporation of the original 235 glacial lakes in the Cajas Mountains, west of Cuenca.

The impact on health

The worst impact is on health. There are over 450 chemicals that make up the more than 9,000 pesticide compounds that have been directly attributed to non-infectious disease and are now in epidemic form. These include 35 cancers of which 3% of occur in children, as well as other childhood diseases including autism, type 1 diabetes. In the general population, allergies, asthma, depression, Parkinson, Alzheimer’s, metabolic syndrome problems, depression, sexual reproduction, etc., are also on the increase.

The average life span in Ecuador is going down, the use of pharmaceutical drugs is going up and farmers under pressure to increase production are using more chemicals.

The proposal from the former president Correa and current vice president Glas to use transgenic (GMO) seeds is nothing more than a continued policy of chemical additives with a punch that will permanently make glyphosate as natural as DDT until the world rejected it.

The only reason to use GMO is to make money for the multinational companies. The effects of the GMO are absolutely astounding and incredibly horrendous to the entire population. The introduction of any seeds will destroy whatever native population that existed before in short order as a result of cross pollination. The seed producers own patents and have the right to take over any production if the seed was not purchased from the manufacturer. Over 80% of all GMO is packaged with glyphosate which means that pregnant women who consume food produced with that GMO seeds will have glyphosate in their blood during and lactating milk which will then be fed to their children.

The combined effect of the intensive chemicals in the agricultural industry and GMO products has literally destroyed any semblance of a healthy population and the source of food for the future, the soil.

Is this not a corrupt industry?

Ag industry bio products

Let me go back to an earlier point: biological products. Let’s start with a simple lesson in plant development.

Plant development depends on photosynthesis, which uses solar energy to combine with carbon from the air to produce simple proteins, carbohydrates and simple sugars within the plant system. About half of these nutrients are used by the plant for growth and metabolic processes but the rest goes to the roots.

In trees, about 85% of nutrients support the roots while in grasses it is about 35%. Why? The plant releases almost 100,000 phytochemicals called exudates to attract microorganisms, bacteria and fungus. The microorganisms live within 1 to 2 cm. of the roots and are attracted to eat the phyto chemicals. The bacteria and fungus secrete an enzyme that breaks down the crystalline structure of soil aggregates of sand, silt and clay to release minerals in soluble form that eventually gets consumed by the plants.

The plant knows what it needs based on which stage of plant development it is in, such as stalk, branch, leaf, flower and fruit development. How many microorganisms does the plant require? More than a hundred thousand different species in the quantity of many millions of each.

The agricultural industry sells about 5 to10 different microorganisms because it is easy to replicate them. The plant needs hundreds of thousands. What is the problem? The large variety of microorganisms facilitate plant stimulation and the immune system against pests. The limited approach of a few falls short.

In addition and more importantly, humans need between 80-90 trace minerals a day and the only way to get them is if the food comes with a rich variety of minerals and that can only happen with an agriculture that is based on rich microbiology. There is no other way. When people refer to their products being agroecological, they interpret natural use of fertilizer as being organic. It is not. True agroecological production is totally based on the scientific application of microorganisms produced from the very same soil location, not from the US to be used in Ecuador. This is why Denver and Canada could not produce quinoa successfully; same altitude and climate but different soil and microorganisms.

Food produced by microbiological methods will have between 40% and 500% more minerals, antioxidants, vitamins and probiotic bacteria. This is why there is a health crisis. There are a lot of people in Tungurahua, Chimborazo and Bolivar provinces who have thyroid problems. The food they used to eat more than a generation ago that was semi organic had 5 times more iodine than the current food and if they do not buy iodized salt, they are going to have metabolic problems with the thyroid. This is one example of many.

The best example of the benefits of eating organic food is Okinawa, Japan where people live far longer lives than the average by consuming a high organic vegetable diet with a little fish and no meat products. That is another story but the key is the consumption of organic vegetables.

On my farm, we produce a very rich microbiome in the compost that we then use to extract the microbiology and spray the gardens and fruit trees. No pests, no worries with higher production yields. I am working with farmers around the country to advance these techniques through teaching and advocacy.


Shelly Caref retired to Ecuador after working as an engineer and mid level manager in the high tech industry for multinational companies. He and his wife, Nelly, discovered that using chemicals in agriculture had direct linkages that caused her illnesses, his daughters breast cancer and his granddaughters type 1 diabetes. He began a five year journey of discovery, investigation and experimentation to fully understand what is “biological agriculture” and why it is the only way to produce food. He can be reached at The ebook can be purchased in English at

Introduction to Mushrooms and Mycology  by Danny Miller,

Hunting for mushrooms can be a very rewarding hobby, not just for edibles but for the wide array of colours, shapes and odors that they come in. You might find mushrooms that are bright red, purple, green or almost any colour of the rainbow. They might smell of sweet almonds, black licorice, grape bubble gum or garlic. Almost immediately after beginning to mushroom hunt I was finding fascinating species very easily and wondering “Am I just lucky today or have these always been here and I just haven’t noticed?” This is a common story. The woods are full of the most amazing things that are getting overlooked all the time because we’re so caught up in our own little world. All it takes is a moment to look around to start discovering and being inspired by the fascinating world of fungi.



I regret I cannot demonstrate the odors on this web page.

Learning to Identify

People ask me all the time how to quickly tell which mushroom is which. All of the books describe how important it is to spend a few hours getting a spore print of a gilled mushroom, and carefully comparing dozens of different characters to make sure they all match your mushroom before coming to any conclusions. You might spend all day keying out a mushroom and coming to a tentative conclusion, and then go to hand it to an experienced identifier and from across the room they will tell you what it is. How did they do that? They didn’t have any time to examine the mushroom and determine if the cap was scaly or only fibrillose or if the stem was pruinose or not, and they certainly didn’t take a spore print. This is because the experienced identifier has learned to recognize the mushroom as you learn to recognize your friends and family. When cousin Steve walks up to you, you don’t think “Ah, mid-length black hair, glasses and freckles, age range 40-49, that’s cousin Steve”. You have synthesized everything in your mind about Steve that makes Steve Steve to the point where you can just recognize him. This will eventually happen to you for certain mushrooms. You can probably already identify a store bought Safeway brown button mushroom without thinking about it too much. That does not mean that you shouldn’t take the time to make spore prints and carefully go through mushroom keys. You cannot learn to recognize a mushroom by only reading about it, you have to play with it and look at it carefully while answering questions about it to really get to know it. Just like you didn’t really get to know cousin Steve by looking at his picture in the family album, you got to know him because he came to visit every year for the holidays. So when you ask the identifier how they could tell what the mushroom was, and they say “I’m not sure, it’s hard to explain”, they are not being mean. It’s just as if somebody asked you to describe how to recognize cousin Steve because they need to pick him up at the airport – it would be hard for you to describe Steve in a way that would allow somebody else to pick him out of a crowd.

