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Health, Sports & Psychology

Ever Wondered About... Mushrooms?

Updated Wednesday, 27th April 2005

Fascinating facts about mushrooms.

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To find out the best way to store mushrooms, buy about 6 small mushrooms and store them in paper bags and plastic bags (or wrap them in cling film). Try storing them in different temperatures, too; in the kitchen, in the bottom of the fridge, in the freezer. Examine them carefully after a few days. Which conditions work best?

Eighty or ninety per cent of mushrooms are water.

Mushrooms are a good source of minerals, particularly potassium and a good source of vitamins, in particular B vitamins.

Mushrooms live on organic material that thrives on compost, fallen leaves, damp wood and any other dead plant or animal matter. Their role in causing decay is important in maintaining ecological cycles.

Mushrooms have a naturally high metabolism and deteriorate faster than other fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears and carrots.

Mushrooms should be stored in a fridge which will help them to slow their metabolism. They should also be wrapped in moisture-absorbing packaging, such as paper, rather than plastic.

To compare the amount of water taken up by various dried food in the re-hydration process, first weigh some dried mushrooms. Then follow the instructions on the packet for re-hydrating them. Once re-hydrated, drain and re-weigh them to see how much water they have taken up. Then use them in a recipe. You can compare re-hydrated mushrooms with sun-dried tomatoes, and with “Smash“ mashed potatoes. Which food takes up most water?

Not all mushrooms are edible. Some wild ones are very poisonous and can even cause death. You must not gather or eat wild mushrooms unless you are an expert in identifying them.

There are over 38,000 mushroom varieties today. Some are edible and some are highly toxic.

Porcini and Shiitakes mushrooms are particularly flavoursome because they are endowed with sulphur compounds that generate meaty aromas.

A mycologist is someone who studies mushrooms and fungi but if you like them, you are a mycophile.

Over 8 million tonnes of mushrooms are harvested every year and about 60 per cent of the world’s production comes from China.

Most of the mushroom lives underground and has a fine network of fibres that gathers the nutrients it needs to grow through the soil. The part that we see and eat is only a small portion of the mushroom.

It is thought that the Egyptians prized mushrooms very highly and thought them to be the plant of immortality. It is said that the Pharaohs were so intrigued by the delicious flavour of mushrooms that they decreed only royalty could eat mushrooms.

The Romans prized truffles as well as mushrooms – they thought that they were formed during thunderstorms by flashes of lightning.

Beneath the soil of the Malheur National Forest in eastern Oregon, a fungus that has been slowly weaving its way through the roots of trees for centuries has become the largest living organism ever found. Popularly known as the honey mushroom, the armillaria ostoyae, started from a single spore (invisible to the naked eye) and has been spreading its black, shoestring filaments (called rhizomorphs) through the forest for an estimated 2,400 years, killing trees as it grows. It now covers 2,200 acres.

The most popular/sold mushroom is the white agaricus bisporous. It accounts for approximately 95% of mushroom sales in Britain. It can be picked at four stages of its growing cycle: the button mushroom (which will double in size every 24 hours), the closed cup mushroom, the open cup mushroom, and finally the large, flat mushroom.






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