FUNGI ` THE KINGDOM OF MUSHROOMS

Some have magnificent shapes and colours, others bland and ordinary, but critical is the safety of ingesting them.

According to evolution, fungi have ancient origins, most likely having appeared one billion years ago long before plants and animals existed.

Many cultures used hallucinogenic fungi in religious rituals, the Aztecs calling them “the flesh of the gods” as they caused supernatural visuals.

Thousands of varieties exist but many are lethal.

Dangers always existed, take for example Pope Clement the 7th who died after eating the ‘death Cap’ mushroom as did a Roman Emperor.

European culture was fascinated by ‘fairy rings’ – mystical circles of mushrooms appearing in many historical writings and children’s novels, speaking of which a bite of a mushroom caused Alice in Wonderland to shrink and slide down a rabbit hole to another world!

From a medical viewpoint, Alexander Fleming found bacterial information in his samples of fungus penicillium.

The rest is history as thousands of lives have been saved!

Of all the hundreds of mushrooms, Truffles are the world’s most expensive, as they render a delicate perfumed taste, besides which they are rare and often difficult to locate. Pigs with an extreme sense of smell are often used to sniff them out!

Of late, cosmetologists and dermatologists have taken an interest in mushrooms as an inclusion in products. Reduction of melanin results in fading unwanted pigmentation. Hydration can occur as is the case with hyaluronic acid and collagen-producing cells are stimulated as per research.

In conclusion, much care is needed in thorough washing of edible mushrooms and tossing out old ones to avoid botulism poisoning. Because mushrooms are not a plant, they are generally safe to consume raw. Cooked they shrink, lose vitamins; iron, zinc, and calcium. In conclusion, they will always be part of  “Haute Cuisine” and enjoyed around the world.

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