Sep 27, 2008
Come to think of mushrooms and the most likely thought that comes to mind is their exquisite taste, color and texture. However, very few people are aware that these unique fungi aid the human immune system and contribute to a healthful diet. A healthy intake of mushrooms protects the body cells from heart disease, oral cancers, and slows down ageing. The word mushroom is derived from the Frankish word “mussiriones” referring to the meadow mushroom and from the French ”mousseron “meaning growing on moist moss.
The popularity of low carbohydrate diet is now gaining popularity in Indian homes. People are making a conscious effort to cut back on foods that lead to cholesterol and heart disease. Mushrooms are ideally positioned to fill this gap. Ladies who are especially health conscious on the weight front can include mushrooms in their diet because the role of mushrooms in weight loss and maintenance is known since ages.
Many are unaware that mushrooms are highly nutritious, delicious, and low in calories and excellent weight watchers. In the West; the mushroom industry is a multi million dollar industry. They are a healthy addition to any meal. While some mushrooms make excellent dishes in their own right, some are suitable for flavoring such things as soups and stews. Mushroom can be added to enhance the food value and in a variety of culinary delights.
The nutritional value of mushrooms as sugar free, protein rich food supplement is well known. Mushrooms are grouped with vegetables, yet provide the proteins found in meats. The edible mushrooms are high in antioxidants which help in disease prevention. Most importantly, mushrooms are fat and cholesterol free, low in sodium, yet provide several vitamins, minerals and amino acids which act as building blocks of proteins, in the form of riboflavin, selenium and niacin. Mushrooms are the only vegetables with vitamin D, essential for bone and teeth development. The copper content plays a crucial role in the manufacture of red blood cells, which acts as an oxygen carrier. Potassium controls the blood pressure and prevents stroke and selenium boosts the immune system.
The use of mushrooms as food has a long and varied history. These edible fungi have been used as food ever since the hunting and gathering stage of our prehistoric ancestors. The credit of popularizing mushrooms goes to the Greeks and Romans who mastered the art of exploiting the culinary benefits of mushroom fungi in preparing varied exotic dishes. A particular species of mushroom called boletaria was so highly prized by the Romans that certain cooking pots were set aside and reserved for its exclusive preparation. In the early days, scientific tools were not available to determine if wild species of mushrooms were poisonous or edible. Animals and slaves were used as guinea pigs to test the efficacy of newly discovered forest mushrooms.
The biodiverse Western Ghat forests are a treasure trove of mushroom biodiversity. Our research for the past twenty years has clearly indicated that only a select few wild mushrooms have been identified and hordes of new species are yet to be discovered and classified. Mushrooms thrive under varied ecological conditions, from moist to dry. A trek into the western Ghat forests during monsoon will reveal a wide variety of mushrooms in different forms and colors. It is estimated that the mushroom species may exceed that of plants, animals and birds combined. The mushroom biota recorded in the Country includes 1200 species of fungi compared to the 14,000 species of mushrooms reported from all over the world. This represents only 10 % of the world biota of mushrooms. In the Indian context approximately 350 species of mushrooms are edible. The Western Ghat to date consists of 750 species of mushrooms. They have an ecologically significant role to play in the utilization of dead organic matter and recycling the same into essential nutrients.
Mushrooms are one of the most important groups of microorganisms, called Fungi. Some are edible and a few others poisonous. At times hallucinating and bioluminescent mushrooms are observed either on the floor of the forest or on dead trees or decaying organic matter. Most of the edible mushrooms are distinctive in their characteristic features, which are obvious to a trained eye of a microbiologist or a horticulturist. People should be careful while picking mushrooms in the wild because the ordinary looking mushrooms can be deadly poisonous. If you do choose to harvest mushrooms in the wild, make certain that they are identified by a professional before you consume them. Many mushrooms resemble the normally safe edible mushrooms, but in reality are false mushrooms, and can be deadly poisonous. For your own safety, do not experiment. There is an old saying “There are old mushroom hunters, and bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters.” A word of caution: Mushroom hunting is not a hobby for the careless or uninformed.
Wild edible mushrooms have interesting local names. These are derived from either the habitat (e.g., Roen olmi = termite hill mushroom), shape (Khut olme = mushroom with crutch, Fugo = balloon), color (Tamdi olmi), size or occasionally the fruiting season (Shit) olmi, which fruit during winter).
In India three types of mushrooms are cultivated on a commercial scale. The white mushroom also known as table mushroom, cultivated mushroom or button mushroom ( Agaricus bisporus ), the Paddy straw mushroom ( Volvariella volvacea) and the oyster mushroom (Pleurotus sajor caju).
MUSHROOM SELECTION: When buying mushrooms from the supermarket shelf, Choose those with a firm texture and even color with tightly-closed caps. If the gills are exposed, it's an indication of age, and they are probably past their prime. Discolored, broken and damaged mushrooms with soft spots should be avoided.
It is a fact that the price of wild mushrooms can range for reasons such as taste, historical significance and availability. The truffles have a unique flavor. Their garlic bouquet and texture and flavor are unlike any other mushroom on the planet. These mushrooms only grow on hill sides close to the root zone of trees and are located with the help of a trained pig. European truffles can sell for over $ 1,600 per pound!
One Portabella mushroom generally has more potassium than a banana.
Almost overnight a mushroom can grow from a pin sized head to a medium sized balloon with rapid intake of water.
Many of the edible white mushrooms do appear within 24 hours of a thunderstorm and this is no myth.
GANODERMA: This particular mushroom is cultivated for medicinal properties instead of for food, on a commercial scale in China. It is known to cure chronic bronchitis, coronary heart disease and cancer. Various types of Ganoderma are commonly observed inside the western Ghat forests.
PADDY STRAW MUSHROOM: The commercial cultivation of this mushroom contributes to 6 % of total world production of cultivated species. This particular mushroom has the characteristic property of Agino Moto.
Amantia phalloides, commonly referred to as the DEATH CAP is considered as one of the most poisonous mushrooms in the world. Amantia muscaria, a reddish colored mushroom rarely found in the Western Ghats is said to induce a hallucinogenic effect on human beings.
In spite of the fact that a majority of the mushroom species has yet to be identified, the threat to mushroom diversity is clearly visible due to habitat destruction, deforestation, land use change and building mega projects inside the core of the forest zone.