Marvelous Mushrooms

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

Mycology is the branch of biology that studies fungi. There are up to 14,000 species.


Fungi are neither plant nor human but more evolutionary similar to man than plants.

In fact, a mushroom isn't even something that grows independently. It's just the fruiting part of a hidden organism called a mycelium. The mycelium is a web-like structure that grows underground or inside the pores of decaying wood, and it can grow very large. A mycelium that grows in the Blue Mountains in Oregon measures 2.4 miles across and is arguably the largest living organism on Earth.

Given the right conditions and sufficient moisture, a mycelium sprouts its fruiting bodies, which pierce the surface of the growing medium and grow into structures characteristic of the species. The structures vary, but they typically include the following components:

  • Cap – This may be parasol- or cup- shaped, conical or round, and it may be mottled, smooth or covered with small nibs. It may or may not have a skin that is easy to peel off.

  • Stem – The stem reaches from the cap to the growing medium. It can be long and slender or short and fat. It may or may not be hollow. Not all mushrooms have a stem. Those that grow on decayed wood often don't, nor do puffballs, which are large, round and mostly edible (although some poisonous mushrooms look like puffballs when they're younger, so you can't assume that puffy thing on the ground is safe to eat).

  • Gills – The gills are the spore-producing part of the mushroom. They are on the underside of the cap and may be ribbed or consist of a large number of small holes. Some mushrooms have protuberances called teeth instead of gills, and some, such as chanterelles, have veins.

  • Ring or Annulus – When a ring is present, it's usually wrapped around the stem just underneath the cap. It's a vestige of the universal veil the mushroom had to break through as it sprouted.

  • Volva – The volva is a bulging section at the base of the stem. It's often underground. The presence of a volva, especially one with a ring around it, is often an indication that the species is poisonous.

(This info is copied from the sciencing.com resource, as provided below)

Fungi are fundamental for life on earth in their roles as symbionts...Many fungi are able to break down complex organic biomolecules such as lignin, the more durable component of wood, and pollutants such as xenobiotics, petroleum, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. By decomposing these molecules, fungi play a critical role in the global carbon cycle. (wikipedia)

The word mycologycomes from the Greek: μύκης (mukēs), meaning "fungus" and the suffix-λογία(-logia), meaning "study". Thus Mycotherapy, is the use of fungi as a resource for nutritional & medicinal purposes.


They can be used as a food, medicine or resource. Many fungi produce toxins, antibiotics, and other secondary metabolites.


FOOD

It seems that humans have been collecting mushrooms, as food, since pre-historic times and the classification thereof dates back BC.

They preserve well when dried, frozen or canned, can be eaten cooked or raw, are a super alternative to meat, giving a similar beefy taste & satiety factors, and are low in calories but yet high in complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) and water content.


As an edible fungus, the mushroom can provide many important nutrients. Each kind of fungi have different offerings nutritionally. Mushrooms contain

  • proteins - building and repair

  • vitamins - contribute towards operating processes e.g. B complex, Vit D, vitamin C and a whole bunch more.

  • minerals - contain essential elements for chemical processing e.g. magnesium and potassium.

  • antioxidants (the things that help 'fight' free radicals from the enzymatic process of oxidation) from glutathione to selenium

  • immune system supporters e.g. beta-glucans.

  • fibre - natural roughage that your gut biome feast off.

Some of the types of mushrooms suitable for cuisine are, click on mushroom name/type to see specific nutritional values and benefits for each: