Our second set of material testing didn’t quite turn out as planned. Unfortunately, due to a lack of sterile ingredients, most of our samples ended up getting contaminated with some sort of mold or bacteria. While it was disappointing to uncover our tests and find our mycelium fully taken over by some sort of green invader, the speed at which it took over was astounding! It took less than a week for some of the blocks to succumb almost entirely. So while initially, the test might not have provided the results we were going after, we did still walk away from it with a few take aways.
1. Sterilization is key
While we knew this before, our unpreparedness with how to sterilize the flour, corn starch, and honey made us a little soft on sterilization. But after seeing our fungus taken over by opposing organisms, it became clear that no corners can be cut when working with these materials.
As a result, Chester purchased a pressure cooker and we’ve added a few more steps to our preparations. Our entire process now goes as follows:
A. A 3:1 ratio of coffee to water is blended in the food processor.
B. All of the coffee husk substrate is sterilized in the pressure cooker.
C. The sterilized coffee husk substrate is set aside in a sterile container.
D. 8oz of husk substrate is added to the food processor.
E. Other “ingredients” for that test are added to the food processor and blended.
F. The new substrate (with honey, flour, and/or corn starch) is put into the pressure cooker to be sterilized once again with the new ingredients.
G. Newly sterilized substrate is set aside for mycelium testing.
H. A stage 2 sterilized substrate is added to the food processor with a 1:1 ratio of mycelium spawn.
I. Test material is set aside for growth.
2. There is something about corn starch and honey
While it is possible that the corn starch and honey are particularly attractive to the invaders, chances are there are some yummy nutrients that our mushrooms will also want to consume.
3. We need a new elevator pitch
Though not necessarily learned from the “failed” material test, having people constantly ask what we’re working on while we’re blending up our different variables, I definitely noticed a need for a 15 second explanation of what we’re working on. I’ve also found that this will just make it easier to present at the end of the semester as well because we’ll have articulated our project’s main goals so many times.