Yumm Mushrooms!

November 23, 2011 at 1:23 PM | Posted in diabetes friendly, Food, mushrooms | 1 Comment
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The Agaricus bisporus, one of the most widely cultivated and popular mushrooms in the world

The Agaricus bisporus

A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. The standard for the name “mushroom” is the cultivated white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus; hence the word “mushroom” is most often applied to those fungi (Basidiomycota, Agaricomycetes) that have a stem (stipe), a cap (pileus), and gills (lamellae, sing. lamella) or pores on the underside of the cap.

“Mushroom” describes a variety of gilled fungi, with or without stems, and the term is used even more generally, to describe both the fleshy fruiting bodies of some Ascomycota and the woody or leathery fruiting bodies of some Basidiomycota, depending upon the context of the word.

Forms deviating from the standard morphology usually have more specific names, such as “puffball”, “stinkhorn”, and “morel”, and gilled mushrooms themselves are often called “agarics” in reference to their similarity to Agaricus or their place Agaricales. By extension, the term “mushroom” can also designate the entire fungus when in culture; the thallus (called a mycelium) of species forming the fruiting bodies called mushrooms; or the species itself.

Typical mushrooms are the fruit bodies of members of the order Agaricales, whose type genus is Agaricus and type species is the field mushroom, Agaricus campestris. However, in modern molecularly-defined classifications, not all members of the order Agaricales produce mushroom fruit bodies, and many other gilled fungi, collectively called mushrooms, occur in other orders of the class Agaricomycetes. For example, chanterelles are in the Cantharellales, false chanterelles like Gomphus are in the Gomphales, milk mushrooms (Lactarius) and russulas (Russula) as well as Lentinellus are in the Russulales, while the tough leathery genera Lentinus and Panus are among the Polyporales, but Neolentinus is in the Gloeophyllales, and the little pin-mushroom genus, Rickenella, along with similar genera, are in the Hymenochaetales.

Within the main body of mushrooms, in the Agaricales, are common fungi like the common fairy-ring mushroom (Marasmius oreades), shiitake, enoki, oyster mushrooms, fly agarics, and other amanitas, magic mushrooms like species of Psilocybe, paddy straw mushrooms, shaggy manes, etc.

An atypical mushroom is the lobster mushroom, which is a deformed, cooked-lobster-colored parasitized fruitbody of a Russula or Lactarius, colored and deformed by the mycoparasitic Ascomycete Hypomyces lactifluorum.

Other mushrooms are not gilled and then the term “mushroom” is loosely used, so it is difficult to give a full account of their classifications. Some have pores underneath (and are usually called boletes), others have spines, such as the hedgehog mushroom and other tooth fungi, and so on. “Mushroom” has been used for polypores, puffballs, jelly fungi, coral fungi, bracket fungi, stinkhorns, and cup fungi. Thus, the term is more one of common application to macroscopic fungal fruiting bodies than one having

Yellow, flower pot mushrooms

precise taxonomic meaning. There are approximately 14,000 described species of mushrooms.

Many species of mushrooms seemingly appear overnight, growing or expanding rapidly. This phenomenon is the source of several common expressions in the English language including “to mushroom” or “mushrooming” (expanding rapidly in size or scope) and “to pop up like a mushroom” (to appear unexpectedly and quickly). In reality all species of mushrooms take several days to form primordial mushroom fruit bodies, though they do expand rapidly by the absorption of fluids.

The cultivated mushroom as well as the common field mushroom initially form a minute fruiting body, referred to as the pin stage because of their small size. Slightly expanded they are called buttons, once again because of the relative size and shape. Once such stages are formed, the mushroom can rapidly pull in water from its mycelium and expand, mainly by inflating preformed cells that took several days to form in the primordia.

Similarly, there are even more ephemeral mushrooms, like Parasola plicatilis (formerly Coprinus plicatlis), that literally appear overnight and may disappear by late afternoon on a hot day after rainfall. The primordia form at ground level in lawns in humid spaces under the thatch and after heavy rainfall or in dewy conditions balloon to full size in a few hours, release spores, and then collapse. They “mushroom” to full size.