One of the most important things a mushroom book or website can do is help you tell mushrooms apart from each other. A technical monograph will describe many mushrooms in extreme detail, but that’s not enough. You might have to read several pages of notes on two species and take notice yourself about what the differences are (much might be few). The next step is to realize which of those differences are important and which aren’t. The best criteria are those which are easily noticeable and reliably different between the two mushrooms. I think the most useful part of a guide book is the section that talks about the mushroom and its close lookalikes, like the “Comments” section in Mushrooms Demystified or the “Notes” and “Similar” sections of the MatchMaker program. That is what I have tried to do on these pages – focus on the unique characters of each mushroom that allow you to most quickly tell them apart, and I have placed photos of all the similar species side by side for easy comparison, unlike the typical guide book which often lists them in alphabetical order.

Ecology and Habitat

Something that is very important to take note of if you are going to try and identify a mushroom is… did the mushroom sprout out of the ground, or is it growing out of a piece of wood? There are two main ways that mushrooms get nutrition and figuring that out can be an important part of identifying it.

First of all we have to talk about what a mushroom really is. Fungi are organisms that are different from both plants and animals, although we used to think they were a kind of plant (because they are attached to the ground and can’t wander around freely). But it turns out that genetically, fungi are closer to animals than they are to plants – we both have chitin in our cell walls, for instance. The actual fungus grows as a network of threads called mycelium that permeate the ground and can grow for miles, sort of like the roots of a plant but smaller than the width of a human hair. When conditions are right, and the fungus feels it has a good chance at reproducing, it will expend the energy to grow a mushroom (like a fruit or a flower that a plant grows). Because of the vast difference in size between the invisible threads of the fungus itself and its fruit, the mushroom, it almost seems analogous to a tree growing an apple that is the size of the Empire State Building. Unlike plants that sprout flowers and fruit like clockwork every year, not all fungi will grow mushrooms every year.  Since the organism is invisibly tiny, you can imagine that it takes a LOT of energy to create a “fruit” that is orders of magnitude more massive than itself, so they are fussy about when they fruit. Nobody understands fully what triggers them. Some mushrooms are only seen to sprout once every ten or twenty years, while others come up reliably several times a year. It has something to do with the temperature and humidity and soil acidity being ideal, but “ideal” is different for different fungi. So you might say that while the millions of species of plants and animals all look different, and you can tell them apart fairly easily, the millions of species of fungi all look almost identical to the naked eye (invisibly small thread networks) but their fruits all look different. So when we study mushrooms, we are studying the different fruiting bodies of different fungi, not the fungus itself. Many fungi never make fruiting bodies big enough to see very well. For instance, the mold Penicillin is just a thin layer of fuzz, and some species are much smaller than that. Most mushroom clubs, mushroom books and mushroom pages like this one are mostly concerned with those fungi that make large fruiting bodies that you are likely to notice (and care about). But there are many more thousands of closely related species that go mostly unnoticed because no part of them ever gets big enough to get your attention.

You will see tiny mushrooms almost all year round (e.g. Mycena) but the larger, fleshier fruit bodies mostly fruit during certain times of the year because they take a lot more energy to produce and perhaps the fungus is being fussier about when to sprout, wanting to make sure the conditions are right.

Some mushrooms are mycorrhizal, meaning that they live in a symbiotic relationship with trees and other plants. Their mycelium actually grows in with the network of tree roots. Remember back in grade school when you learned that plants make their own food using the chlorophyll that makes them green to turn sunlight into sugar? Well, that’s not the whole story. If the tree only ate sugar it would be as unhealthy as you or I living on an all candy diet. It turns out the mushroom’s thin mycelium are very good at getting vitamins and minerals out of the soil, but plant roots are not. So the mushroom takes some of the sugar made by the tree and in return it gives the tree vitamins and minerals and everybody lives a happy life eating a balanced diet. They did an experiment taking the fungi away from some pine saplings, and they got very sickly! Mycorrhizal mushrooms will be mostly found growing out of the ground, although they have been known to have their mycelium grow up and around a log and then grow the mushroom right out of the log, so you can be fooled.

Other mushrooms are saprophytic, meaning they eat and decay dead plant matter like tree trunks, branches, needles and leaves. So not only are mushrooms necessary for the health of trees but if it weren’t for mushrooms, fallen plant debris would not rot. Every forest would have duff so deep you wouldn’t be able to walk through it because you would sink in over your head. Some mushrooms eat the cellulose in the plants (the white squishy part) leaving the brittle brown lignin behind. These are called brown rot fungi. More difficult to do is to digest the lignin and mushrooms are some of the only organisms to evolve enzymes to be able to digest lignin (you cannot – it’s one of many reasons that wood is not considered food). These leave the white squishy cellulose behind, and are called white rot fungi. Many logs will have many different mushrooms living in them, some eating the cellulose and some eating the lignin. Sometimes you can find a piece of a rotted log that is mostly white and squishy or brown and brittle and you can see which type of fungus predominates. One study of a single log in the forest that has been going on for over 20 years has found over 200 mushrooms growing out of it so far… that’s how many different species are living there. But most astonishingly, new ones are still being discovered every year. Saprophytic mushrooms often grow right out of the piece of wood that they are eating, and can be recognized that way, but some saprophytic mushrooms just live off of the nutrients in the soil and grow up in the grass, miles away from the nearest shrub or tree. However, if there are trees nearby, there is no way to tell for sure if your mushroom sprouting out of the ground is a saprophytic or mycorrhizal mushroom.

