Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Mushroom Facts

This is one of my favourite item to add into my vegetarian diet choices, especially when I step into a non-veg makan place. Once upon a time When I was living in Bangalore, because of the cool climatic condition I was seriously putting my thought about setting up a mushroom farm instead of just sticking to Monitor and Keyboard everyday. Did some research too and finally things didn't get materialized as the way I thought it would be. Man Proposes - God Disposes, you see. Anyway, I've brought some useful informations to your eyes to read about my favourite veggie Item. Hope this becomes favourite of yours too after knowing the value it.

Mushrooms are low in calories, have no cholesterol and are virtually free of fat and sodium. Mushrooms also contain other essential minerals like Selenium, which works with Vitamin E to produce antioxidants that neutralize "free radicals" which can cause cell damage. Studies have suggested that selenium may reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, may slow the progress of HIV disease and may aid in symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, pancreatitis and asthma. Studies show men who eat selenium rich foods may lower their risk of prostate cancer.

Potassium (good for the heart) is also found in mushrooms. It has been suggested a diet with potassium may help to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Copper is another essential mineral found in mushrooms. Copper aids iron (also found in mushrooms) in making red blood cells and delivers oxygen to the body. Mushrooms also contain three B-complex vitamins; riboflavin for healthy skin and vision, niacin aids the digestive and nervous systems, and pantothenic acid helps with the nervous system and hormone production. These vitamins are found in every cell and help to release energy from fat, protein and carbohydrates in food. Vegetarians should know that mushrooms are one of the best sources of niacin. The vitamin content of mushrooms is actually similar to the vitamin content found in meat. The amino acid count in mushrooms is higher per serving than corn, peanuts, kidney and soy beans. The average mushroom is also high in protein and nucleic acid.

  • The first mushrooms were thought to be cultivated in Southeast Asia, but it is not known why for sure. It is possible that someone discovered that mushrooms grew by accident or perhaps there was a demand and someone sought out a growing method

  • Whether mushrooms are wild or cultivated they continue to grow after they are picked. People sometimes mistake a thin white material called mycelium for mold, but rest assured it probably is the mycelium growing!

  • French farmers grew garden beds in the 1700's which ended up being too small and too expensive. They later moved their crops to caves created when the stone for building Paris was quarried - this is where the name champignon de Paris originated. American farmers followed the same method

  • While mushrooms are canned, pickled and frozen, drying mushrooms is the oldest and most commonly used way to preserve mushrooms

  • Mushroom compost can range from being manure or wood based (sawdust, wood chips) to utilizing materials like cocoa bean or cotton seed hulls, brewers grains , even exotic items like banana leaves as substrate

  • One Portabella mushroom generally has more potassium than a banana

  • Mushrooms continue to gain popularity, especially the specialty mushrooms such as Portabella, wild Morels, Oysters and Shiitake. Mushrooms, particularly the Portbella are often used in place of meat in many dishes

  • Commercial mushroom farming began in the early 20th century. Pennsylvania and California are the largest mushroom producers

  • Mushroom "farms" are climate controlled buildings; airflow, temperature and light are all constantly monitored

  • Wild mushrooms can range in price for reasons such as taste, historical significance and availability. European truffles can sell for over $1,600 per pound!

  • Wild mushrooms can be found in many wooded areas. If you do choose to harvest wild mushrooms, make certain you have a professional identify your pick. Many mushrooms may resemble safe mushrooms (they are called false mushrooms (mushroom sakkalathi in tamil) ) and can be poisonous

  • The oldest fossil fungi are at least 545 million years old. These microscopic, aquatic forms were found in northern Russia.

  • According to archaeologists, people have been enjoying the products of fungal fermentation—wine and beer—for at least 25,000 years.

  • Ever seen a mushroom glow in the dark? You're not imagining it. Several Nova Scotian species, such as the Honey Mushroom, produce light by a chemical reaction called bioluminescence. People once used glowing pieces of fungus-infested wood to light their way in the woods. Foxfire is due to the luminescing mycelia of other fungi.

  • Fungi use antibiotics to fend off other microorganisms that compete with them for food.

  • The first hard evidence that diseases are caused by germs was provided when a fungus, Beauveria bassiana, was found to be killing silkworms in Europe in the early 1800s.

