Are you bored with the supermarket mushroom? Have you been intrigued by mushrooms in the woods, but are afraid to eat one? Do you like getting out into the fields, woods and bush of our beautiful province? Do you enjoy treasure hunts?

If so, you are just like us. We are beginner mushroomers with three year under our belts, so we know some but not a lot. We are members of the Southern Vancouver Island Mycological Society and are in training...and will be forever. There's so much to learn!

This blog is not so much about identification as it is about sharing our enthusiasm for mushrooming, so even if we say something is edible and easily identifiable, it's still best to check with a mycologist or knowledgeable friend before consuming anything. You must be sure because some species have poisonous deadringers. As well, everyone is different when it comes to reactions to food, and mushrooms are no different.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why You Might Want Mushrooms In Your Medicine Cabinet

Hello again, mushroom fans!  Welcome to morel season.  I'm pleased to report we have seen our first live morel, although it was in the hands of another, more seasoned mushroomer.  Drat Kevin anyway!  How does he do it?  There were very few other fungi about, but he scored anyway while we newbies scoured the woods for hour after fruitless hour.

Photo with permission of Kevin Trim
Morels are interesting mushrooms, wrinkled like an old man too long in the tub, and somewhat phallic in appearance.  If you cut one in half, you can confirm its identity by checking to see if the stem is attached to the cap.  The false morel sits over the stem.  I've only eaten dried morels, but people say the fresh ones are delicious.

But back to the subject at hand. Did you know that some mushrooms have medicinal properties? That mushrooms have been used as remedies for illness for thousands of years, in the Orient as well as by our own First Nations people? 

In early April, Roger Roberts, the Edmonton author of The Fungal Pharmacy led SVIMS on an afternoon foray and then gave an evening slide talk on medicinal mushrooms.  The list of useful fungi was long and impressive. In fact, it seemed that hardly a mushroom didn't have some miraculous property. Since I haven't investigated homeopathic and natural remedies very much, forgive me if I sound somewhat skeptical of all the claims I heard.

Price tags of $6000/kilo (for Cordyceps) certainly got my attention, however, but the cost of a ticket to Tibet to pick them would surely eat into any potential profit margin.

The good old turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) is easy to find and identify for a beginner and it tastes good too!  That was a surprise.  Roberts invited us to chew on a bit of new, soft turkey tail, so despite all the warnings about not eating raw mushrooms, we nibbled cautiously at first, but slowly delighted in its earthy taste.  Medicine made with this fungus extends life expectancy to cancer patients after colon surgery, we later learned.

Used for high cholesterol, diabetic tendencies, breast cancer

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) has been shown in 300 studies to be effective as an anti-cancer agent. It can strengthen or weaken (huh?) the immune system and help reduce inflammation in such conditions as arthritis or lupus.

Razor strap (Piptoporus betulinus) sounds like a good bet for world travellers bothered by intestinal parasites.  Unripened puffballs can be used to staunch bleeding, and Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) has an antioxidant value 13 times more than blueberries.  Hot dog!  Who would've thought?

This is the one that's gonna make my fortune!
Argh, now I have a headache from contemplating this litany of life-threatening diseases.  Unfortunately, Mr Roberts didn't mention the fungi cure for this common affliction.

Never mind the headache. It's that time of year when we relocate to the Shuswap and do our mushrooming thereabouts until mid-fall. Stay tuned for our adventures there.

Have a wonderful summer, all you mycological maniacs!

1 comment:

  1. One of the reasons that made mushroom so popular nowadays is its antioxidant effect. Everyone’s looking for antioxidants because it blocks cancer cells, strengthens our immune system and slows down the aging process. We should all consider eating mushrooms and start doing a big favor for our health -- the natural way.

    -Mack Shepperson