Amanitas can be quite striking.
- It's that age old question: are there really truffles in truffle oil? Thanks to the January/February 2013 Cook's Illustrated we now may have an answer. The magazine notes that "First, it helps to know that truffle oil isn't typically made by steeping the fungus in oil...instead (it) is made by adding flavor molecules to it. Some manufacturers harvest these compounds from fresh truffles, but many others choose cheaper organic sources to extract some of the same molecules to add to oil. Still other manufacturers create synthetic versions of flavors, most often 2,4-dithiapentane, the dominant flavor compound present in real truffles." The article points out that some bottles may be labeled as natural and reminds the reader that the USDA "regulates the term natural only when applied to cuts of meat and poultry, rendering the term meaningless on most other foods." Cook's Illustrated concludes that "most of the oils were disappointing, with a flat, one-dimentional flavor when compared with that of real truffles." Be sure to check out the full article, and you'll discover which two brands "had the best-if somewhat mild-flavor."
- April 2013's National Geographic may have revealed the secret to creating your own Stradivarius: applying two arboreal fungi-Physisporinus vitreus and Xylaria longipes-to an instrument may enable it to deliver the sounds of a Stradivarius. Amazing! The article by Johnna Rizzo states, "Violins work like this: Bowed strings vibrate the bridge beneath them; the bridge moving against the violin's body bounces sound. Stradivarius violins from the 1700s are said to move the notes around best. According to tree pathologist Francis Schwarze, applying...the fungi...to a lesser violin can help it perform on a par with the famed maker's instruments. The fungi work by thinning cell walls in Norway spruce-the only wood used to make a violin's top plates-and maple so that sound can move more freely. Less weight means louder and more resonant tones. It's not all about volume, though. The fungi also double the dampening function of the wood, taking away too-high, irritating sounds. Schwarze says fungi can improve other instruments as well, including hammer dulcimers and guitars."
- Mushrooms present blood-sugar swings reports First for Women Magazine in their January 2013 issues. The article explains that "Long-chain sugar molecules in these tasty bites heal and energize pancreatic cells. The result: optimized insulin output and up to a 22% reduction in fatigue-triggering blood-sugar fluxes...To get the benefits, consume 1/2 cup of mushrooms (raw or cooked) per day" they recommend. The research was carried out at the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC.
- Time Magazine's August 27, 2012 article "IPAD, M.D." reports: "Smart phones, too, are changing medicine. Dr. John Halamka, a Harvard professor and the chief information officer for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, is a toxicologist specializing in mushroom poisoning. About 300 times year, he is called to consult on cases. 'Wherever I am in the world at any time of day, I will be able to identify the species and, through a remote consultation purely via iPhone, be able to come up with a treatment plan for the patient,' he says."
- Cook's Illustrated bravely took on the Porcini versus Shiitake debate in their July/August 2012 magazine. Their conclusion: "The soup made with shiitakes was deemed meatier, with less pronounced mushroomy flavor, than its porcini counterpart - a plus for a majority of our tasters. The shiitake sauce, on the other hand, lost out to the porcini version for its relatively mild mushroom flavor. In the future, we'll consider substituting shiitakes for porcini mushrooms in dishes in which we value meaty, umami-boosting qualities, and we'll save pricier dried porcini for times when we really want to feature their distinctive mushroom taste."
- The website Mycologia has a fascinating article on the variations in the morels we find here in the USA - differences in color, shape, ridge pattern and pit. After years of gathering collections from all parts of the country, much research along with the use of DNA analysis, it was concluded that there are many more morel species than thought and that they are different from morels in Europe and Asia. Intrigued by this statement? Consult Mycologia ["Taxonomic revision of true morels (Morchella) in Canada and the United States"] for details.
- What's this we've been hearing about the button mushrooms that you commonly find in grocery stores being toxic? The Puget Sound Mycological Society presents this information on their website: "The familiar button mushroom on store shelves contains a volatile hydrazine that is a known carcinogen. Although these mushrooms are delicious raw, once you've learned that they contain this hydrazine and that it is volatile and leaves the mushroom upon cooking you know to avoid them raw."
