Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fancy a Fungus?

More info on mushrooms being "from the gods"
In ancient Egypt the Pharaohs prized mushrooms as delicacies. They became the preserve of the royal family. The Romans called mushrooms food of the gods and served them only on special occasions. The ancient Greeks held mushroom feasts and believed that mushrooms empowered their warriors for battle. Today, however, mushrooms are not just for the elite; people are enjoying them all over the world and they are easily available in stores and produce stands. 

The following is an interview of an Australian and his wife from Sydney, Australia who drove to Mittagong a picturesque town in the southern highlands of New South Wales to search out Noel Arnold's mushroom farm and interview Noel on the cultivation of mushrooms.

Mushroom Cultivation

Noel is a microbiologist and mushroom expert, who studied mushroom cultivation in several countries before returning to Australia to grow them commercially. "Mushrooms are fungi, a family of organisms that includes mildews and molds," he explains. "Biologists formerly thought that fungi were plants, but we now know that they are very different from plants. For example, fungi do not make their food from photosynthesis as do nearly all plants. They can grow in the dark. Their bodies secrete powerful enzymes that convert organic material into basic nutrients, which they absorb as food. This unique digestive process also distinguishes fungi from animals. Since fungi are neither plants nor animals, biologists now classify them in a realm of their own - the fungi kingdom."

"In the wild, mature mushrooms release millions of tiny spores that mix with other mushroom spores and germinate. If the spores land in a cold, damp place with plenty of food, they can grow into new mushrooms. Commercial mushroom growers aim to replicate this process using controlled conditions to improve crop yields and quality."

Noel further explained about how different mushroom varieties require different growing conditions. For example, while white, or button, mushrooms, the world's most popular variety, grow best on pasteurized farm compost, other varieties flourish in bags of plant waste, bottles of cereal grains, whole wooden logs, or logs of compressed sawdust. Of the thousands of known mushroom species, only about 60 are commercially cultivated.

Noel allows his mushrooms to mature and fruit in an old abandoned railway tunnel near Mittagong. "It's cool, damp, and perfect for growing mushrooms," he states. There in the tunnel are an array of bags, pots, and bottles sprouting thousands of mushrooms of all shapes and sizes. Some evoke memories of blooming roses, others resemble fluted lilies or look like floral bouquets or squat umbrellas. In total, it was a splendid color display.

Tasty and Versatile

"Many people love the look of exotic mushrooms but may not know how to prepare them. Yet, they are easy to cook. Some people chop them up for stir-fries, soups and salads, or they cook them whole for a barbecue. Personally, I enjoy oyster mushrooms crumbed and fried in oil. And shiitake mushrooms have a rich, meaty flavor that tastes great in omelets."

Shiitake mushrooms
Edible mushrooms are highly nutritious and are a valuable source of fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins. Some 2,000 varieties are also known to have medicinal properties. According to one medical review, mushroom extracts have more than 100 medicinal uses, including combating cancer, hepatitis, AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, and high cholesterol.

It can be very dangerous to gather mushrooms in the wild, however. The death cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides), among others, closely resembles edible varieties yet is deadly. So follow the rules: NEVER eat mushrooms from the wild unless a mushroom expert identifies them as safe to eat.  
This article was taken (and slightly altered) from the Jehovah's Witness monthly magazine Awake! March 2012 issues, article entitled "Fancy a Fungus?" I post here on the article because the various forms of candida are in the fungi family and Noel gave some interesting commentary on the characteristics of the fungi: it grows in moist, dark places that has a food supply for supporting them (translated to mean, they feed off a host). They do not need photosynthesis to reproduce. Every mushroom likes feeds off a different environment, and in a different temperature controlled zone ... Valuable information for knowing the enemy and being better able to use countermeasures for eliminating it.

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