Mushroom dye: a fun-gus autumn activity

The use of mushrooms in science, construction, medicine, and elsewhere is increasingly being explored. While innovations are still emerging, you can try something simpler – using mushrooms as dye, mycologist and representative of the Latvian Natural History Museum Diāna Meijere told Latvian Radio on September 18.

"Mushrooms are already used in quite different sectors and different areas. One line of research is to create mushroom mycelium objects, and create different mycelium materials that can be used for a wide variety of purposes. For example, the possibilities of using it as building material, which could repair itself if necessary, are being explored. If mycelium stays alive and some kind of hole is knocked out, for example, then it can be supplemented with a substrate and the mushroom can grow it shut. I don't know how far it has been taken in real performance, but there are experiments like that,” Meijere said.

Substitutes for leather material are also made from mycelium, which is already used in various company formations, such as the manufacture of accessories. Mycelium skin does not require animal life, is a natural material that can be grown artificially, and is of great interest to entrepreneurs.

'Mycelium is intended to be used, for example, in various furniture packaging. Imagine if you could replace foam packaging with mycelium. It's very good, light, pressure-resistant. This material has a great future,” said Meijere.

Meijere herself has made some unusual use of mushrooms – she has learned to dye yarn with mushrooms.

“Yes, it's one of my hobbies. I've been doing it for about eight years and it all started with a mushroom exhibition. I knew you could dye yarn with mushrooms and there were various pigments in mushrooms that could be used for this purpose. Once, looking at the mushrooms being thrown out after the mushroom exhibition, I figured I could take them home and try the thing. Only had to try once and liked it,“ Meijere said.

“Some of the edible mushrooms can be used for dyeing. The same Aureoboletus projectellus boletes – the young ones can be eaten, but if there are any old ones that look like you wouldn't want to eat anymore - they can be thrown into a pot, heated, and then put white yarn in there. That yarn will turn a very beautiful mustard-yellow shade. Even without a mordant, without anything, you can just try,” said Meijere.

Other boletes can also be used especially when they're too old to be eaten. To get other colors that aren't yellowish, you need to know which mushrooms exactly to use. A set of samples which colors you can get with which mushrooms, can be viewed at the Natural History Museum.


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