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What is Mushroom Leather? 09 July, 2020   

Mushroom leather is a vegan-friendly material used as a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to animal leather.

Mushroom leather is made from mycelium, the vegetative part of a fungus.

A fungus (or fungi - plural) is any member of the group of eukaryotic organisms.

Fungi used in mushroom leather

Eukaryotic organisms include microorganisms such as moulds and yeasts, as well as mushrooms.

Fungi have their own kingdom, different than the other life forms on this planet, such as plants and animals.

For that, mushrooms have UNIQUE capabilities.

What is Mycelium?

Mycelium is the network of filaments that form the underground thread-like structure of fungi.

Mycelium part of fungi

It is the branching structure of mushrooms, made from billions of tiny cells.

"The mushroom is a tiny little part belonging to this huge organism that lives underground, called 'mycelium'," Ross explains.

Mycelium grows in the ground, as tiny white threads, forming vast networks under the forest floor.

How Large Can a Mycelium Network Grow?

Well, let's run a small comparison:

When you think of the biggest organisms on Earth, the blue whale might come first to mind.

Up to 30 meters long, blue whale weigh upward of 180 tons, making them larger than dinosaurs.

However, the world record holder for the largest living organism on Earth is not the blue whale...

... but a FUNGUS!

The largest organism in the world is fungi

More specifically, the largest known organism in the world is a honey fungus living in the Blue Mountains of Oregon.

The mycelium of this humongous organism occupies almost 2,400 acres (965 hectares) of soil, covering an area as big as 1,665 football fields.

The honey fungus gets its size from its ability to fuse into a single organism.

"Mycelia from different individual honey fungus bodies meet and fuse to each other. For that, the connecting fungi must be genetically identical. When the mycelia fuse to each other, it creates large fungal bodies. This, in turn, blends extensive networks of fungal ‘clones’ into a single individual," said Soil Scientist Jesse Morrison, from Mississippi State University.

Apart from growing naturally, mycelium can be cultivated in almost any kind of agricultural waste, from sawdust to pistachio shells.

In nature, mycelium already does many things that benefit the environment.

However, not many people know if mushrooms remain beneficial to the environment, once turned into a leather-like material...

The answer is yes!

How is Mushroom Leather Made?

Nowadays, many high-end designers are already using mushroom leather in their products, and you can order yours right now.

For example, Stella McCarney's famous Falabella bag is made with Bolt Threads' Mylo™ mushroom leather.

Stella McCarney's famous Falabella bag made from mushroom leather

However, the idea of making leather-like material from mushrooms goes back to 2012.

At that time, product designers Philip Ross and Jonas Edvard started experimenting with homeware products made from mycelium.

Furniture made from mushrooms

Shortly after, they discover the versatility of this organic material.

"Mycelium can be used to make batteries, spaceships, and fashion. What I am trying to say is that the use of mycelium is scarily endless," said Ross at that time.

The process of making mushroom leather begins with selecting and moisturising the right SUBSTRATE.

Mushroom substrate

Substrates are materials that mushroom use as food and to grow on.

Most common substrates are wood chips, straw, corn, and any materials that the mushroom can attach to and grow.

Then, the substrate is dampened, put it into a bag and pasteurised.

This process kills interfering bacteria, so the mycelium growing process is easier and quicker.

Read more about Mushroom Leather.

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