Cordyceps Militaris Production: Past, Present and Future
The Fascinating History of Cordyceps Militaris Production
Historically, the cultivation of mushrooms is still in its early stages. This is especially apparent when we explore the timeline of Cordyceps militaris production. The species has been used as a supplement in the East for decades, but has only been cultivated since the 1895. Keep reading to learn more about the history of mushroom cultivation, and Cordyceps militaris production specifically — including how we do it at Mushroom Revival.
Our tinctures are made from cordyceps we grow ourselves in Western Massachusetts! Click below to shop certified organic tinctures and dried mushrooms.
A Brief History of Mushroom Cultivation
It is believed that mushroom cultivation has roots as early as 600 A.D., where there are accounts of the wood ear mushroom (Auricularia auricula) being cultivated in China. This was followed by enoki (Flammulina velutipes) in 800 A.D., and then shiitake (Lentinula edodes) in 1000 A.D. However, to consider these early records as agricultural practice would be inappropriate. True agricultural mushroom cultivation is more recent, with Asia having cultivated large amounts of gourmet mushrooms by the 16th century. Cultivation slowly made its way west, and took root in the caves of Paris in the mid 1600s. Chambry, a French gardener, found mushrooms growing in his fertilizer and introduced them to local restaurants. He then brought his practices into the caves, due to their year-round compatible temperature and humidity.
Soon after, mushroom cultivation became a steady commercial business in the West, with the species Agaricus bisporus, the common button mushroom, being the most popular. The button mushroom now makes up 40 percent of all mushrooms grown globally. Large scale commercial cultivation wasn’t implemented until the 1900s, and techniques seem to change significantly every dozen years or so. This is all to say that the cultivation of mushrooms is still in its early stages. This is even more apparent when we explore the timeline of Cordyceps militaris production.
Solving the Challenges of Cordyceps Cultivation
Cordyceps has been used as a supplement in the East for decades, but only since the 1980s has it been commercially cultivated on a massive scale in Asia. Cultivation success varies widely from species to species, with cordyceps being notoriously difficult. While Ophiocordyceps sinensis is the historically revered species amongst all cordyceps, it is radically more challenging to grow its fruit-bodies. Overharvesting led to scientists developing a method of growing the mycelium of ophiocordyceps sinensis in a bioreactor to make
supplement products with. The main strain they developed and used, even to this day, is called “CS-4.” Upon further DNA analysis, it was discovered CS-4 wasn’t actually Ophiocordyceps sinensis, but another fungus called Paecilomyces hepiali. To this day, this fungus is being falsely advertised as “cordyceps,” and we have been in dire need of a new alternative.
This brings us to Cordyceps militaris, a funtionally comparable species that is cultivation-friendly, has many of the same compounds as Ophiocordyceps sinensis, delivers the same health benefits, and is much more accessible and sustainable.
Cordyceps Militaris Production in the United States
The Western story of Cordyceps militaris production begins in 1895 when R.H. Pettit from Cornell University published a research paper on artificial cultivcation of cordyceps miltiaris, cordyceps melolanthe, cordyceps clavulala, isaria farinosa, isaria teniupes and 11 related species (16 total). 1932 was the first year cordyceps was grown on rice. From 1932 until present day most companies were growing cordyceps mycelium on grain and not fruiting the actual mushrooms. There were a few examples of farms who were growing the mycelium, successfully fruiting the mushrooms by mistake but were not very public in their success. From the first artificially cultivated cordyceps in the US in 1895... Flash forward almost 100 years later and in comes a humble human by the name of Ryan Paul Gates. There was a festival, William Padilla-Brown, founder of Mycosymbiotics and self-taught citizen scientist, hosted in Pennsylvania, where Charlie Aller (Charlieceps) found some wild specimens of Cordyceps militaris. Padilla-Brown then cultured the specimens in his lab, and shared the strain with Gates.
Gates took strides to cultivate this tricky specimen. He began by following YouTube videos of militaris cultivation in Thailand, translating and applying what he learned. Once his interpreted methods proved successful, Gates and Padilla-Brown shared these techniques with the public to re-ignite cordyceps militaris fruit body cultivation in the US after what seemed to be a hundred year hiatus. Alex Dorr (the spore commander here at Mushroom Revival) took the baton and started experimenting with these organisms soon after.
There have been hundreds of “failed” experiments made in the name of optimizing the growing techniques of these mushrooms over the years, and we are still learning every day. As of April 30, 2019, Mushroom Revival is not only the biggest, but also the first and only certified organic Cordyceps militaris fruiting body farm on this half of the globe.
The recent addition of Cordyceps militaris to global mushroom cultivation is seemingly escalating. Growing methods for cordyceps are different from the more customary mushroom cultivation techniques. These techniques include using grain spawn, wood shavings and other agricultural byproducts as substrate, and the unfortunately pervasive plastic bags.
Nearly all Cordyceps militaris growers are growing on a supplemented rice substrate (rice cooked with a nutrient broth) in glass jars. Other methods that have been recorded include: growing on moth/silkworm larva, growing on different grains, growing in plastic bags, in plastic tubs, and aluminum containers. We do not recommend the aluminum containers because mushrooms will hyperaccumulate metals.
Cordyceps Militaris Production at Mushroom Revival
Here at Mushroom Revival, we are constantly evolving our Cordyceps militaris production techniques. This may mean adjusting our own nutrient broth, pH, moisture levels, lighting, tools, procedure, extraction methods, etc. As our followers and lovely volunteers can see, we grow in reusable glass jars. These have proven to be successful, but certainly add tediousness to the process. We are now experimenting with some new cultivation techniques, which we will release when we nail them down.
We are patient with our mushrooms, and wait until we have mature fruiting bodies to harvest and process them into potent, high vibration cordy supplement. We read up on the latest scientific research to make sure we use the right techniques and extraction methods, ensuring our products have the highest amount of active compounds available. We only use 100% fruiting bodies, without mycelium on grain or any other fillers/additives, and make sure our process and all our ingredients are 100% certified organic. Our team is fastidious about logging every ingredient with batch numbers — tracking them from when they enter our doors to when they end up at your doorstep, and saving our logs indefinitely. We routinely send in our mushrooms and any other material we work with for rigorous lab testing — including heavy metal testing — and review the results and certification paperwork. Only then do we use them for our products. We believe our customers are #1, and therefore deserve nothing but the best. We are in this for you… and the planet. For every product we give to you, we plant one tree for the planet. Here at Mushroom Revival, we are about integrity, high standards, and giving back with love.