My enthusiasm for gardening built on my interest in biochar, but we have an even more compelling reason to seek abundant vegetables. When you garden, your sunk costs burden you to recover as much as you can by consuming the fruits (and vegetables) of your labors. Dietary guidelines point out that eating vegetables is key, especially for those plagued by diabetes. Since my wife has that condition and my father contracted it in his demise, gardening may be one of the best things we can do.
Last year's crop brought in enough food to overflow our shelves with canned pickle and tomato products. I expect that to happen again as our soil becomes healthier every year. Biochar is to thank for much of that improvement, but drip irrigation under black plastic sheet, decayed wood chip mulch (fostering more mycelium), cover crops, legume inoculants, double digging, pollinator host plants, forking vice plowing, compost, mycorrhizae additions, crop rotation, keeping soil covered, soil sampling and nutrient adjustment, and opening the canopy for more sunlight all have helped. This year, I am hoping to incorporate Garden Giant mushrooms in planting beds shaded by taller crops such as sorghum, tomatoes, eggplant, and lima beans. These mushrooms, in addition to being deliciously healthy to eat, are helpful to their garden companions' growth and yields.
Another mushroom we are hoping to see more of this year is the oyster. We have been blessed with a patch of this found growing naturally near one of our gardens, and since, have tried to cultivate it on logs in brown, blue, and yellow variations. So far, we have had little luck. I grew some on coffee ground this year, but the yield was very low. With oyster mushrooms, we could receive many benefits to counter diabetes including decreased obesity and regulated blood sugar.
We inoculated some logs with lion's mane mushroom spawn last year, and would love to see those come to fruition. Lion's mane could help regrow some of the deteriorated nerves in my wife's feet that cause her debilitating pain. If we ever see maitake mushrooms fruit from the buried logs we went to great lengths to cultivate last year, they may also help with blood glucose.
Where we had the most immediate success so far, is shiitake logs. This year should be tremendous for shiitakes with ten times as many logs prepared. By fall, we should be harvesting armloads! Shiitake improves immunity, blood pressure, sugar, cholesterol, the cardiovascular system, and the digestive system. It has antiviral, antibacterial (e.g. strep, staph, candida), and anti-inflammatory qualities. Something new I am trying with shiitakes is to make an alcohol extract from them. This will make certain beneficial compounds available to take in easy spoonfuls, rather than rely on cooking the mushrooms daily.
Local folk who want to hear a bit more about the benefits and methods of cultivating mushrooms are welcome to attend the March meeting of Calvert Eats Local where I will be giving a presentation and sharing a delicious shiitake dish.