Not all mushrooms expand overnight; some grow very slowly and add tissue to their fruitbodies by growing from the edges of the colony or by inserting hyphae. For example Pleurotus nebrodensis grows slowly, and because of this combined with human collection, it is now critically endangered.
Yellow, flower pot mushrooms (Leucocoprinus birnbaumii) at various states of development

Though mushroom fruiting bodies are short-lived, the underlying mycelium can itself be long-lived and massive. A colony of Armillaria solidipes (formerly known as Armillaria ostoyae) in Malheur National Forest in the United States is estimated to be 2,400 years old, possibly older, and spans an estimated 2,200 acres. Most of the fungus is underground and in decaying wood or dying tree roots in the form of white mycelia combined with black shoelace-like rhizomorphs that bridge colonized separated woody substrates.

Mushrooms are a low-calorie food usually eaten raw or cooked to provide garnish to a meal. Raw dietary mushrooms are a good source of B vitamins, such as riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid, and the essential minerals selenium, copper and potassium. Fat, carbohydrate and calorie content are low, with absence of vitamin C and sodium.

When exposed to ultraviolet light, natural ergosterols in mushrooms produce vitamin D2, a process now exploited for the functional food retail market.

Known as the meat of the vegetable world, edible mushrooms are used extensively in cooking, in many cuisines (notably Chinese, Korean, European, and Japanese).

Most mushrooms that are sold in supermarkets have been commercially grown on mushroom farms. The most popular of these, Agaricus bisporus, is considered safe for most people to eat because it is grown in controlled, sterilized environments. Several varieties of A. bisporus are grown commercially, including whites, crimini, and portobello. Other cultivated species now available at many grocers include shiitake, maitake or hen-of-the-woods, oyster, and enoki. In recent years increasing affluence in developing countries has led to a considerable growth in interest in mushroom cultivation, which is now seen as a potentially important economic activity for small farmers.
Mushroom and Truffle output in 2005

There are a number of species of mushroom that are poisonous and, although some resemble certain edible species, consuming

The mushroom Amanita muscaria, commonly known as fly agaric

them could be fatal. Eating mushrooms gathered in the wild is risky and should not be undertaken by individuals not knowledgeable in mushroom identification, unless the individuals limit themselves to a relatively small number of good edible species that are visually distinctive. A. bisporus contains carcinogens called hydrazines, the most abundant of which is agaritine. However, the carcinogens are destroyed by moderate heat when cooking.

More generally, and particularly with gilled mushrooms, separating edible from poisonous species requires meticulous attention to detail; there is no single trait by which all toxic mushrooms can be identified, nor one by which all edible mushrooms can be identified. Additionally, even edible mushrooms may produce an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals, from a mild asthmatic response to severe anaphylactic shock.

People who collect mushrooms for consumption are known as mycophagists, and the act of collecting them for such is known as mushroom hunting, or simply “mushrooming”.

China is the world’s largest edible mushroom producer. The country produces about half of all cultivated mushrooms, and around 6.0 lb of mushrooms are consumed per person per year by over a billion people.

Medicinal mushrooms are mushrooms or extracts from mushrooms that are used or studied as possible treatments for diseases. Some mushroom materials, including polysaccharides, glycoproteins and proteoglycans, modulate immune system responses and inhibit tumor growth. Some medicinal mushroom isolates that have been identified also show cardiovascular, antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasitic, anti-inflammatory, and antidiabetic properties. Currently, several extracts have widespread use in Japan, Korea and China, as adjuncts to radiation treatments and chemotherapy.

Historically, mushrooms have long had medicinal uses, especially in traditional Chinese medicine. Mushrooms have been a subject of modern medical research since the 1960s, where most modern medical studies concern the use of mushroom extracts, rather than whole mushrooms. Only a few specific mushroom extracts have been extensively tested for efficacy. Polysaccharide-K and lentinan are among the mushroom extracts with the firmest evidence. The available results for most other extracts are based on in vitro data, effects on isolated cells in a lab dish, animal models like mice, or underpowered clinical human trials. Studies show that glucan-containing mushroom extracts primarily change the function of the innate and adaptive immune systems, functioning as bioresponse modulators, rather than by directly killing bacteria, viruses, or cancer cells as cytocidal agents. In some countries, extracts like polysaccharide-K, schizophyllan, polysaccharide peptide, and lentinan are government-registered adjuvant cancer therapies.

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