- Now, we've never seen our 10 year old, 20 pound cat, Susie Q, show any interest in mushrooms that we've brought in to the house, but we've heard tell that other felines seem to have an attraction to fungi. Just leave it to The Salt, NPR's food blog, to seek out the truth about cats eating mushrooms. In an interview with Gary Beauchamp, director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, he asserts that cats "hunt for protein, not fungi" and that they be responding to "glutamate, an amino acid that gives mushrooms their rich, savory flavor." The blog concludes with this word of caution from veterinarians: "neither dogs nor cats should eat mushrooms, and the North American Mycological Association warns that both dogs and cats are attracted by the odor of wild mushrooms, and can be poisoned as a result."
- An older article in Science Daily, May 2007, revealed that researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have found evidence that fungi possess a previously undiscovered talent: they can use radioactivity as an energy source for making food and spurring their growth.
- True morels split off from other fungal species 129 million years ago, according to a March 2011 article in Science Daily. It was the beginning of the Cretaceous Period, when mammals were primitive little things, and dinosaurs still ruled the world. Since then, morels have evolved into 177 related species, although in many ways, the reserachers stated, they have "remained remarkabley static." The study, published in the professional journal Fungal Genetics and Biology was conducted by scientists from OSU, the USDA, Eastern Illinois University and private industry.
- A giant fungus (F. ellipsoidea) discovered in Hainan Province, China, in 2010 may be largest ever documented, with a fruiting body of 10 meters (about 33 feet) and weighing about half a ton, according to the BBC News.
- According to an article in a 2008 edition of Helsigin Sanomat, the wild mushrooms tested in various parts of Finland still exhibit elevated levels of the radioactive caesium-137 that originated from the Chernobyl accident in 1986 while the caesium content of berries and animals has already become almost zero. Researcher Eila Kostiainen from the Nuclear Safety Authority commented that "the mushrooms can be eaten in moderation, even when the contents are high, exceeding the highest permissible level recommended for commercial mushrooms." The easiest way to reduce the caesium content is to pre-process the mushrooms with water. "Caesium is water soluble and can be disposed of with water. The most important thing is to soak or boil the fresh, dried, or salted mushrooms in abundant water and to throw away the water after the process." The drying of mushrooms alone does not reduce the level of radioactive caesium.
- Why cook mushrooms? Brian Luther recently wrote that "With the bulk of fungal cell tissue being made of chitin, humans do not possess the digestive enzymes necessary to break the material down... This means that raw fungal cells pass through our digestive systems as roughage, just like any other uncooked vegetable matter. So it makes sense that cooking edible fungi prior to eating would be beneficial for more than one reason. (1) Cooking breaks open the fungal cells that are protected by a cell wall shield of chitin, more fully releasing, in mass, the fungal protoplasm or cell contents for our digestive systems to utilize, thereby getting more nutritional benefit from the food. (2) There is a significant increase in culinary or gastronomic appeal because after cooking an edible mushroom it is much more flavorful, compared to eating a raw or uncooked specimens. Compare, for example, the flavor slices of raw Agaricus bisporus to slices of the same mushroom sauteed. There is no comparison in flavor. The cooked mushroom's are mush tastier and more appealing, even before adding butter, fresh garlic, olive oil, or herbs. It is always advisable to cook mushrooms...not only for the two reasons given above, but for a third reason - cooking the mushrooms will kill any parasites (nematodes or pathogenic bacteria) that might be hiding there as well."
- More good news about mushrooms. A 2008 article by Mediatrix P. Cristobal at balita.ph talks about Volvariella volvacea, a mushroom indigenous to Manila that is a component in a woven bandage catering to the local medical industry. This mushroom is rich in chitin/chitosan which promotes the healing of wounds. When bandages containing chitosan were used on patients' wounds, observers reported inhibition of microbial growth and re-epithelialization as early as day 1. In addition, the scientists also observed good oxygen permeability. The bandages were rated on a par with commercially available wound dressings treated with an antibiotic. They are also cheaper, being composed of about 50 percent agro-industrial wastes and 50 percent mushroom mycelium.
