A Mushroom Renaissance
by Victoria Vacher
September of each year is National Mushroom Month. It seems the resurgence of mushroom interest has absolutely blossomed in the last few years here in the U.S.
Mushrooms have landed on many prediction lists in many categories.
The New York Times prediction was, "Ingredient of the Year for 2022", the movie Fantastic Fungi is an absolute hit, and the general public is discovering the diverse selection of mushrooms to use for culinary arts and dietary supplements.
Mushrooms are the fruit of the fungus. They are the reproductive structure much like an apple is to an apple tree.
Advances in the use of mushrooms continue to be made in many areas:
Psilocybin mushrooms are being used for the treatment of addictions, PTSD, anxiety and many other ailments
An FDA approved study by Bastyr University found that Turkey Tail mushrooms are effective in prevention of breast cancer recurrence.
Biodegradable mushroom fibers are now being used as a cheap, plastic/petroleum-free medium for packaging
Gourmet mushroom use is increasing. From truffle infused oils to king oyster mushrooms being used as an alternative for scallops, chefs are increasingly creating culinary delights with these fungal fruits.
The number of small urban mushroom farms is expected to increase dramatically.
In truth, America used to be a country that widely appreciated and gathered wild mushrooms. If only I had listened and learned from my Grandfather and Great Grandmother!!! As people have become more disconnected from nature, the knowledge of wild foods has become less and less widespread.
Mushrooms have been an integral part of many diets, especially in areas lacking money to purchase cultivated foods. In the 1940’s, Americas mushroom culture shifted. Instead of actively pursuing and gathering these delicacies they became objects of fear. Everyone has heard, “Don’t touch that, it will kill you!” In fact, only about 3% of mushrooms are known to be toxic, but mushrooms are mysterious, frequently misunderstood and totally under-appreciated for their delicious and NUTRITIOUS value! Please be cautious though. Never eat a wild mushroom, berry, or plant unless you are 100% sure that it is safe.
In many countries, especially France, mushroom foraging is as much a part of the culture as wine, baguettes and Brie! The French call mushroom hunting, "La chasse aux champignons.
The French even have a song about mushroom hunting!