Saprophytic mushrooms can be mass produced easily and cheaply. They grow on piles of dead things, so if get yourself a pile of dead things and sprinkle spores on it you’ll grow mushrooms. But mycorrhizal mushrooms? They need to be attached to living, sometimes old growth trees, so you can’t grow them in captivity! They have to be hunted in the wild, and that’s why they are so expensive. The health food store is not trying to rip you off because they know you love morels so much more than you love the button mushroom…. it’s because the button mushroom is saprophytic and the morel is mycorrhizal. (Well, mostly, except for the one that popped up mysteriously in your planter that one time, but that’s another story.) Every morel that you see in the store had to be found by somebody walking through the forest. And truffles grow underground, so they’re even harder to find, so the price is going to be that much higher.

    More on Spore Prints

The spores don’t just fall off of the mushroom, they are forcibly ejected! The mushroom wants its spores to be flung as far away as possible to spread its “seed”, so it actually launches the spores, something which will only happen when the spores are mature and ready (and their proper colour) and if the mushroom is moist enough. If your attempt to make a spore print doesn’t work it’s not that you did it wrong. It’s that the mushroom is too young (so the spores weren’t ready) or the mushroom was too old (and too dry).

Occasionally mushrooms like some Agaricus have an intermediate spore colour – the spores go from clear to pink to dark chocolate as they age. Looking at a mushroom can fool you as to the spore colour. You have to take a spore print! You might see white gills because there are no coloured spores there yet (but if you left the mushroom in the ground and watched it for a day the gills would later turn brown with spores). You might see pink gills on an Agaricus but the spores have not fully matured yet into the proper dark chocolate colour. But you can’t be fooled by a spore print. Those fake pink spores (or any young spore not fully grown and not the proper colour) will NOT fall off onto the paper! So if it is ejected onto the paper, you have a “real” spore colour. It is also most reliable to measure spores under a microscope from a spore print, not from examining a piece of tissue (especially true of Ascos) because you won’t have any small young spores confusing you and giving the wrong measurements! Squishing a piece of tissue onto a slide may actually break off spores that are not yet their full size and colour and were not yet separated from the mushroom until you came along and crushed it.


As you saw in the instructions, if two mushrooms are in the same genus it’s because they are very closely related. If they are in different genera, but they are in the same family, they are somewhat related. If they are in different classes, you know that they are only distantly related. And if they are in different phyla, you know they are just about as different as any two mushrooms can be. But, as I said, there are only 6 levels of fungi in this classification system. For instance, Hygrocybe and Hygrophorus and Chrysomphalina are all genera in the Hygrophoraceae family. Hygrocybe and Hygrophorus are more closely related to each other (I think), but there’s no way for you to know that. You would need to add a new level, a sub-family (or a super-genus, not to be confused with Wile E. Coyote Super-Genius) to the tree to show that relationship. People have created many different sub-levels to show more detail, but it’s never going to be perfect until you have an infinite number of levels, which just isn’t practical. So this system, like any man-made system, is just a flawed attempt to show at least some of the relationships between mushrooms. You need a picture of a full phylogenetic tree to show the exact relationships between all the mushrooms, but we won’t get into that here.

Another interesting philosophical argument is: What is a species? OK, so you go through the keys and you find the mushroom you have, and you are able to put a name on it. Is that the mushroom species that you have? Maybe not. The field of mycology started out in Europe, where people went around and named all of the mushrooms they found. Then later, in North America, people started going around looking at all the mushrooms here, first of all along the east coast. They noticed that some mushrooms looked the same as the ones in Europe and some were different, so they used the European names for the ones that looked the same over here and made up new names for the new ones. Then they started looking on the west coast and they noticed that some were the same as in Europe, some were the same as on the east coast and some were new.  Except that is not necessarily true. The Amanita muscaria out west sure looks like the same one found in Europe for thousands of years, but a closer analysis shows that it just might be genetically different enough to perhaps be a different species. Some mycologists want to call it “Amanita amerimuscaria”. Once a mushroom migrates over here and gets isolated from its original population it will start to evolve and drift from the original European mushroom. Eventually there is enough difference that it becomes a new species. And there may be a lot of changes, but to the human eye it still looks the same, so sometimes you can’t actually tell which species you have without doing DNA analysis. But that’s not the final word either. No two mushrooms are alike, and no two people are alike. How far apart do two mushrooms have to be before they are considered a different species?  Believe it or not, there is no generally accepted answer to that question. Some people think that if two organisms can mate with each other and produce viable offspring (that themselves are capable of reproducing) then they are the same species, and if they can’t, then they are not. That is called a “biological species”. However, sometimes it is not possible to test this. Some people say “if the DNA is more than 1% different, let’s call it a different species” but that is arbitrary. Some people say “if we find a whole bunch of mushrooms very much like each other and a second bunch of mushrooms all like each other, but we can’t find any mushrooms that are in between, let’s call them two different species.” But then what happens when you later find a mushroom that’s right in between? You have to change your mind and say “I guess they weren’t separate species after all”. This has happened.

So the current state of affairs is that the DNA work is starting to be done to see if the thousands of mushrooms named in Europe are really the same thing over here. Somebody is going to make a judgment call (there are no right or wrong answers) and if the mushroom is “different enough” they will give the North American mushroom a different name and say that it is a different mushroom, even though to humans, they look the same. For instance, Helvella lacunosa, the fluted elfin saddle just got a new name here in the PNW – Helvella vespertina. It looks the same in Europe as it does here (although some people argue there are tiny differences) but if you find it in Europe you are supposed to call it “Helvella lacunosa” and if you find it in Seattle you are supposed to call it “Helvella vespertina”. Its DNA is different over here. Different enough that somebody thought it deserved a different name. Perhaps the only objective way to answer these questions is to choose the definition of “biological species”, but it takes a long time to do those studies, much longer than it takes to sequence some DNA, so that work is not going to be done anytime soon. Nor can everybody agree that that is how it should be done.

