Mushrooms are on my mind. Not really for culinary purposes—truthfully, unless they’re of the Chanterelle variety, I leave them off my dinner plate. However, like the millions who have been tuning in to watch The Last of Us, an edge-of-your-seat show that has inspired many viewers to Google “cordyceps,” the cause of a post-apocalyptic world overrun by this fungus that begins using humans as its hosts turning everyone into zombie-like beings with one motive: spread to others.
In reality, the cordyceps fungus grows on the caterpillar of a moth and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over a thousand years as an antioxidant immune system booster; studies have also shown that cordyceps help combat kidney disease, loss of sex drive and offer many additional health benefits.
Watsonville-based chef Dory Ford began cultivating cords while diving into the science of mycelium (a root-like structure of a fungus consisting of a mass of branching) from other species. Ford raises cords on his new farm laboratory, MycoSci, using a proprietary method Mark C. Anderson breaks down in his cover story.
The Last of Us wasn’t on Ford’s radar when this endeavor first hatched. The inspiration is more related to mental health. (If you didn’t already know, May is Mental Health Month.) Ford was inspired after a “loved one” came to him, revealing that she wanted to get off of the prescription antidepressants she was on, and she was interested in psilocybin (aka magic mushrooms) as a possible treatment—psilocybin-based care in clinical settings, has proven to relieve everything from PTSD to eating disorders. The federal government still designates psilocybin as a Schedule I controlled substance.
However, MycoSci is ready to pivot to medicinal psychedelics. For now, focusing on cordyceps is OK with Ford—he’s prepared to go psilocybin whenever the government is willing to admit it was wrong.
Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the 2023 Best of Santa Cruz County. The online flip-thru edition is also available at goodtimes.sc
Adam Joseph | Interim Editor
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Housing Santa Cruz County (HSCC) has proclaimed May as Affordable Housing Month! Several events planned throughout the county aim to tackle the region’s housing crisis. HSCC will host multi-jurisdictional policy discussions, a “Housing Element” bike tour, affordable housing project groundbreakings, affordable housing policy conversations with community leaders and more. A complete list of events is available at housingsantacruzcounty.com/affordable-housing-month
The Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County will celebrate the businesses, groups and individuals who have transformed the county at the 2023 Be the Difference Awards this month. The annual awards luncheon gives the local community a chance to thank those who donate their time to make the county a better place to live. Nominations are submitted by the community and vetted by a panel of community leaders who serve as judges this year. Tickets are $50. scvolunteercenter.org/be-the-difference-awards