Mushrooms. A common food item. Found in every grocery store across America and a favorite food item around the globe. We sauté them, deep fry them, slice them in salads and omelets. Mushrooms. A favorite pizza topper. We stuff them with crab meat or cheese as scrumptious appetizer. We also enjoy them eaten fresh and whole. We rarely give the mushroom a second thought. We take them for granted for mushrooms are simply, everywhere. However, at certain points in history, this was not the case.
The ancient Egyptians believed the mushroom was the plant of immortality as evidenced by Hieroglyphics over 4000 years ago. The Pharaohs of Egypt assumed that only Royalty would partake in the consumption of mushrooms with a decreed that commoners could never touch them. In civilizations throughout the world, including Russia, Greece and China, actual mushroom rituals were performed. It was thought that consuming mushrooms produced impervious strength and could lead the soul straight to the Gods. Desert mushrooms were revered in medieval Middle East periods. Mushrooms were even thought of as a potent aphrodisiac.
There are at least 38,000 species of mushrooms identified today. It is true that some species are toxic and should not be consumed. As a result, private mushroom cultivation started in France in the 1800’s.
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This of course initiated the genesis of a unique and profitable business for those inclined. Still today, most of the mushrooms we consume are produced by private mushroom growers. You may even purchase mushroom cultivation kits of your own. Some of the edible types of mushrooms now purchasable include Oyster, Shitake, Enoki, Chanterelle, Portobello, Porcini, Agaricus and the regular button cap we are all familiar with. It is truly a mushroom smorgas board out there. A wonder to behold.
As of late, mushrooms have rendered the spotlight as they are under close scrutiny for their potential medicinal properties. A “new class” of mushrooms, referred to as medicinal mushrooms has been formed which include Maitake Mushrooms, Shiitake, Turkey Tail, Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane, and Reishi to name a few. As of today, actual scientific and formal University research around the world is attempting to delve into what exactly it is these little wellness promoting fungal bundles may have to offer the spectrum of human well being. To date, mushrooms, in particular, the identified medicinal species, have been shown to have anti-tumor, ant-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. This is not to mention certain species that have been identified as helping to reduce stress, increase sexual performance, act as a nerve tonic, and help lower cholesterol.
With these thoughts in mind, it may prove prudent to incorporate mushrooms as part of the regular diet. In particular, the variety or fancy kind, as research appears to demonstrate potential health benefits from these single celled organisms often simply regarded as fungi. Mushrooms are easy to prepare. They require no peeling, are easy to clean, can be eaten raw, and cook up in a jiffy. There is even a national organization, The Mushroom Council, dedicated to the education, cultivation, and consumption of mushrooms. A culinary delight in fine restaurants across America, and cultivated in almost every state, it has never been easier to enjoy the delightful taste and textures of a delicious delight once reserved for Royalty.