- A recent speaker at PSMS in Seattle, Washington, presented information on her field work on Fusarium semitectum and its evolutionary relationship with chili peppers. Apparently, the spicy burn that hot pepper lovers enjoy is the result of an evolutionary arms race between the pepper plants and infecting fungi. After working in Bolivia, a region where chili peppers originated, Noelle Machnicki found evidence that the capsaicinoids, chemical compounds that give peppers their zing, inhibit growth of Fusasium, and may also inhibit growth of a wide range of other microorganisms.
- A 2008 publishing at Gadling.com reported on Ryannair flight from Hungary to Ireland in which a bag of frozen fungi in an overhead locker began to thaw and drip onto a passenger, triggering an allergic reaction. The jet had to be diverted to an airport in Germany after the passenger started choking.
- In spite of the popular reference to The Truffle, there are many different kinds of truffles. In fact, there are over 60 species of truffles in England alone, but only a few are edible and these are rarely found.
- Why do the British drink tea? According to John E. Peterson of the Emporia Gazette, the British have long been drinkers of tea rather than coffee, thanks to fungi. The big island just east of India used to be Ceylon. It was a British possession. It is Sri Lanka today and independent. Back in the British days, it was a huge producer of coffee for British use until a fungal disease hit the coffee and literally wiped out the possibility of coffee growing there. Tea would grow on Ceylon so it became a huge tea producing area and the British became tea drinkers.
- According to Indiatimes.com, the morel mushrooms could soon relieve us from pain and protect us against tumors. Scientists from Amala Cancer Research Centre, Thruissur, have found significant anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor qualities in the mushroom extract - especially when administered to mice suffering from cancer - compared to the standard reference drug Diclofenac. The extract, scientists say, could be put to therapeutic use in chemotherapy. The team of scientists from Amala reported their finds in a 2007 issue of the Indian journal "Current Science".
- In the September/October edition of "The Mycophile", Arturo Estrada Torres wrote that rodents are critical in helping mushrooms grow/spawn. After almost a year of work, he found that almost all of the mushroom species that they collected in their study sites showed at least some evidence of rodent bites. Often, their tiny teeth marks were clearly visible. They trapped ten different rodent species, most of which had some mushroom spores or other fungal material in their feces, clearly showing that rates and mice eat mushrooms as part of their diet. What are the implications? Rodents play an important role in the reproduction of mushrooms, especially those who reproductive structures are under the ground. Even more important, these animals also eat mushrooms that do not grow underground, providing another means of spore dispersion, one even more powerful than the wind, and one that assures they'll easily find a host to grow on. In this way, rodents are an important element in the forest, connected to all the others and forming a tripartite association that pays an important role in the functioning of our ecosystems.
We never cease to be humbled by the variety of mushrooms.
- In an article by Katy McLaughlin in "The Wall Street Journal", she states that the reason that people either enjoy the taste of truffles or detest them depends on their sensitivity to a chemical component called androstenone. 25% of the population have no reaction at all to this chemical, which contributes to the fungus' signature musky aroma - the aroma that makes female pigs go into the mating stance. Another 40% are keenly sensitive to it. They say it smells like rotten wood or sweat. That leaves 35% of the population that likes the smell - and makes them willing to pay to have it added to their food. Research is still out as to whether perception of the compound is due to difference in individuals' noses or in the way the brain processes aroma messages.