To make things official, every mushroom is supposed to have a “type”, the first mushroom found like it, which you are supposed to keep in a museum. You can say with absolute certainty that the first Helvella lacunosa found in 1783 in Europe is properly called Helvella lacunosa. But what about the millions of other mushrooms just like it that have been found since? Are they also Helvella lacunosa? Now you understand that some people would say yes and some people would say no. The problem is, we didn’t save the original specimens until recently, so there is no original “type” for Helvella lacunosa and many other common mushrooms first named long ago (we didn’t start saving them until more recently, and even if we did save them they’re so old now that you can’t always extract DNA). So you will never be able to prove it one way or another. For all such mushrooms somebody has to go back to the general area where the original one was found, find something as close to it as they possibly can, and declare that one the new “type” (and then remember to save it this time.)

Over the years, as we try and figure out which mushrooms are related to each other, we’ve gotten better and better at figuring that out and we have changed the names of the mushrooms many times to try and express that. Most mushrooms have many synonyms, alternative Latin names you could use for the mushroom, and not everybody agrees on which name is the right one. Some have dozens of possible names! So you will see the same mushroom on these pages called something different by a different book or a different person. The right name will continue to be argued over until we can say with certainty which other mushrooms it is related to and also say with certainty who named it first and therefore has priority.

Many of the guidebooks you will find, such as Mushrooms Demystified, were written a long time ago and DNA studies have shown that mushrooms are not related to each other in the ways we used to think. If David were to rewrite that book now, the chapters would be organized differently (and he just might.) The reason a couple of the chapters are so big is that only the most distinctive mushrooms got their own family (or chapter) back in the day, and everything left over was placed in a miscellaneous family (sometimes called the garbage family). It took years of microscopic and molecular study to figure out the differences between these leftover mushrooms and to create families where each mushroom can rightfully belong. And this work is still ongoing! It will be years before we have the answers. Mushrooms are being renamed and moved around the tree of life every month! We live in interesting times, for it may be true that sooner than we think these questions will be answered once and for all and so we can dream that one day our children will not have to live in a world where mushroom names are being changed all the time.

Now I bet there is one question going through many people’s minds right now… “Who cares?!?”.  As humans we love to categorize things, but the level of detail we choose to categorize things to should depend on whether or not declaring two mushrooms the same or different is actually useful somehow. Perhaps it is your job to trace how mushrooms have evolved and study how long it takes an organism to develop significant differences after being introduced to an isolated island. Then you absolutely want to try and figure all of this out. Is one species going extinct but a closely related species thriving and you are trying to figure out what changes are happening in the environment and how it might affect us? Then you also care. But if you just want to learn to recognize and enjoy the beautiful mushrooms around you, maybe you are completely content knowing that you have narrowed the identity of one down to a closely related group of species. What if you just want to eat it? You usually won’t care, but it turns out that the popular edible mushroom Macrolepiota rachodes turned out to be three different species, and the popular honey mushroom Armillaria mellea turned out to be nine different species all hiding in a species complex that looked almost identical. They differ by very little, except that some people are allergic to some of them (and get sick eating them) but not others. Now that somebody did the work of sorting out the minute differences that make up the different species (work which to some I’m sure seemed pointless), these people can figure out reliably which ones they can eat!

    Convergent Evolution

One very interesting thing we learned as we started to delve into the true relationships of the mushrooms is that there were some big surprises of mushrooms that looked alike but turned out to be completely unrelated as well as mushrooms that couldn’t look more different that turned out to be closely related. For instance, many puffballs and the little bird’s nest fungi turned out to be related to the store bought Agaricus mushroom. Yet Russula and Lactarius, although looking for all the world like every other gilled mushroom, are not closely related to any other gilled mushroom at all. It turns out that there are only so many ways you can look to be successful in life (if you’re a mushroom). You need to maximize the surface area to volume ratio of your spore-bearing hymenium, which simply means that you need to make as many spores as possible if you hope to reproduce.  While more “primitive” mushrooms only make spores on the surface of a piece of wood, eventually more “clever” mushrooms evolved to produce a wrinkled surface instead of a flat surface, in order to have more room to make more spores in and around each of the folds. Eventually, gills evolved, where the face of each gill is coated in spores, much like the pages of a book, producing thousands of times more spores than simply coating a flat surface would. Another strategy is to grow pores, like the boletes and polypores do. They evolved tubes (like a bundle of straws you hold in your hand) where the inside of each tube is coated with millions of spores. A third strategy is to develop spines (also called teeth), kind of like inside-out pores where the surface of each spine can be coated in many, many spores. These three shapes are the most successful for reproducing and they have evolved independently over and over again, seemingly by coincidence, so that we now have mushrooms that look identical but are millions of years apart in evolution. Except now we understand that it isn’t really coincidence – when you get into a harsh environment and are pressured to evolve more spores or go extinct, you find a way to evolve into one of those three shapes. This is called convergent evolution.

The shapes of Gastroid and Truffle-like fungi especially have evolved independently many, many times, as explained on the truffle page.

So that begs the question, what is a gilled mushroom? The answer used to be easy – anything with gills. But as we started to make up the mushroom family tree to accurately represent their relationships to each other we now have mushrooms with gills all over the tree and there is no longer just one branch of the tree with gills.  You might choose to define a gilled mushroom as everything related to the store button mushroom Agaricus (technically the Order Agaricales) which was the first mushroom ever named and therefore gets to be the official gilled mushroom. But this means that some mushrooms with gills (like some polypores and Russulas) are not gilled mushrooms, but puffballs and bird’s nests are gilled mushrooms. You can see why this might be controversial.


