When we consider mushrooms and the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca, first thing which traditionally comes in your thoughts is María Sabina, Huautla de Jiménez and hallucinogenic “magic” mushrooms. But slowly that’s all changing as a result of the groundbreaking work of Josefina Jiménez and Johann Mathieu in mycology, through their company, Mico-lógica.
Located in the village of Benito Juárez, situated in Oaxaca’s Ixtlán district (more commonly referred to as the Sierra Norte, the state’s main ecotourism region), Mico-lógica’s mission is threefold: to teach both Mexicans and visitors to the nation in the low-cost cultivation of many different mushroom species; to educate concerning the medicinal, nutritional and environmental (sustainable) value of mushrooms; and to conduct ongoing research regarding optimum climatic regions and the diversity of substrata for mushroom culture.
The French-born Mathieu moved to Mexico, and actually to Huautla de Jiménez, in 2005. “Yes, coming all the way to Mexico from France to pursue my fascination with mushrooms appears like quite a distance to travel,” Mathieu explained in a current interview in Oaxaca. mushroom “But there really wasn’t much of an opportunity to conduct studies and grow a company in Western Europe,” he continues, “since reverence for mushrooms have been all but completely eradicated by The Church within the length of centuries; and I discovered that Mexico still maintains a respect and appreciation for the medicinal and nutritional value of hongos. Mexico is far from mycophobic.”
Huautla de Jiménez is more than a five hour drive from the closest metropolitan center. Accordingly, Mathieu eventually realized that residing in Huautla, while holding an historic allure and being in a geographic region conducive to dealing with mushrooms, would hinder his efforts to grow a company and cultivate widespread fascination with learning about fungi. Mathieu became cognizant of the burgeoning reputation of Oaxaca’s ecotourism communities of the Sierra Norte, and indeed the Feria Regional de Hongos Silvestres (regional wild mushroom festival), held annually in Cuahimoloyas.
Mathieu met Josefina Jiménez at the summertime weekend mushroom event. Jiménez had moved to Oaxaca from hometown Mexico City in 2002. The two shared similar interests; Jiménez had studied agronomy, and for close to a decade have been dealing with sustainable agriculture projects in rural farming communities in the Huasteca Potosina region of San Luis Potosí, the mountains of Guerrero and the coast of Chiapas. Mathieu and Jiménez became business, and then life partners in Benito Juárez.
Mathieu and Jiménez are concentrating on three mushroom species in their hands-on seminars; oyster (seta), shitake and reishi. Their one-day workshops are for oyster mushrooms, and two-day clinics for the latter two species of fungus. “With reishi, and to a smaller extent shitake, we’re also teaching a good bit concerning the medicinal uses of mushrooms, so more hours is needed,” says Mathieu, “and with oyster mushrooms it’s predominantly [but not exclusively] a course on cultivation.”
While training seminars are actually only given in Benito Juárez, Mathieu and Jiménez plan to expand operations to incorporate the central valleys and coastal regions of Oaxaca. The object is to really have a network of producers growing different mushrooms which are optimally suited to cultivation based on the particular microclimate. You can find about 70 sub-species of oyster mushrooms, and thus as a species, the adaptability of the oyster mushroom to different climatic regions is remarkable. “The oyster may be grown in numerous different substrata, and that’s what we’re tinkering with right now,” he elucidates. The oyster mushroom can thrive when grown on products which would otherwise be waste, such as discard from cultivating beans, sugar cane, agave (including the fibrous waste produced in mezcal distillation), peas, the most popular river reed referred to as carriso, sawdust, and the list goes on. Agricultural waste which might otherwise be left to rot or be burned, each with adverse environmental implications, could form substrata for mushroom cultivation. It must be noted, though trite, that mushroom cultivation is a very sustainable, green industry. Over the past a long period Mexico has actually been at the fore in lots of areas of sustainable industry.
Mathieu exemplifies how mushrooms can serve an arguably increased environmental good:
“They can hold as much as thirty thousand times their mass, having implications for inhibiting erosion. They’ve been used to completely clean up oil spills through absorption and thus are a significant vehicle for habitat restoration. Research has been done with mushrooms in the battle against carpenter ant destruction; it’s been suggested that the utilization of fungi has got the potential to fully revamp the pesticide industry in an eco-friendly way. You can find literally a huge selection of other eco-friendly applications for mushroom use, and in each case the mushroom remains an edible by-product. Have a go through the Paul Stamets YouTube lecture, 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save The World.”
Mathieu and Jiménez can often be found selling their products on weekends in the organic markets in Oaxaca. They’re both a lot more than happy to talk about the nutritional value of these products which range from naturally their fresh mushrooms, but additionally as preserves, marinated with either chipotle and nopal or jalapeño and cauliflower. The mushroom’s vitamin B12 can’t be present in fruits or vegetables, and accordingly a diet which include fungi is incredibly essential for vegetarians who cannot get B12, frequently found in meats. Mushrooms can quickly be an alternative for meats, with the benefit that they’re not laden up with antibiotics and hormones often present in industrially processed meat products.
Mico-lógica also sell teas and extracts created from different mushroom species, each formulated as either a nutritional supplement, or for their medicinal properties. While neither Mathieu nor Jiménez has got the pharmacological background to prescribe mycological treatment for serious ailments, Mathieu’s own research points to the medicinal use of mushrooms dating from pre-history, to the present. He notes properties of mushrooms which will help restore the immunity system, and thus the utilization of fungi as a complement in the treating cancer and AIDS, and their utility in controlling diabetes and treating high cholesterol.