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Red-Belted Conk

Fomitopsis pinicola

Red-Belted Conk (Fomitopsis pinicola)
12cc liquid culture syringe
$15 - $25 suggested donation
This cosmopolitan conk is one of the most ubiquitous primary decomposers in this neck of the woods, where it is found fruiting from the cutface of nearly every fallen tree that's sawn across the trail. Rarely given much regard by frequent foragers, I have to say, I'm really quite fond of it. It is truly a workhorse of the forest, stationed with august purpose at its post, influencing and balancing numerous elements of its ecosystem without pause nor complaint.

The Red-Belted Conk is too woody to be considered edible (though David Aurora offers a useful recipe in Mushrooms Demystified). It produces numerous medicinal compounds and, traditionally, it is powdered and brewed into tea as a tonic, which has a strong, earthy and deeply comforting flavor. Even though it is one of the most common woody conks, it often fetches a remarkably high price, sold in powdered form for medicinal purposes. But its primary cultivation potential, in my opinion, lies in its penchant for pine, spruce, fir and hemlock, its seasonal resilience, and its adaptability to new environments.

It weaves tenacious mycelium and makes an excellent candidate for doweling and mycoremediation projects where conifers abound. This strain was cloned from a young specimen (3 or 4 years old) growing on a tamarack in the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon.

Recipe for Winterade, aka Earthjuice
1 medium-sized piece of a Red-Belted Conk, dried and crushed
2 scoops raw cacao nibs
1 whole nutmeg
1 scoop whole peppercorns
1 clove
a few slices of ginger and tumeric
skin of an orange
honey to taste
Heat a pot of water to a very low simmer, about 170°F (77°C), and add the ginger, tumeric and orange peel. With a mortar and pestle, grind up the conk, which may need some elbow grease, then add the nutmeg and cacao and continue macerating. Stir the powder into the hot water, add the clove, peppercorns and any other earthy flavors you feel drawn to, and forget about it for a spell. Gently reheat it if necessary, add something sweet to taste, and deeply warm your winter spirit. Continue adding water and more spices as needed for several more days.
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