Edibility is another controversial subject. Mushrooms are very hard to identify and at first, you are not going to get the identity of most mushrooms correct when you use these pages (or any other book or key). And if you eat the mushroom, you might kill yourself. Identifying correctly is very hard to do and can only be done after getting a lot of hands-on experience with a trained teacher. There are many things that can go wrong

  • There are over 5,000 mushrooms in the PNW and most books only list a few hundred, so your mushroom is probably not even in your book.
  • Different mushrooms can look almost identical and it takes a trained eye to spot the differences.
  • Identifying is hard enough in person – via a photograph it’s even harder still.
  • Every key and book I know has mistakes in it, including this one, sometimes giving you the wrong information and sometimes having the wrong photograph for a certain species.
  • I am always finding mushrooms that grew under odd circumstances and look nothing like they normally do, often looking much like a different mushroom.
  • Mushrooms change a lot as they age, and a photograph can only show one at one point in its life cycle.
  • Where you live, there may be deadly poisonous mushrooms that don’t grow elsewhere and look like edible mushrooms where your guidebook was written, so the guidebook might not warn you about them.
  • Many people are allergic to mushrooms and get sick eating things that others can eat perfectly well. So always try only a small piece of a new confirmed edible species and only eat more of it if you don’t feel sick after an hour or so.

I’m not trying to discourage you from learning. With enough practice you can learn to identify hundreds of different mushrooms from blurry photographs, but it takes years. Go ahead and try and identify all the mushrooms you find, and use the result as the starting point for learning more about that species and how to identify it, but just in case you’re wrong, don’t eat it.

There are a lot of common “rules” floating about that say things like “Do not eat a bolete that turns blue wherever it is touched”, or “poisonous mushrooms are white or have red pores” but none of these rules are true. A rule like this comes about because somebody discovers a poisonous mushroom that turns blue, or is white, or has red pores, so they make a rule saying not to eat mushrooms that have that property. But the truth is, there are probably 99 edible mushrooms that are white or turn blue for every one that is poisonous, so it’s not a very good rule. You might think that at least it’s a good “better safe than sorry” rule, except that there are deadly poisonous mushrooms that don’t look like any of the mushrooms in any of the rules, so you can needlessly avoid hundreds of good edible species and only eat a mushroom that doesn’t follow any of the “bad” rules, and you might still die. So much for rules.

OK, this is the moment you’ve all been waiting for. I am about to tell you the real way to tell if a mushroom is edible or not… are you ready? Here goes… you eat it and then see what happens to you.

Yes, here we are well into the 21st century, and there is still no better way. There may be hundreds of different toxins in different mushrooms, and we don’t even know what they are, so we can’t make a test for them. Sure, whenever a mushroom kills somebody it gets funding, and we learn why. So there is a test for amatoxin, the deadly poison in Amanita phalloides and other mushrooms, but for the vast majority of poisons out there there is no test. So every time you read in a guidebook “edible, edible, poisonous, edible” it’s because some brave person long ago ate them and passed them around to a few of their equally brave (or naively trusting) friends, and wrote down which ones made them sick, and how sick they got. Then, as mushrooms started killing people, we found fewer brave volunteers to try all the unknown and newly discovered mushrooms, which is why in more recent guidebooks describing more recently discovered mushrooms, you’ll see a whole lot of “unknown, don’t know, unknown, no idea”.

I think it is true to say that there are far fewer poisonous mushrooms than we think. If anybody got scared or felt weird when eating a mushroom, nobody else would be brave enough to try it, so a lot of the mushrooms received bad reputations for no good reason. Many “poisonings” were allergic reactions that you or I might not have if we ate it. And if the first person ate it and was fine but the second person ate it and got sick, we wrote “edible, but use caution as some people can’t tolerate it”. But if the first person got sick and the second person was fine we wrote “poisonous but not to everybody”. Same edibility. But it is still true that some mushrooms can kill you, so no matter how few of them are actually poisonous, don’t eat something you can’t ID with 100% accuracy, because you might get unlucky.

Don’t trust what somebody else says unless you personally know their credentials. All the time I see people on the internet post pictures and ask what a mushroom is, and I see other people respond naming it as a species that is edible, and they are wrong. Sometimes they even admit they’re only guessing because they’re only trying to learn themselves and hoping that somebody will tell them if they are right or wrong. They don’t expect the other person to eat it based on their guess. But some people seem to trust a stranger on the internet whom they have never met with their life, and they will eat it. Remember, that is what you are doing, trusting that person whom you’ve never met with your life.

If you hang around with an identifier long enough you’ll notice that they are always finding strange mushrooms in the woods and saying “Hmm, I wonder what that is?” and popping them in their mouth. What is going on? Are they trying to kill themselves? Well, some mushrooms that look alike only differ by taste, so you have to taste them to find out what mushroom you have. As long as you spit them out, barring bacteria and environmental toxins, you’re probably OK. The poisons are long chain proteins usually too large to be absorbed through the mucous membrane of the roof of your mouth – you would have to actually swallow a piece to get poisoned. You might not want to go around chewing the deadly Amanita just on principle. Mycologists have a pretty good idea that their mushroom is not deadly poisonous before they risk a taste, but my point is that you should not be afraid to touch a mushroom. And there is certainly no reason to avert your children’s eyes away from the forest for fear that they see a poison mushroom and it hurt them.

So in summary, if you would like to start eating wild mushrooms, my advice to you is to find an expert who can teach you, in person, just a few of your favourite edibles and their poisonous lookalikes, and then practice with that person until they are confident that you can do it on your own. Since there are no general rules to identify edible mushrooms, you will have to start with a small number of species, non-gilled if you want to be safest (since they are easier to identify and fewer of them are poisonous), and learn all the lookalikes from a real person. Don’t try to do it from any book or publication.


If you are just starting out, you are probably not yet thinking of getting a microscope to look at mushrooms for identification, but eventually you will need to. A macroscopic key can only get you so far. You might notice a number of species are described very similarly on these pages, and are wondering how you can learn to tell them apart. The answer is that you probably can’t without a microscope and more information on what to look for. Subtle differences are not usually reliable, so trying to learn to identify lookalike species by studying their tiny differences is misguided – it really might be either one.

Here is some advice on how to get started with a microscope, when you’re ready. Books will tell you many, many things you can look for under the scope to identify your mushroom, but they won’t tell you how difficult they are to find. You can see most everything you need to see with a good 400 power system. Don’t feel you need to spend the extra money right away for a 1000 power oil lens. You can see the shape and size of spores and measure them to within a micron or two. Don’t expect at first to be able to tell the difference between species whose spore sizes differ by less than that. Most of the time, you will see if the spores are smooth or have some kind of warts, but not always. Telling Basidiomycota from Ascomycota is very easy to do. So is finding odd shaped cystidia.

