Before a mushroom shows up on your plate or in your supplement powder, it has undergone a complex and fascinating process from spore to fruiting body. In fact, what most people refer to as a “mushroom” with its signature stem and cap, is only one component to an intricate network of mycelium, which contains bio-active compounds, polysaccharides, prebiotic fibers and more. To understand the origins of the mushroom and the root-like system from which it grows, let’s explore the mushroom lifecycle, beginning with spores and how mushrooms reproduce in the first place.
It Starts with Spores
Spores are often likened to the mushroom’s version of seeds and they are necessary for reproduction. Technically called basidiospores, they consist of a single cell and thus contain half of the genetic information needed to form a whole mushroom. When a mushroom reaches the reproductive stage, millions of microscopic spores are ejected into the air and are carried by the wind to be deposited on soil, wood or plant matter. If conditions are suitable, the spore grows until it encounters another spore suitable for mating.
Mycelium is Fertile Ground
If a mushroom is the fruit we’re after, then mycelium is the tree from which it grows. When compatible hyphae mate and germination occurs, mycelium is the result. As the mycelium grows by absorbing nutrients from its surroundings, it constructs a network of microscopic fibers that expand into a root-like system. This root-like system is fertile ground for building an actual mushroom. Under favorable conditions, the mycelium is capable of producing small hyphal knots that will develop into mushroom fruiting bodies.
Primordia Are Baby Mushrooms
The first stage of fruiting in the mushroom lifecycle is the primordia, which look like several tiny pinheads tightly packed above ground mass. This is a peak stage of growth containing various nutrients and active compounds, including enzymes, germanium, secondary metabolites and polysaccharides like beta glucans. From thousands of primordia, only a few will develop fully into the fruiting bodies of whole mushrooms we are most familiar with.
A Mushroom Is Born
The mature fruiting body of a mushroom can have various structures, which may contain a cap, stalk, ring, volva and gills. The cap or the gills are typically the spore-producing surfaces of the mushroom, where the lifecycle will begin again. The length of time it takes to grow a mushroom depends on the type of mushroom and the environment, though it’s clear that every stage of the lifecycle is crucial.
Om Mushroom Superfood products are grown in a state-of-the-art CGMP indoor farm in California, using proprietary strains collected over the years through every stage of the mushrooms’ lifecycle, including the mycelium and fruiting bodies. This careful attention to the mushroom lifecycle ensures our products contain a full spectrum of valuable nutrients just as nature intended. Instead of just using the fruiting body, Om takes advantage of the potent root-like structure of the mycelium to craft our superpowered superfood products across powders, capsules, drink mixes and broths.