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Mushrooms: from long-life elixir to novel food

Perhaps not everyone knows that mushrooms, some of the tastiest foods rich in precious organoleptic properties, are also among the oldest living beings in the world. Mushrooms, autumn delicacies that we usually consider plants, are instead million years old fascinating organisms that do not perform photosynthesis chlorophyll.

Mushrooms have been studied and appreciated since ancient times. They have proved to be an extraordinarily healthy source of food and ingredients for pharmacopoeia; today they are the protagonists of new food trends, both for their noticeable characteristics in terms of taste and because they represent a low environmental impact alternative to the commonest foods of animal origin.

Mushrooms are million years old delicious organisms

Man's ancient passion for mushrooms

Records show a historic use of mushrooms for both food and medicine, a pattern that unites all the great ancient civilizations, from the Celestial Empire to the Aztecs, from the Egyptians to the Assyrian-Babylonians, who were, along with the Sumerians, among the first admirers of the truffle we know of.
Already at the dawn of history mushrooms were dried
The term "mushroom" comes from the ancient Greek sphóngos, which means "sponge", a word that evokes the particular fabric that characterizes it; even the scientific name, "micete", dates back to the Greek míkes, and we know with certainty - also speaks of Pliny the Elder - that even in ancient Rome mushrooms were very popular and were sold dried.

Honey mushrooms, chanterelles, porcini mushrooms, the humble button mushrooms and the industrial champignons - without forgetting the famous truffle – have increasingly become a cornerstone of contemporary gastronomy, starting from the middle Ages and passing through modern times.

Mushrooms varieties
Given the availability and the possibility of cultivating different species both in greenhouses and at home (the most illustrious exception is that of truffles which, also by virtue of their rarity, reach dizzying prices), mushrooms are now a food for everyone and play an important role in the diet of those who practice sport and anyone eating a healthy diet.

A healthy all-round delight

Mushrooms are primarily a concentrate of taste and lightness: they contain a lot of water (about 90% of their entire weight) and are low in calories - 100 grams corresponds to about 20-25 calories. In addition, they are very rich in B vitamins, in particular B2 and B3, provide carbohydrates, are a source of potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and are useful to bones thanks to the intake of vitamin D. They also offer a supply of minerals because of the copper and selenium they contain, which play an antioxidant role together with beta-glucans.
Mushrooms make for fantastic dishes.
The probiotic action they perform in the intestine should also not be underestimated, regulating the naturally present bacterial flora, which is essential for the well-being of the body, reducing the appearance of inflammatory phenomena and the onset of chronic diseases such as diabetes. However, they should be consumed in the right quantity, without exaggeration: the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) is 80 grams, for a maximum of twice a week.

Food for sport

Because of the presence of active ingredients useful for the health of the body, mushrooms are highly recommended in the diets of sportsmen, especially those who practice endurance sports, and are considered therapeutic. The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) has listed them as functional foods, or "foods that bring benefits, beyond normal values, to the state of health and well-being and in the prevention of disease.

Mushrooms have proved to be extraordinary allies of health, as well as precious elements of the pharmacopoeia, and are now protagonists of new food trends.

Many athletes, due to long or frequent training sessions, do not have enough time to recover their energy and, without a proper intake of carbohydrates and liquids, risk facing the "overtraining syndrome".
There's nothing more autumnal than a mushroom soup
Doctors and nutritionists recommend taking supplements based on Cordyceps sinensis - known as the "mushroom of longevity", once grown only in the mountains of Tibet - which promotes energy recovery and fights fatigue, improving the supply of oxygen to cells and increasing the metabolic threshold.

The many properties of shiitake mushrooms

Another type of mushroom comes from the ancient East, used in particular in Chinese and Japanese cuisine and now widespread in our country: the shiitake. This mushroom, whose scientific name is Lentinula edodes, has been attributed medicinal power since ancient times, so as to be defined as the "elixir of long life" during the Ming dynasty. Its name is composed of the particles shii, "oak", and take, "earth", and it means "oak mushroom", because it grows on the trunks of these trees.
Shiitake: from the Far East to our table, fresh or dried
What's so special about shiitake? It helps, for example, to keep blood cholesterol at bay, it is effective in anti-cancer treatments and against viruses and bacteria. It has now become pretty easy to buy it fresh or dried in organic stores, and you can find many recipes for cooking it at its best online. Through mycotherapy, it is also possible to use it to stimulate the immune system, reduce stress in view of the races and effectively combat muscle inflammation.

Mushrooms between past and future cuisine

Mushrooms represent the past and future of food. They stand out as novel foods thanks to their "mycoproteins", the proteins making up their cells and with high nutritional potential, good palatability and low environmental impact. Mushrooms-based products such as hamburgers, sausages and fillets, consumed as substitutes for meat equivalents, are already available on the market and are useful for those who wish to vary their diets or limit the consumption of animal products.

Mushrooms are a concentrate of taste and lightness: they contain a lot of water and are low in calories.

Among the most interesting foods based on mycoproteins are the "eggs", a liquid solution available in convenient bottles that can be used instead of regular eggs, for omelettes, scrambled eggs, pancakes and so on. Something worth trying, for those not afraid of nouvelle cuisine.
the one thounsand and one uses for tinder fungus
Finally, in the very near future, mushrooms will be worn. Nat-2 x Zvunder is the first line of cruelty-free sneakers, entirely green, made with the so-called "tinder fungus" (the Fomes fomentarius). It is a non-edible fungus that grows on the trunks of broadleaf trees which, through an ad hoc processing, offers a material very similar to leather, both for its colour, reminiscent of leather, and for the softness and strength of the bio-fabric.

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