A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source [1]. The term "mushroom" and its variations may have been derived from the French word mousseron in reference to moss (mousse) [1].

Nutrition and Medicinal Value

Edible mushrooms are consumed by humans as comestibles for their nutritional value and they are occasionally consumed for their supposed medicinal value [2]. A fraction of the many fungi consumed by humans are currently cultivated and sold commercially [2]. Mushrooms are low in Saturated Fat and Sodium, and very low in Cholesterol, tt is also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Vitamin C, Folate, Iron, Zinc and Manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin D, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Selenium [4]. Mushrooms have a history of medicinal use spanning millennia [5]. Medicinal mushrooms are used to treat and prevent a wide array of illnesses through their use as immune stimulants, immune modulators, adaptogens and antioxidants [6]. As immune stimulants, mushrooms can be used to help treat cancer and fight infections [6]. The most well known and researched of these are reishi, maitake, blazei, and shiitake [6]. Reishi's most recognized traits are its ability to help the body fight cancer, stimulate the immune system and increase vitality [6]. Shiitake is used for cancer, immune stimulation, cholesterol reduction and the treatment of HIV [6]. Fungi that do not produce mushrooms have made large contributions to medicine being the source of immunosuppressants, antibiotics and antifungals [5].

Recyclers of Nature

Mushrooms play an important role in the world by breaking down plant and animal material [3]. After degradation, the remains are reused by other plants and animals [3]. If there weren't any mushrooms, our world would be one large garbage dump [3]. Mushrooms are unable to produce their own energy to grow so they always live in relationship with other organisms. In exchange for energy from plants, many mushroom species provide various nutrients that the plants themselves are unable to produce sufficiently [3]. However, mushrooms can have three kinds of relationships with plants :
  1. Mycorrhizal symbionts : those that work together
  2. Saprophytes: those that clean up
  3. Parasites: those that kill

Mushrooms, Civilization & History : agari people, Mycophilic & Mycophobic

Cultivation History


References

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mushroom
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edible_mushroom
  3. http://www.ecomare.nl/en/encyclopedia/animals-and-plants/fungi-mushrooms/mushrooms/ecology-of-mushrooms/
  4. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2482/2
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicinal_mushroom
  6. http://www.mushroomharvest.com/extra_pages/med_mushrooms.htm