However, if you are told to look for clamp connections or tell the difference between monomitic and dimitic or trimitic hyphae, do not expect to be able to do that without a very good quality 1000 power lens and a whole lot of practice and patience. The same goes for trying to find the structure of the cap and gills. If you know what you can realistically find as a beginner, you will save yourself from getting frustrated and impatient.


I’d love to be able to answer all of your questions, but the unfortunate fact is that there is so much about mushrooms that we just don’t know. Mycology does not get a lot of funding, and there are not a lot of people working in the field compared to botany, mammalogy and, well, just about every other part of biology except for slime molds. (Even mycologists feel sorry for slime molds in the Kingdom Protista and sometimes study them out of pity). There is just so much we don’t know and are not likely to learn anytime soon, which is unfortunate considering that everything we do know is telling us how crucial fungi are to every part of the life cycle on this planet. The mystery is one reason we find them so fascinating and amateur enthusiasts from mushroom clubs are often able to help professional mycologists in many ways. Not only are they fun to study, but it’s great to know that what you do can make a difference! The field needs all of the assistance it can get.

Don’t feel bad if you have trouble matching a mushroom you find to the pictures on these pages. Individual mushrooms of a species can vary tremendously. Imagine you are an alien that has come to Earth and you say “take me to your leader” so they bring you to President Obama. Now you’re wondering which species he is, so you consult your guidebook to creatures of the Milky Way galaxy, and the picture they have under “human” is a photo of Prince William’s new baby. You would go back to your home planet and swear up and down that you couldn’t possibly have spoken to a human. Read and become familiar with as many references as you can, and make sure to note the variety each individual can demonstrate every time you find a mushroom, and don’t give up.


Soil Microbiology: A Primer

by Vern Grubinger
Vegetable and Berry Specialist
University of Vermont Extension


Although it may not be obvious, healthy soils are chock-full of living organisms. Some are visible to the naked eye, like earthworms, beetles, mites and springtails, but the majority of soil-dwellers are very, very small. They’re also very, very important to soil fertility.

Just a few grams of soil, less than a teaspoonful, may contain hundreds of millions to billions of microbes. Not only is the total number of microorganisms in fertile soil quite high, but together, they weigh a lot, too. Soil microbial biomass can range from several hundred to thousands of pounds per acre.

By far, the most numerous microbes in soil are bacteria, which have just one cell. Also abundant are fungi, which produce long, slender strings of cells called filaments, or hyphae. The actinomycetes are in-between these two organisms. They are advanced bacteria that can form branches like fungi. It’s the actinomycetes that give soil its characteristic earthy smell. Fungi and actinomycetes are good at starting the decomposition of organic residues, working on materials that are tough to break down. Bacteria finish the job by eating the more digestible ingredients.

Many other microbes can be found in smaller numbers in soil, including algae, cyanobacteria (often called blue-green algae), and protozoa (one-celled organisms that decompose organic materials and also consume bacteria). Nematodes are microscopic roundworms; some of these are beneficial and some are plant parasites.

The soil zone located immediately around active roots is called the rhizosphere. This is an area of high microbial activity. Materials released from roots, called exudates, create a food-rich environment for the growth of microorganisms. Rhizosphere microorganisms in turn help plants by fixing nitrogen from the soil air, dissolving soil minerals and decomposing organic matter, all of which allow roots to obtain essential nutrients.

Some microbes have a specialized role in the rhizosphere. Rhizobia bacteria associate with the roots of legumes to form nodules. This symbiotic relationship provides the bacteria with a source of carbon in exchange for making nitrogen available to the plant. Farmers are familiar with this process, and often encourage it by inoculating legume seeds with a commercial preparation of the Rhizobium species that is suited to the crop species they are planting.

A special kind of fungus called mycorrhizae also associates with plants. By colonizing large areas of roots and reaching out into the soil, mycorrhizae aid in transfer of soil nutrients and water into the plant. This is especially important in situations where nutrient availability or moisture is limited.

Microbes have a lot to do with maintaining good soil structure, which promotes infiltration and drainage of water, soil aeration, and vigorous root growth and exploration. Gummy substances produced by soil microbes (complex sugars and mucilages) help cement soil particles together into aggregates, which contribute to soil structure. This cement also makes aggregates less likely to crumble when exposed to water. Fungal hyphae further stabilize soil structure as their threadlike structures spread through the soil, surrounding particles and aggregates like a hairnet.

The proportion of the different kinds of organisms present in your soil depends on conditions such as available moisture, aeration, organic matter levels and the type of plants present. Chemical conditions such as acidity and alkalinity will greatly affect soil organism populations. For example, fungi often prefer acidic soils, while actinomycetes thrive in more alkaline conditions.

In order to encourage microbial activity on the farm, soil has to be managed to create a favorable environment for both crops and microbes. This can be done by timely and appropriate tillage that avoids compaction; irrigation and drainage practices that keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, liming to maintain a near-neutral pH, and frequent  addition of organic (carbon-containing) residues to provide energy for the microbes.

In general, the abundance of microbes in soil is proportional to the organic matter content. Soils that have large amounts of organic residues regularly added to them tend to support a larger microbial population. However, there is usually an explosion in microbial numbers after the addition of available carbon ‘fuel’, followed by a population crash as that fuel is consumed. Some of the fuel is incorporated into microbial cells and some is given off as carbon dioxide. Later, the microbial cells become food for other microbes and then they, too, are decomposed through microbial activities. So eventually, microbial activity returns to a low level unless more residues are added. The good news is that the microbes are always there, ready to leap into service when environmental conditions are suitable and there’s a source of energy.

For more information on soil microbes, soil management and soil fertility, refer to “Building Soils for Better Crops,” by Fred Magdoff and Harold van Es, available from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program at:

Microbes sustain life on earth and they have relationships we are just beginning to understand leading us to discover these smallest of small critters and animals are the basis of all life.

The floriculture of microbes is called the soil microbiome and it is very similar to our humanbiome and definitely intricately connected.    Unseen (with our eyes) microbes have a collective mass greater than all the animals on the planet.   In the human, there are more microbes then human cells.   