- Scientists at Bastyr University in Washington are studying the cancer-fighting properties of a fungus . The varicolored mushroom species, commonly known as turkey tail has long been used by herbal physicians in China and Japan. The fungus of interest is a bracket fungus, meaning it grows on the sides of logs or trees. It has no stem and feels tough like leather to the touch. It can be brown, white, tan, orange, red or purple or all these colors at once. Turkey tail is not poisonous, but it is too tough for humans to eat. However, box turtles and gray squirrels love it. Because it is already used to treat cancer in Asia, researchers funded by the NIH wanted to find out if the fungus actually has cancer fighting properties. According to Fox 12 Oregon one of the investigators, Dr. Cynthia Wenner, said stories of a turkey tail tea possibly helping someone's stomach cancer got Asian pharmaceutical companies interest. "In Asia, they're using it as an adjunctive or in combination with chemotherapy for fighting cancer," she said. She and her colleagues are now trying to find which active ingredients in the fungus stimulate a person's immune system and if the stimulation is enough to get the body to fight off cancer.
Colorful fungi and molds await us in the forest.
"Fuligo spetica", or as it's more commonly known, the dog vomit or
scrambled egg slime mold, is a common slime mold.
- The individual who desires to engage in the study (of wild mushrooms) must face a good deal of scorn. He is laughed at for his strange taste among the better classes, and is actually regarded as a sort of idiot among the lower orders. This popular sentiment, which we may coin the word "fungophobia" to express, is very curious. If it were human - that is, universal - one would be inclined to set it down as instinct and to reverence it accordingly. But it is not human - it is merely British." TW. D. Hay, British Fungi, 1887.
- Mystery and truffles - perhaps a perfect combination for summer time reading. We suggest a lawn chair, a cool drink and Pierre Magnan's Death in the Truffle Wood (St. Martin's Press, 2007, translated from the French in 1978 by Patricia Clancy) or Peter Mayle's Anything Considered (Vintage Books, 1997). The former is full of quirky characters, including a truffle pig serving as the heroine and Commissaire Laviolette staring as a French detective in Provence. Although written 30 years ago, most reviewers agree that it doesn't feel dated and is an intriguing whodunit. The latter is a witty novel with a secret formula, stolen serum for producing truffles, elegant descriptions of world-class dining, auctions, and, as an extra bonus, you can purchase it on the web for as low as $6!
- In the storerooms of a Venice, Italy, museum, a University of California, Berkeley, scholar and Italian experts are at work on a rare collection, but the objects aren't Renaissance paintings or the art of ancient glassblowers. Instead, the team is collecting samples from the largest and best preserved collection of fungi in Italy to create an
Some mushrooms are
- "The mushroom is a clear and obvious sign to me that the Creator has a totally unreasonable affection for us." Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet.
- When and where mushrooms fruit is one of life's big mysteries. Water and temperature are the main factors, but we do not have a formula to tell us exactly when mushrooms will fruit. However, there is a small group of mushrooms that requires some other trigger than just moisture and the right temperature. Some will fruit only when ammonia is available. This can be in the form of a carcass, an animal latrine, or an old wasp next. In an experimental plot at Salt Point State Park where urea was added to the soil, Tephrocybe Tylicolor, a small grayish mushroom, responded immediately and its fruit bodies appeared. This species normally grows on places where cows have peed, around carcasses, and on dung...The more urea, the better. Such mushrooms are called ammonia fungi, as they form fruit bodies only where ammonia and similar chemicals are available in great quantities. Mycolog, Humboldt Bay Mycological Society, February 2007.
Cottonwood seeds can
be an indicator of
- A humble fungus, the morel mushroom, could soon relieve you from pain and protect you against tumors. Scientists from Amala Cancer Research Center, Thrissur, have found significant anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor qualities in the mushroom extract - especially when administered to mice suffering from cancer - compared to the standard reference drug Diclofenac. The extract, scientists say, could be put to therapeutic use in chemotherapy. The team of scientists from Amala reported their findings in the latest edition of the Indian journal Current Science. L.A. Mycological Society, February 2007.
