Author Topic: Agar Alternatives  (Read 6725 times)

Offline BrassRoots

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 75
  • Karma: +1/-0
Agar Alternatives
« on: April 15, 2011, 04:46:28 PM »
So my understanding of the purpose of agar is to provide a gelling agent. It doesn't contribute to the growth of the mushroom but makes a liquid culture easier to handle by coagulating it.

So, can you use alternatives to agar?

For economic reasons I'm think about using hydroxy methyl cellulose (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methyl_cellulose) as a thickening agent. I have heard that it has some stability issues when heated above 80 degrees C but not sure if it goes back to its old self once cooled down. My mushroom cultivating is still in the planning phase (mostly just waiting on my pressure cooker) so I wont be able to test this theory for a little while.

Has anyone else used, heard of using alternatives?
Mushrooms hemispheric to plane, spotted to marbled with "water spots"pn the cap measuring 2-7cm. Cap margin inrolled to incurved when young. Mushrooms dark tan, becoming brown when mature. Gills bluntly attached to stem, close, firm and "wax-like". Stem thich and central. -Hypsizygus tessulatus

Offline themushroombloke

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 362
  • Karma: +2/-0
    • Edible Mushroom Club
Re: Agar Alternatives
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2011, 07:57:57 PM »
I have read somewhere in a paul stamets book that in some asian countries they use really over cooked rice that has been died pink so that you can see the mycelium.
I havn't heard of the stuff you mention, but it sounds interesting. I'm all for the low cost solutions.

Offline BrassRoots

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 75
  • Karma: +1/-0
Re: Agar Alternatives
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2011, 10:14:21 PM »
So the cellulose seems to work. My sterile technique still needs a lot of work though. I got 1 good plate out of 16. Ouch. At least i have a Shimeji culture to work with though.

This round I actually underdosed with cellulose gel though and it did not completely solidify. I used a weight equal to about half the amount of agar recomended by MushroomBloke, so next time I will increase it (not too worried cause get it for free from work). But one observation is bugging me. The plate that worked out has turned excessively liquid. Its becoming runny. Maybe the mycelia are consuming the cellulose because it isnt happening to bacteria contaminated plates.

I have alternatives I can try at work too sych as guar gum so there could be some good experiments coming up.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2011, 10:42:49 PM by BrassRoots »
Mushrooms hemispheric to plane, spotted to marbled with "water spots"pn the cap measuring 2-7cm. Cap margin inrolled to incurved when young. Mushrooms dark tan, becoming brown when mature. Gills bluntly attached to stem, close, firm and "wax-like". Stem thich and central. -Hypsizygus tessulatus

Offline themushroombloke

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 362
  • Karma: +2/-0
    • Edible Mushroom Club
Re: Agar Alternatives
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2011, 08:35:22 AM »
I'm just throwing ideas around here but What if you put something in the mix to give it structure.... I'm not sure what to suggest, I'm thinking something that would work like concrete reinforcement. or perhaps cornflour??? like i said just some ideas.....

Offline NSF

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2531
  • Karma: +38/-0
Re: Agar Alternatives
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2011, 09:10:29 AM »
Cornflour should work, it's a great thickening agent but I don't really know that it 'sets'. 

I'm thinking about from a cooking point of view.  In azn cooking you mix cornflour with a little cold water to make a smooth paste, then add it to a stir fry and bring it to the boil to thicken a sauce.

It's also the constituent ingredient in custard (ok maybe that's eggs or milk).  Custard is a funny thing because it's actually an impact solid, due to the cornflour.  You can walk across custard if you stamp on it, but if you stand still you sink into it. 

Custard will 'set' in the fridge although it still stays a bit viscous.  But I suspect this is due to the egg content. 

So cornflour in agar alternatives will just thicken it but not set it I reckon.

Also, agar is able to be set and re-heated, set, re-heated isn't it?  How many times though? 

Offline punkin

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 117
  • Karma: +6/-0
Re: Agar Alternatives
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2011, 01:41:11 PM »
42

Offline NSF

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2531
  • Karma: +38/-0
Re: Agar Alternatives
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2011, 02:33:36 PM »
lol you far knee far car!

Offline BrassRoots

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 75
  • Karma: +1/-0
Re: Agar Alternatives
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2011, 07:25:28 PM »
I'm just throwing ideas around here but What if you put something in the mix to give it structure.... I'm not sure what to suggest, I'm thinking something that would work like concrete reinforcement. or perhaps cornflour??? like i said just some ideas.....

