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6 things you never knew about mushrooms

6 things you never knew about mushrooms

When it comes to mushrooms, your mind probably conjures up images of neatly packaged mushrooms ready for purchase at your local grocery store. In the United States, mushrooms have gained recognition primarily as a staple ingredient in countless dishes, from enhancing the flavor of sauces and soups to serving as an indispensable pizza topping. However, recently mushrooms have transcended their traditional culinary role and emerged as a trendy ingredient in a variety of non-traditional products, including coffee, tea, cosmetics and skin care treatments.

While mushrooms undoubtedly feature prominently in our culinary experiences, there is a wealth of knowledge surrounding the different varieties of mushrooms, their rich history, potential health benefits, and their significant cultural significance in various societies around the world. Here are six intriguing facts about mushrooms that may inspire you to incorporate them into your daily life in new ways.

1. Genetic similarity to humans

Mushrooms belong to the fungi kingdom and play a crucial role in our ecosystem by helping to break down waste and recycle nutrients. Surprisingly, the genetic makeup of fungi has more in common with humans than with plants. For example, mushrooms, like humans, have the ability to synthesize vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.

2. Historical significance

The health benefits of mushrooms have been documented as far back as the 29th century BC in ancient Chinese texts such as the Materia Medica of the Divine Farmer. Notably, the lingzhi mushroom, known for its purported longevity-extending properties, was featured in this text. Over the centuries, research into the medicinal potential of mushrooms has continued, leading to the inclusion of various mushroom extracts in modern health supplements.

3. Current discoveries

Mushroom applications continue to expand with their inclusion in a diverse array of products ranging from face creams to coffee blends. Mushrooms like reishi have found their place in skin care and wellness products because of their purported benefits.

4. Traditional means

Different types of mushrooms offer unique health benefits. For example, extracts derived from Chaga mushrooms are used to strengthen antioxidant pathways, while extracts from reishi are used to support immune function. The mycelium of the Cordyceps mushroom is traditionally consumed for vitality and stamina.

5. Royal Associations

In some ancient cultures, mushrooms were considered so valuable that they were reserved exclusively for royalty. Egyptian hieroglyphs depict mushrooms, reflecting their respected status in ancient Egyptian society. Similarly, in China, reishi mushrooms are reserved for royalty because of their perceived longevity-enhancing properties.

6. Cultural celebrations

Mushrooms occupy a special place in various cultural traditions around the world. For example, during the Chinese New Year, mushrooms symbolize immortality, and shiitake mushrooms are considered harbingers of longevity. In Finland, gathering wild mushrooms such as chaga mushrooms has become ingrained in the local culture, providing an additional source of income for residents.

With over 2,000 species of edible mushrooms cultivated worldwide, these mushrooms have cemented their importance in various cultural practices and continue to capture our interest with their versatility and potential health benefits.


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