- A courier arrived at JFK airport with white truffles. Upon his arrival a Homeland Security beagle sniffed something alarming. The courier was whisked into a back room, where the pricey truffles, along with some rare red mushrooms, were spilled out on a table. Asked their value, the courier, worried that is he said the actual amount they were worth he'd arouse suspicion, replied "$300,"' The Customers officer was unimpressed. "You paid $300 for that?" he said of the stinky load, and let him go. Boston Myco. Club Bulletin, 62(1), 2007.
- Where did the name mushroom come from? Possible derivations include the following: (1) From the French mousseron, generally considered to be from mousse (moss) because the species grow in moss or short grass or are soft, (2) From a combination of the Welsh/Old British maes (a field) and rhum (a thing that bulges out), (3) From the French mousche (from the Latin musca), a fly. OMS, MushRumors.
The stately foxglove is a
- Fungus enthusiast Edward Gange and his son have amassed 52,000 sightings of mushrooms during their walks around Salisbury, England over a 50 year period. Spectacularly, the elder Mr. Gange has found that more than one third of the species recorded have started to fruit twice per year. There was no record of this before 1976. Since then, 120 species have shown an additional fruiting in the spring. Mr. Gange notes: "We used to get cold days and nights in February which caused fungi to be dormant; these days we get very little of that." In May of 2005 in Curry County, we encountered a small but delicious fruiting of golden chanterelles!
- The first time mushrooms were referred to as a crop, in any language, was in 1600, by Olivier de Srres, the great agriculturist, in his Theatre de'Agriculture des Champs. He appears, though, to be talking about occasional, haphazard cultivation... The true domestication dates from about 1678. The botanist Marchant gave a demonstration to the Adademie des Sciences in Paris, to show that "the white filaments, which develop in the soil under mushrooms, will, if transplanted into a suitable medium, give rise to more mushrooms" - a discovery that the market gardeners of Paris were quick to profit from. Travelers were commenting on their presence in Paris markets by the end of the century. By 1708
Spring is colorful in Curry
- During the reign of Louis XIV,
the French were growing mushrooms in underground quarries, the same quarries that once produced the stone to build the city of Paris. By 1867 a single cave with 21 miles of beds was growing 3,000 pounds of mushrooms a day. Oregon Newspaper, "Food Day" section.
- Nobody seems to know where the name portobello comes from. At first, when most people thought that the mushrooms were imported from Italy, it was assumed that the name was Italian. The name portobello stuck until somebody decided to make it even more Italian by spelling it portabella. Jack Czarnecki, Portobello.
- The portobello mushroom is a very large cremini, and a cremini is a brown or cream-colored version of the white button mushroom. With one important distinction, the flavor of the portobello is the same as that of the common supermarket mushroom, except it is more distinct because it is older and more developed. The gills on the underside of the mushroom have progressed to a greater degree from the pale pink stage at their first break...as the mushrooms develop and the gills become exposed and darken, the flavor becomes more intense. ..Since portobellos, by virtue of their size, are always well opened with developed gills, they also have more flavor. Jack Czarnecki, Portobello.
- Interestingly, these giant cremini (portobello) were once considered oddballs and were treated more like weeds than mushrooms. When cremini cultivation began, the first runs would often be abnormally large...these giants were shunned-and even discarded...In 1985, Phillips Mushroom Farms decided to market the larger first-run cremini as portobello mushrooms...The rest is history. Jack Czarnecki, Portobello.
What a lovely find amongst the Oregon oxalis.
- "I have the same opinion of dances that physicians have of mushrooms; the best of them are good for nothing." Saint Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life (1609).
- "But whatever dressing one gives to mushrooms, to whatever sauce our Apiciuses put them, they are really good but to be sent back to the dung heap where they were born." Louis de Jacourt, Champignons (1753)
- "The rain had ceased at last, and a sickly autumn sun shone upon a land that was soaked and sodden with water. Wet and rotten leaves reeked and festered under the foul haze which rose from the woods. The fields were spotted with monstrous fungi of a size and colour never matched before-scarlet and mauve and liver and black. It was as though the sick earth had burst forth into foul pustules; mildew and lichen mottled the walls, and with that filthy crop, Death sprang also from the water-soaked earth." Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Nigel (1906).