We are here because of the microbes and we live in their world!

Microbes (also called microorganisms) are literally everywhere.  They  grow and reproduce in and on your body, and on rocks, within plant roots and on their leaves, in wetlands, oceans and fresh waterways.   And, microbes are in soil.  There are more microbes in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on the earth. There are more microbes in your gut than human cells in your body.   Soils contain about 8 to 15 tons of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, earthworms, and arthropods.

Therein likes the difference to soil and dirt.  There is a big difference.   The Father of Soil Science, Hans Jenny, defined the 3 components of soil.  The first is mineral (texture) which is the sand, silt and clay.    Organisms are the second component.  And, the third is the organic matter (OM).    Without the microbes or the OM, it is simply dirt and void of life. 

In the soil, the microbes decompose and recycle; keep us healthy, make the oxygen we breathe, fix nitrogen, control pollution, are a source of renewable fuel.  They literally feed the world!  Without them, there is no food!  And, without these microbes healthy we may have a plant we can eat force with “ides” and “izers” but it contains no nutrients.   It is like the difference between a tablet of processes vitamin C and a sprig of parsley from good soils.

It is a web of precious live science has neglected for too long Soil microbes throught recycling and decompossition release chemicals (such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus) that can be used to build new healthy plants (and animals). So, the flower or a vegetable will eventually become part of another living thing chemically.   So the next time you see cut flowers decay or a garden vegetable rot, remember, you’re really seeing microbes at work.

Our understandings about these microbes is now giving us solid information about how to provide the environment and the biology to ensure the good microbes thrive.  Science is now discovering the microbe world in research that  “…just like the human gut or plant roots, the hyphae of AM fungi have their own unique microbiomes,”  Scientist at the Maria Harrison, Scientist at the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI)  “  

Everything has a symbiotic relationship.   For example, all living things require nitrogen for building DNA, RNA, and protein molecules. We knew nitrogen is abundant in the atmosphere but only a few species of microbes can use it in this form. All other organisms depend on certain bacteria that produces enzymes that convert or “fix” gaseous nitrogen (N2) into a form other organisms can use (such as ammonium (NH4+) or nitrate (NO3-)).  Nitrogen-fixing bacteria depend on plants for food therefore forming a symbiotic (or mutually beneficial) relationship. Animals (including us humans) in turn acquire nitrogen by eating plants and plant-eaters.   

Other metabolically talented microbes can metabolize metals, acids, salt, methane, or even radioactive wastes. We are discovering a microbe for every pollutant. Thus microbes can treat sewage, clean abandoned mines, and degrade a variety of industrial chemicals.    

We are just beginning to understand and appreciate this minute world at greater depths.   Maybe it is just in time because we have spent years destroying them and following practices (both chemical and organic) that have harmed their cycle of life.  Soil biology is the mediator of life on Earth. It is the function of the biological systems acting as the “gut” of plants.

When we look into the soil with our microscopes we want to see bacteria, fungi, yeasts, protozoa and nematodes.  They act as microbes in the gut biome to solubilize, sequester and digest the minerals from the sand, silt, clay, rocks, pebbles and crop residues into plant available nutrition.    This nutrition translates for us humans as amazing “taste” that is satisfying. This is referred to as nutrient cycling and in symbiosis with plants, they (the microbes) are critical for carbon cycling also.

We all, farmers and gardeners alike, are realizing this the soil biological system that literally is the “gut” of our environment.    Big money AG and the wrath of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, soluble fertilizers and tillage have left soils void of some of these microscopic soil managers. They are out of balance. Without them, we are left to chemistry that may superficially be a short fix but it is harming the critters.   As our understanding of many of the “-cides” used in agriculture increased, it is clear how devastating these can be to the microbes. We need to eliminate or at the very least, use wisely, all forms of insecticides and fungicides so as to not compromise the biodiversity.   We need to rebuild the biodiversity.

One of the fundamental theories from soil consultants is that not all soil testing is created equal. Simplistic N-P-K and pH tests are fine for determining fertility needs, but worthless when it comes to rebuilding soils.  To rebuild you have to understand the microbiology.

It is important that we remember to view soil as a habitat and an ecosystem, and to shift our mindset from feeding plants to feeding the soil, which will in turn feed the plants and support them in many other ways.   Microorganisms are “everything” and is relevant to everybody.   The proof is around us everywhere.  Microbes actually do everything.  

Soil microbes are the simpliest of creatures that created our environment we live in.   In our soil microscope and compost making we are particularly interested in bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes and soil microaggregates (held together by the microorganism glue). 

There are microbes in us, on us and acting upon everything around us.     If we don’t understand them and stop harming them, there will be no nutrition from our plants and we will left with only “dirt”, barren land, anaerobic conditions and life will cease.  We have to look at this differently.   We have help the microbes thrive.   We all need to eat and we all need healthy nutrition.  Microbes are responsible for creating soils we all desperately need.  

Recently, so many insights into how life happens becauses of microbiology.   The microbes are the engines of production and understanding their role and helping them flourish translates to true sustainability longterm.   As we learn more and more we realize they offer roots to all the solutions we are seeking…at least the most fundamental issue we are face with collectively and that is “health”.   It is important now and even more important in the future.  Taking care of the soil is taking care of the whole!

Analysis of Candida Albicans as a Fungus
[Taken from writings of Dr. Simoncini but reduced to less medical and more commonly understood words.]

Candida Albicans is a type of fungus.

Fungi possess a property that is strange when compared to all other micro-organisms: the ability to have a basic microscopic structure (the fiber-like hypha) with a simultaneous tendency to grow to remarkable dimensions (up to several kilograms), keeping unchanged the capacity to adapt and reproduce.

From this point of view, therefore, fungi cannot be considered true organisms, but unique cellular parts with the behavior of an organism.

Fungi, during their life cycle, depend on other living beings, which must be exploited in different degrees for their feeding. The simple carbohydrates (sugars) needed by fungi include monosaccarides (glucose, fructose, and mannose). The fungi get these sugars from their hosts by feeding on their oragnic waste, and by directly attacking the host for nourishment.

