The 36th annual Telluride Mushroom Fest is just around the corner, and in the spirit of fungi, internationally celebrated mushroom cultivator and “democratic mycologist” Peter McCoy will be giving a free lecture at the Grand County Public Library.
McCoy is the young author of the newly published and unprecedented book, “Radical Mycology: A Treatise On Seeing & Working With Fungi.” To promote the book’s release, McCoy is on a nationwide tour in his mobile mushroom lab and fungal roadshow. On Tuesday, Aug. 16, from 6 to 8 p.m., McCoy will be engaging the Moab community in readings and discussions from the book’s many topics.
“My hope with this book and tour is to make mycology exciting and accessible for everyone,” McCoy says. “Fungi are fascinating – mind-boggling, really – and I think it’s time that more folks experienced all that they have to offer.”
The New Jersey Mycological Association calls the 672-page paperback a “fantastic compendium of information about how fungi enrich and detoxify all living systems in our world.”
The Australian Permaculture School’s blog, “Milkwood,” praises McCoy’s book as an enthusiastic and competent guide, with a broadness of text that provides an overview of mushrooms’ cultural history.
McCoy says mushroom cultivation is increasingly proving its ability to address a range of pressing global issues, from food shortages, to chronic disease rates, to environmental degradation. His mission is to spread awareness of the importance of the Fungal Kingdom.
Topics in the book range from thought-provoking ideas on how fungi can influence whole societies, to lichen-based dyes for craft purposes, to how to produce different fermented products, to medicinal and psychedelic properties and uses of fungi.
McCoy’s book is filled with colorful photographs and draws upon what McCoy calls “mycological giants, dating back 1,000 years.”
Milkwood contributor Kirsten Bradley says that the book combines “different voices of various contributors (to) provide a community feel, alongside case studies that are both useful and inspiring.”
McCoy began studying mushrooms and fungi 15 years ago; making half of his life to date dedicated to piecing together the mysteries of mycology. Since 2006, he has been promoting his visionary findings among a network of friends with the Radical Mycology movement.
“Fungi are intimately woven into the human story… The earliest civilizations (and) cultures around the world have worked with, and often revered, molds and mushrooms…” McCoy says. “This is one of great components of our past that has been heavily overlooked … There seems to be much we have yet to uncover – or remember.”
McCoy says his lifelong interest in challenging and eclectic subjects led him down the unfamiliar path of mycology, or the scientific study of fungi, from an early age.
He began his research in high school, determined to grow fungi. He came across authors such as Paul Stamets, eventually moved to online forums for cultivation information, and ultimately dove into more textbooks and technical literature to get deeper into the science and history of mycology.
“It wasn’t easy, as I had no real guides or mentors,” McCoy says. “I read whatever I could find.”
In 2006, McCoy founded the grassroots organization Radical Mycology. He began writing introductions to mycology via “zines,” or noncommercial magazines. Over time, his work gained momentum and popularity, and McCoy became inspired to write a book.
In 2013, McCoy decided to set up a crowd-funding campaign. In January 2014, he won the campaign and spent the last two years developing “Radical Mycology: A Treatise On Seeing & Working With Fungi.”
“I was a little nervous that some of the ideas and info I present may be too ‘out there’ since I knew it would be new to most people, even mycologists,” McCoy says. “But the response was immediately positive, so now I feel quite proud and happy that I took so many risks with it.”
McCoy recently began his three-month-long cross-country book tour, and after Moab, he is bound for his fifth consecutive Telluride Mushroom Fest as a presenter.
McCoy looks forward to bringing his mobile mushroom lab and fungal roadshow to Moab.
“I know there are lots of nature-loving folks there and figured that mycology and mushrooms (aren’t) on too many people’s radar since it’s so dry there,” he says.
If that’s the case, he believes he has a few surprises in store.
“Radical Mycology” author to speak at library on Aug. 16
I was a little nervous that some of the ideas and info I present may too ‘out there’ since I knew it would be new to most people, even mycologists … But the response was immediately positive, so now I feel quite proud and happy that I took so many risks with it.
What: Author Peter McCoy reads from his new book “Radical Mycology: A Treatise On Seeing & Working With Fungi”
When: Tuesday, Aug. 16, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: Grand County Public Library, 257 E. Center St.