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Shrooms Beyond the Plate: 10 Bizarre and Fascinating Uses of Mushrooms

Sure, you can forage and eat mushrooms (certainly not all of them, but many of them), work them into your skincare routine, or use them medicinally, but did you know that mushrooms can be used to make faux-leather sneakers? Guitars? How about coffins? 

Turns out, these functional fungi have even more magical properties than you’d think. Here are 10 bizarre and fascinating uses of mushrooms. 

1. Biodegradable Packaging

Image by Evocative

Could mushrooms be the ultimate eco-friendly alternative to plastic packaging? Companies like Evocative are using shrooms to create biodegradable packaging materials. Evocative, for instance, uses just two ingredients in its mushroom-based packaging: hemp hurd and mycelium (the root-like part of the fungus). After use, mushroom packaging can be broken up and spread into a garden bed to convert into compost.

2. Faux Leather 

Mooo-ve over, cows. Mycelium can be used to create leather-like material for fashion accessories like purses and even Adidas sneakers. Bolt Threads is one example of a company making mushroom-leather items, using its Mylo Unleather material, which feels as luxurious as leather but is way more sustainable.

3. Guitars

New England-based luthier Rachel Rosenkrantz has taken her craft to the next level by building guitars out of mushrooms and other biomaterials. She says not only does the material make sense environmentally but it also lends the instrument a truly unique sound.

4. Alcoholic Beverages

Mushrooms are used to make mushroom wine, mushroom beer, and mushroom spirits. Finger Lakes-based company Mushroom Spirits Distillery offers a line of spirits infused with various types of mushrooms. The company says each infusion has its own flavor profile and works surprisingly well in classic cocktails. For instance, the company’s tasting room offers drinks like the Classic Bloody Mary with its Shiitake Vodka and the Mushroom Mule with its Hen of the Woods Vodka.

5. Boogie Boards

A failed Kickstarter campaign suggests the world isn’t quite ready for mushroom boogie boards, but it’s an interesting concept nonetheless. In the spirit of reducing the use of materials like plastic and styrofoam, the Magical Mushroom Company raised some money this summer in hopes it could produce mushroom-based boogie boards aimed at tourists buying low-cost boards while on vacation. The prototypes looked promising, and maybe this eco-friendly packaging company will keep working toward its goal of sustainable shroom bodyboards. 

6. Coffee Substitute

Instead of drinking coffee in the morning, you could drink mushrooms. MUD\WTR makes a coffee alternative that’s a surprisingly tasty pick me up. Their OG blend is masala-chai flavored and includes chaga, cordyceps, reishi, and lion’s mane mushrooms. You can use the MUD\WTR blend to create a delicious latté or as an addition to a nutritious smoothie. When you buy the Morning Ritual Starter Kit, they’ll send you a frother and a whole booklet full of ideas. If you’re in the market for a mushroom-based coffee substitute, other options include Ryze and Beyond Brew’s Rise ‘n Shroom.

7. Soil Purifier

Image by Ezra Bailey

As part of a process called mycoremediation, mushrooms can help clean up contaminated environments by absorbing and breaking down various pollutants in soil, including heavy metals, agricultural waste, and pharmaceutical waste. Seems a bit magical, right?

8. Tinder

Image by Kypros

This one’s for the survivalists out there. Did you know that you can harvest certain mushrooms and use them as tinder to start a fire in an emergency situation? The hoof fungus is perhaps the most famous example of a tinder fungus, but other species, such as chaga mushrooms and cracked cap polypores, can also help you light a flame. 

9. Lamp Shades

If you’ve ever wanted a more natural vibe in your home, you’re in luck. MushLume Lighting makes lampshades bio-fabricated from mushroom mycelium and sustainably grown hemp. The company says its lamp shades are molded, dried, and heated to create a stable, 100% biodegradable product. They look great, too. 

10. Coffins 

Do you love mushrooms so much that you’d like to be buried in them? Loop Biotech offers several mycelium-made items for after-life care, including the Loop Living Cocoon (a coffin), the Loop ForestBed (a funeral carrier), and Loop Earth Rise (an urn). If you’re really committed, you can even buy a pet coffin made of mushrooms.

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