The Magic of Mushrooms: Chaga, Reishi, and Lion’s Mane, Oh My!
Mushrooms startle some individuals thanks to their wild appearance. Some folks will refuse to taste a dish if it contains even a dash of mushrooms. Those folks, though, are majorly missing out.
The abundance of mushrooms in the world, and the fact that they exist as an organism all their own makes them incredibly appealing and potently nutritious. Even if you have detested the texture of mushrooms in the past, new options on store shelves have changed how we can consume the fungi. No need to cook them up in a pan, here are a couple of modernized methods of consuming mushrooms:
• Broth – A warm mug of mushroom broth during the colder months of the year will not only boost your immune system but is just a cozy option in and of itself. If you aren’t a massive fan of the recently popularized bone broth, then perhaps mushroom broth can be your quick fix for a winter chill.
• Powder – Sprinkle some mushroom powder into your coffee in the morning, and you likely will not even notice it’s there. You can purchase mushroom powder all on its own (Which mushroom is for you? We’ll get to that!) or find a pre-made blend at a local health food store.
• Tea – Mushrooms have been infused and used for centuries as teas. Asian cultures especially love Reishi for its ability to lower blood pressure, lessen arthritis symptoms, and combat cancer. Thanks to Chaga and Reishi’s bitter taste, they often end up being consumed as a tea. Balance the tangy flavors by drizzling locally sourced honey into your blend!
Not a vegetable
You heard that right; mushrooms are not veggies. Instead, mushrooms fall under the ‘fungus’ category. Where plant cell walls contain cellulose, making them tough and rigid, mushroom cell walls contain chitin.
Mushrooms make up one of the largest living organisms on our planet. In Oregon, several species of fungus, also known as mushrooms, thrive. Taking up 2.4 miles of the Blue Mountains, these spores are alive and well. The specific species is called armillaria ostoyae.
Fungi take many forms. Sometimes, it’s single-celled. Other times, it’s incredibly complex and multicellular. Mushrooms are made up of mycelia and are incredibly adaptable to environments.
Not only that, but mushrooms have advanced communication methods, more significant than that of your average roots system, and respond readily to their environment and neighboring fungi.
Paul Stamets, a mycologist, shared with Discover Magazine in 2013 that when humans are out and about in a forest, mushrooms know they are there. Nearby mushrooms will pop up from the forest floor in search of debris to consume, as that is one of their many uses.
Despite the negative connotation of the word ‘fungus,’ mushrooms are, for the most part, safe to eat. There are exceptions, though. Before you head out to the fields and harvest your mushrooms, you’ll want to be sure that the species is safe to eat and not poisonous.
Mycology, the scientific study of fungi, has grown in popularity in recent years. It’s entirely possible to become a fungi nerd all on your own nowadays. Mycologists study the genetics and biology of fungi, mushrooms including, and peruse the many uses of fungi that might be of benefit, or detriment, to humans.
Why bother with mushrooms?
When consumed, mushrooms offer the following benefits:
• Source of fiber, protein, Vitamin B, potassium, Vitamin D, selenium
• Immune boosting
• Improve digestion
• Aid in weight loss
• Specific to psilocybin, the well-known psychedelic species, depression, anxiety, and PTSD seem to be lessened upon consumption.
In regard to the planet as a whole, as shared by Paul Stamets in his 2008 TedTalk, mushrooms might be able to:
• Aid in rehabilitating honeybee populations
• Clean up oil spills
• Absorb farm pollution
• Enrich farms and forests
• Act as a sustainable fuel source
• Combat smallpox and flu viruses
At present, when the fate of our planet’s health and longevity is intertwined with our own, the benefits and wisdom of mushrooms should not go unnoticed. Luckily, it isn’t, and mushrooms are only growing in popularity.
When consuming mushrooms, ensure you are eating a species safe for internal consumption and sustainably sourced. After some time, you might notice some shifts in your overall well-being, not just in how satisfying you feel after your mushroom-based meal.