- "The fallen leaves are already smelling like spice-cakes. The white mushrooms are uncommon, but if you find them, you pounce on them like a black kite, cut them off and remember, that you promised yourself not to cut them off right away when you saw them, but to admire them first. Again I promised myself and forgot." Mikhail Mikhailovich Prishvin, The Eyes of the Earth.
Someone's trying to break thru the forest floor.
- "Gold and silver and dresses may be trusted to a messenger, but not a boletus, because it will be eaten on the way." Martial, Epigrams.
- One of the earliest cookbooks, credited to Apicius, although probably a compilation of recipes from multiple sources, includes a number of suggestions for cooking fungi. The following is a typical Apician recipe, this one for cooking truffles. "Boil and sprinkle salt, transfix with twigs, partly roast, place in a cooking vessel with liquor, oil, greens, sweet boiled wine, a small quantity of unmixed wine, pepper and a little honey, and let it boil; while boiling beat up with fine flour, prick the tubors that they may absorb, take out the twigs and serve." Coelius Apicius, De opsoniis et condiments (ca AD 200).
- Now there's one more reason to visit Oregon's wine country: the Joel Palmer House, in Dayton, showcases the mushroom artistry of chef Jack Czarnecki. The award winning chef and cookbook author (Joe's Book of Mushroom Cookery, A Cook's Book of Mushrooms, and the Portobello Cookbook) has settled into this restored pioneer residence and offers a fine dining experience. The intimate atmosphere, seating 45 diners in three connecting rooms, and the accent on mushrooms make for an evening of pure pleasure. Can't make it to Dayton any time soon? Then, why not prepare his "Three-Mushroom Tart" in our Appetizer section!
- Mushroom Soup is the second most popular Campbell's soup - tomato is number one.
- Mushroom Pizza is the nation's second most popular pizza topping, right behind pepperoni.
- Domino's pizza chain orders its mushrooms sliced 1/8 inch thick.
- There are 16 million spores contained in each mushroom.
- 90% of a mushroom is water.
- About 2,500 varieties of mushrooms are grown worldwide.
- 80% of mushrooms are consumed by 20% of the population.
- 45% -55% of the cultivated mushrooms in the US are grown in Pennsylvania.
- 16% of cultivated mushrooms are grown in California.
- 540,000 pounds of mushrooms are produced by Monterey Mushrooms in California each week.
- Source of these facts: Oregonian Newspaper, "Food Day" section.
Photo courtesy of Brightwood's Bill White.
- There are hundreds of mushroom farms in Oregon, according to the Agri-Business Council of Oregon. One large grower in Salem puts out 21 million pounds of product each year. On a somewhat smaller scale, Curry County is home of Pistol River Mushrooms. Oregonian Newspaper, "Food Day" section.
- Ancient peoples practiced mushroom magic and mushroom medicine. The Celts believed mushrooms had to be harvested late at night beneath a full moon. The Egyptians believed mushrooms were the sons of the gods sent to Earth on lightning bolts. In this country, the Cherokee tribe inserted the puffball mushroom into the navel of newborn babies to stop the bleeding from the umbilical cord. Oregonian Newspaper, "Food Day" section.
- Americans took up mushroom cultivation in 1890. By 1896 a Pennsylvania florist was cultivating mushrooms as a crop. Oregonian Newspaper, "Food Day" section.
- While the French have cultivated Agaricus species for 200 years, the Japanese have grown shiitakes for 2,000 years. Oregonian Newspaper, "Food Day" section.
- Shiitake translates from Japanese as "shii mushroom" for the fungus grows naturally on shii, a member of the beech family. Unattributed magazine article.
- "Humongous Fungus takes toll on fir forest" read the headline of a recent story out of Prairie City, Oregon. Armillaria ostoyae underlies 2200
Looks like Grouse is on a foray,