  • Throughout history people have used various mouldy concoctions to heal disease. Species of Penicillium were almost certainly the active ingredient.

  • If the scientists who developed penicillin had tested it on guinea pigs instead of mice, they might have given up their quest. Penicillin is toxic to guinea pigs and would have killed them.

  • The bracket fungus Ganoderma lucidum has been used in Chinese medicine for about 4,500 years. It is said to promote long life.

  • In 1993, Chinese women athletes set a number of new world track records. Their success was partly attributed to a tonic prepared from the fruiting bodies of a fungus that invades moth caterpillars.

  • When other decomposers such as bacteria shut down for the winter, fungi remain active. Their metabolic processes generate heat. Some moulds carry on growing at temperatures as low as -7 degrees C. This of course is why even refrigerated bread turns furry eventually. We need to freeze foods at temperatures of -18 degrees C or less to preserve them from fungal decay.

  • Spontaneous combustion! Moulds and bacteria growing together in sawdust can generate so much heat the sawdust catches fire.

  • It can take 50-100 years for fungi to reduce a hardwood trunk to dust.

  • One of the first organisms to have its genome decoded was—you've guessed it—a fungus: baker's yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, in 1997. It has about 6,000 genes.

  • Ever wonder why air-conditioned rooms sometimes smell mouldy? Poorly maintained air-conditioners can house massive colonies of mould. Noxious gases emitted by these moulds may be the cause of "sick building syndrome."

  • A gourmet vole? The California red-backed vole feeds almost exclusively on false truffles. The truffles may depend on the vole to disperse their spores.

  • Under the Volcano? After Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, fungi were among the first organisms to recolonize the volcano.

  • In Europe, the practice of deliberately burning woodland to encourage growth of the delicious Morel mushroom had to be banned!

  • No one has yet found a reliable way of cultivating morel mushrooms. The New York Botanical Gardens tried for 40 years, but it is not economically practical.

  • The active ingredient in Beano®-the wind-reducing standby of the flatulent-is an enzyme derived from the mould Aspergillus niger.

  • The dried powder of old puffballs has been used as an astringent by First Nations.

Footnote: the fungal disease, athlete's foot only spread outside the tropics when international travel became commonplace about 100 years ago.

Some Worldwide Statistics

  • Fungi have been in the recycling business for as long as plants have been around—that's about 400 million years.

  • The largest living organism on earth may be a fungus. A culture of the species Armillaria bulbosa has spread through an 86-hectare (35 acre) woodland in northern Michigan. It could be 1,500 years old.

  • In North America, edible European truffles sell for more than $1,000 (US) per kilo ($450 per pound).

  • Some colonies of lichens are more than 4,000 years old. In the Arctic it takes a colony of some lichens 1,000 years to grow two inches.

  • Fungal decay of woody matter adds 80 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere every year in the form of carbon dioxide.

  • Mushrooms, like most living organisms, are 85-95 percent water.

  • One specimen of the common bracket fungus, Ganoderma applanatum, can produce 350,000 spores per second. That's 30 billion spores a day and 4,500 billion in one season.

  • Fungal spores vary from 3-100 microns across. One micron is one thousandth of a millimetre. 100 microns equal one-tenth the thickness of a dime.

  • A single yeast cell averages 2-4 microns in diameter, about five times larger than most bacteria.

  • One scoop of horse dung may provide a home for as many as 40 species of fungi.

  • One expert estimates there may be as many as 1,500,000 species of fungus. So far only about 100,000 species—1 in 15—have been described. Some 10,000 of these produce the fleshy fruit bodies we call mushrooms.

  • More than 90 percent of all the higher plants have mycorrhizal fungi associated with their roots.

  • A tree may donate 10 percent of its photosynthetic products to the upkeep of the fungi partnered with its roots.

  • In forest soils, 90 percent of all the living matter, other than tree roots, is fungus.

  • If you laid out the fungal hyphae associated with the roots of a single tree, they would encircle the world several times.

  • Many of the fungi found in old-growth forests will not recolonize clearcut habitat for 40-50 years.

  • In Canada, 30 million cubic metres (just over 1 billion cubic feet) of living wood are lost each year to trunk decay and root rot caused by fungi.

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