The product I'm using is actually a cement additive. They use it to prevent water loss from cement. It is also used as a thickener for paints and paint removers

My next try is going to be a synthetic polymer resin that does the same job.
Mushrooms hemispheric to plane, spotted to marbled with "water spots"pn the cap measuring 2-7cm. Cap margin inrolled to incurved when young. Mushrooms dark tan, becoming brown when mature. Gills bluntly attached to stem, close, firm and "wax-like". Stem thich and central. -Hypsizygus tessulatus

Offline NSF

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2531
  • Karma: +38/-0
Re: Agar Alternatives
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2011, 09:58:27 PM »
Isn't cement the powder that you mix with lime, sand and gravel to make concrete?  Is what you are using called bondcrete? Effectively PVA glue?

Anyway, why all this experimentation when agar is 70c a bag and available at asian grocers?

I'm happy for pushing the envelope and discovery, so i'm sorry if i sound negative, i don't mean it.

Offline BrassRoots

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 75
  • Karma: +1/-0
Re: Agar Alternatives
« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2011, 10:05:37 PM »
Mainly experimenting cause i have it laying around in the lab at work. I'll have to check it out the asian grocer option though. It's tried and true and has a lower melting point than this shit, so itll be easier to handle.

What I'm using isnt cement. It is an additive they put in cement to reduce the water loss. It stops differential hardening in high pieces of cement (gravity makes the water fall out).
Mushrooms hemispheric to plane, spotted to marbled with "water spots"pn the cap measuring 2-7cm. Cap margin inrolled to incurved when young. Mushrooms dark tan, becoming brown when mature. Gills bluntly attached to stem, close, firm and "wax-like". Stem thich and central. -Hypsizygus tessulatus

Offline NSF

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2531
  • Karma: +38/-0
Re: Agar Alternatives
« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2011, 10:51:39 PM »
Without expermentation there's no discovery, so i should encourage you. Who knows, you might find something freakish that mycellium adores (like milo).

On the other hand almost as long as science has had labs its had agar. 

But now you've got me thinking about household items that could provide alternatives. Sure, wet cardboard works but what else that we can sterilise and keep sterile. Hmmm...

Offline themushroombloke

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 362
  • Karma: +2/-0
    • Edible Mushroom Club
Re: Agar Alternatives
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2011, 07:40:25 AM »
let's clarify though you dont get much agar in those packs at the asian grocery store what would the price per kilo be and how far does it go(how many plates)? It's not cheap and if the agar industry fails due to something horrible like a massive natural disaster, what then??
initiate back up plan??? cardboard wont cut it I think.

Offline NSF

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2531
  • Karma: +38/-0
Re: Agar Alternatives
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2011, 09:56:46 PM »
That's a very negative way of thinking about it.  What if any industry went down?  Like we do now, we'd import it. 

I've poured 20 dishes from one packet of agar (I made about a litre of gel, using just 20 of the 25g in the pack) and i still have half of it in the e flask. 

How much agar do you need...for that matter, how many dishes do you need at once? 

What about using pectin?  The stuff they set jam with?  Or another jam setting method is to cut up a few lemons and gather up the pips, put them in a cheese cloth or bit of fabric and then submerse them in the jam.  This does some setting too. 

Oh but pectin is a tiny packet and is probably expensive per kilo :P:P:P 

Offline BigLaughingJim

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 233
  • Karma: +7/-0
  • mushrooms round the world make go
    • Au Fungi dot com
Re: Agar Alternatives
« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2011, 08:20:19 PM »
Excellent placement of "the answer" punkin. Comedic timing is crucial. And ive often thought  about gelatin that you buy in sheets and dissolve.
And the agar melting and remelting and remelting, I have remelted it over a dozen times without any issue.
The custard thing is thickened by egg proteins, if you heat them too hot they will degrade and or unwrap to such an extent that when they reform, they squeeze out alll the liquid so you get runny scrambled eggs in a bowl of snot.

I think your cellulose thing is definitely degraded by the mycelium, and what you are left with is a loosely bound cellulose cheese cloth saturated with fungal enzymes and metabolites ....mmmm soup.
jim@aufungi.com
go within, or you go without

Offline BigLaughingJim

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 233
  • Karma: +7/-0
  • mushrooms round the world make go
    • Au Fungi dot com
Re: Agar Alternatives
« Reply #14 on: May 25, 2011, 08:21:33 PM »
and agar is made from seaweed....lots of sea left to ruin.
jim@aufungi.com
go within, or you go without