Fungi show a great variety of reproductive manifestations (sexual, asexual, gemmation; these manifestations can often be observed simultaneously) in order to create spores.

The hyphas somewhat beak-shaped fiber structures allow their penetration of the host tissues.

The production of spores can be so abundant as to always include tens, hundreds, and even thousands of millions of them.

Spores have an immense resistance to external aggression, for they are capable of staying dormant in adverse conditions for many years, while maintaining their regenerative potential.

The shape of the fungus is never defined, for it is imposed by the environment in which the fungus develops.

The partial or total substitution of nourishing substances causes frequent mutations in fungi, and this is further proof of their high adaptability.

When the nutritional conditions are precarious many fungi join with nearby fungi which allows them to explore the available tissue more easily, using more complete physiological processes. This property, which substitutes co-operation for competition, makes them distinct from any other microorganism, and for this reason Buller calls them social organisms.

When a fungus cell gets old or becomes damaged (i.e. by a toxic substance or by a drug) many fungi, whose intercellular dividing walls are provided with a pore, react by transfering the nucleus and cytoplasm of the damaged cell into a healthy one, thus conserving unaltered all their biological potential.

The phenomena regulating the development of hyphas is independent of the regulating action and behaviour of the rest of the colony.

Fungi are capable of implementing an infinite number of modifications to their own metabolism in order to overcome the defense mechanism of the host. These modifications are implemented through plasmatic and biochemical actions as well as by a size increase and reproduction of the cells that have been attacked.

Fungi are so aggressive as to attack not only plants, animal tissue, food supplies and other fungi, but even protozoa, amoebas and nematodes.

Fungi hunt nematodes, for example, with peculiar hyphal modifications that constitute real mycelial fiber criss-cross, viscose, or ring traps that achieve the immobilization of the worms. In some cases, the aggressive power of fungi is so great as to allow it, with only a cellular ring made up of three units, to tighten in its grip, capture and kill its prey in a short time notwithstanding the prey’s desperate struggling.

From the short notations above, therefore, it seems fair to dedicate a greater attention to the world of fungi, especially considering the fact that biologists and microbiologists constantly highlight large deficiencies and voids in all their descriptions and interpretations of the fungi’s shape, physiology and reproduction.

The fungus is the most powerful and the most organized micro-organism known.

The greatest disease of mankind may therefore hide within the small cluster of pathogenic fungi, and may be after all be located with just some simple deductions able to close the circle and provide the solution.

Therefore an exceptionally high and diversified pathogenic potentiality exists in this fungal fiber of just a few microns in size, which, even though it cannot be traced with present experimental instruments, cannot be neglected from the clinical point of view. Certainly, its present disease classification cannot be satisfactory, because if we do not keep the possibly endless parasitic configurations in mind, that classification is too simplistic and constraining.

We therefore have to hypothesize that Candida, in the moment it is attacked by the immune system of the host or by a conventional antifungal treatment, does not react in the usual, predicted way, but defends itself by transforming itself into ever-smaller and non-differentiated elements that maintain their prolific reproductiveness intact to the point of hiding their presence both to the host organism and to possible diagnostic investigations.

The Candida’s behavior may be considered to be almost elastic:

When favourable conditions exist, it thrives on epithelium (a surface such as the inner surface of intestines); as soon as the tissue reaction is engaged, it massively transforms itself into a form that is less productive but impervious to attack — the spore.

Candida spores

If then continuous sub-surface anti-fungal solutions take place coupled with a greater reactivity, in that very moment the spores go deeper into the lower connective tissue in a well defended impervious state.

In this way, Candida is free to expand to maturation in the soil, air, water, vegetation, etc., that is, wherever there is no antibody reaction.

In the epithelium, instead, it takes a mixed form, that is reduced to the sole spore component when it penetrates in the lower epithelial levels, where it tends to expand again.

Candida has been studied only in a pathogenic context, that is, only in relation to the epithelial tissues. In reality Candida possesses an aggressive ability that is diversified in response to the target tissue. It is just in the connective or in the connective environment, in fact, and not in the differentiated tissues, that Candida may find conditions favourable to an unlimited expansion. This emerges if we stop and reflect for a moment on the main function of connective tissue, which is to convey and supply nourishing substances to the cells of the whole organism. This is to be considered as an environment external to the more differentiated cells such as nervous, muscular, etc. It is in this context, in fact, that the competition for food takes place. On one hand we have the organism’s cellular elements trying to defeat all forms of invasion; on the other hand, we have fungal cells trying to absorb ever-growing quantities of nourishing substances.

Candida goes deeper into the sub-epithelial levels from which it can be carried to the whole organism through the blood and lymph (intimate mycosis). Stages one and two are the most studied and known, while stage three, though it has been described in its morphological diversity, is reduced to a silent form of saprophytism (obtaining food by absorbing dissolved organic material).

This is not acceptable from a logical point of view, because no one can demonstrate the harmlessness of the fungal cells in the deepest parts of the organism. In fact, the assumption that Candida can behave in the same saprophytic manner that is observed on epitheliums when it has successfully penetrated the lower levels is at least risky.

In fact, we ask you to not accept the theory that the connective environment is (a) not suitable to nourish the Candida, but also at the same time to not accept (b) the belief in the omnipotence of the body’s defense system towards an organic structure that is invasive but that then supposedly becomes vulnerable once lodged in the deeper tissues.

As to point a), it is difficult to imagine that a micro-organism so able to adapt itself to any sub-strata cannot find elements to support itself in the human organic substance; by the same token, it seems risky to hypothesis that the human organism’s defense system is totally efficient at every moment of its existence.

Finally, the assumption that there is a tendency toward a state of vulnerability in the case of this pathogenic fungus — the most invasive and aggressive microorganism existing in nature — seems to carry a whiff of irresponsibility.

It is therefore urgent, on the basis of the above-mentioned considerations, to recognize the hazardous nature of such a pathogenic agent, which is capable of easily taking on a variety of biological configurations, both biochemical and structural, in response to the current environment of the host organism.

The fungal expansion in fact becomes greater as the host tissue becomes less nutritious to the candida, and thus less reactive against it.