A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus. It is typically produced above the ground. It can grow on soil, branches of trees or any other place a fungus can grow. Some mushrooms are edible, while others are extremely poisonous. The nutrient rich mushroom is being hailed as superfood as scientists discover newer health benefits.
The attention given to mushrooms is not new. Early Romans referred to mushrooms as the “food of the gods.” Hieroglyphics found in the tombs of the Pharaohs suggest that the ancient Egyptians believed the mushroom to be “the plant of immortality.” They decreed mushrooms to be food for royalty alone. Commoners were prohibited from handling the delicacies.
 Why should I be aware of this?
- A few wild mushrooms are deadly and should not be eaten. Several are mildly poisonous and can cause stomach upsets. Source mushrooms from reliable outlets. Mushroom hunting is not a hobby for the careless or the uninformed.
- Button mushrooms are available all year round. They are inexpensive and may be an excellent source of nutrition as part of a healthy diet. They have as much, and in some cases, more antioxidant properties than the more expensive varieties.
- The expensive Maitake and the Matsutake mushrooms - are highly prized in Japanese cuisine for their reputed health properties including lowering blood pressure and their alleged ability to fight cancer.
- With more than 90 per cent water content, adding mushrooms to dishes such as stews can make us feel fuller without boosting calorie content.
- Mushrooms count as one of our five-a-day fruit and vegetables: an 80g serving provides one portion.
 All about mushrooms
Mushrooms do not belong to the plant family. They contain no chlorophyll and most are considered saprophytes. That is, they obtain their nutrition from metabolizing non living organic matter and live on their food source. They however are an acceptable part of a vegetarian diet. The function of a mushroom is to produce spores, which are the "seeds" of the fungus.
 Nutritional value
- Mushrooms are low in calories, cholesterol and sodium.
- 'They contain virtually no fat, sugar or salt.
- They are a valuable source of dietary fibre as well as the five B vitamins -- thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6) and folate.
- They are high in antioxidants, selenium, riboflavin and other healthful substances that protect the immune system and fight cancer. 'Most Selenium is not found in many fruit and vegetables.
- They also contain the essential minerals potassium, copper, phosphorous and iron.
- Researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that just a handful of mushrooms has about 12 times more of the powerful antioxidant, L-Ergothioneine than wheatgerm and four times more than chicken liver, previously thought to be the best sources.
- The amino acid count in mushrooms is higher per serving than corn, peanuts, kidney beans and soy beans. The average mushroom is also high in protein and nucleic acid.
 Selecting mushrooms
It is better to buy mushrooms from a reliable and proper store than pick it yourself, unless of course you are aware and informed.
- To buy fresh mushroom, look for those that have no dark spots or holes. Avoid mushrooms with "bruises" or ones that are shriveling. Avoid any mushroom that feels slimy.
- When mushrooms are really fresh and haven't been handled much, you may see a papery sort of fuzz on them.
- In fresh mushrooms, the stems are firm and have a uniform color.
- When mushrooms start getting old, their stems start looking like rotted wood.
 Storing Mushrooms
Store mushrooms in a paper bag in the refrigerator. Do not wrap them in plastic. If you have bought mushrooms which are packed in plastic bags, remove the plastic and kep it in a paper bag. Plastic traps moisture and encourages sliminess. Do not wash them until you are ready to cook or eat them, and do not let them sit in water.
 Cooking mushrooms
- Eat cooked mushrooms. This is because mushrooms, even commonly cultivated ones, may contain some toxins which can lead to upset stomach if eaten raw.
- Do not peel mushrooms. Just trim the stems.
- Cut mushrooms into slices.
- It tastes good whether it is sautéed, micro-waved, roasted, grilled or broiled.
 Mushroom and health
- Studies reveal that mushrooms may help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
- Hanyang University in South Korea found mushrooms may lower the risk of breast cancer.
- Mushrooms have been successfully used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat many different types of health conditions.
- Mushrooms are considered to be "immuno-modulators". When consumed, bioactive compounds (particularly protein-bound polysaccharides) in mushrooms have strong effects on our immune system. The effect can either be of up-regulation of a weak immune system that is compromised in its ability to fight infections, or down-regulation of a strong but misdirected immune system that is causing auto-immune disorders such as allergies, arthritis, asthma and other disorders.
 90 degrees -- What we do not know yet
- Shiitake mushrooms grown on logs can have significantly higher levels of compounds that may improve human immune function than shiitakes grown on commercial substrate.
- Mushrooms are neither plants nor animals; they were reclassified in the 1960’s into the separate Kingdom of Fungi.
- Mushrooms take in oxygen for their digestion and metabolism and "exhale" carbon dioxide as a waste product, making them more like animals than plants. Their proteins are similar in many ways to animal proteins.
- Mushrooms grow from spores, not seeds, and a single mature mushroom will drop as many as 16 billion spores.
- Just like humans, mushrooms can produce Vitamin D upon exposure to sunlight and UV radiation.
- MUSHROOMS THE HIDDEN SUPERFOOD : Institute of Food Technologists
- Why the humble mushroom is being hailed as a superfood
- Tips for Cooking Mushroom
- About Mushrooms
- How to Select Mushrooms & More Mushroom Tips
- MUSHROOM FUN FACTS
- Edible and poisonous mushrooms