Delicious, deadly, magic, toxic, mysterious.
In the course of history mushrooms were seen as a food but also as an enemy. Today, finding safe, tasty mushrooms in the market is very easy, but it was not always this way. There have been many cases of deadly mushrooms consumption, and because of this, even the eatable mushrooms have acquired a bad reputation and have falsely been considered dangerous. So, we have two categories of people: mushroom lovers and mushrooms phobes.
Eatable mushrooms are the fleshy part of the many species of macro-fungi (fungi large enough to be seen with a naked eye). They can be found either above or under the earth and the criteria that make them eatable or not are firstly whether they are poisonous and then if they taste and smell nice.
The beginning of mushrooms consumption is lost in the centuries. Eatable species of mushrooms where found in archaeological sites dating up to 13.000 years ago in Chile. However, the first reliable proof of mushrooms being part of peoples diet were found a few hundred years before Christ in China. The ancient Greeks appreciated mushrooms the same as the Chinese and the Roman Emperors had people tasting them in order to make sure they were safe…
Mushrooms are easily preserved and can be used as a food supplement on a winter table.
Mushroom cultivation has a quite long history, with over 20 species being cultivated for commecial uses in at least 60 countries with China, the U.S.A., the Netherlands, France and Poland being the largest producers.
Mushrooms are being consumed for their nutritional value and some for their therapeutic values. Of course, we couldn’t not mention also the halucinogenic mushrooms that are being consumpted for fun or as part of rituals in certain ethnic groups.
Before deciding if a mushroom is eatable or not, one should identify it and make sure that it is absolutely safe to eat. Certain mushrooms can cause allergies and if they are not properly preserved, they could lead to food poisoning. Deadly, poisonous mushrooms are unfortunately often mixed with safe and eatable varieties. Another factor that should be taken into consideration is also the location where a mushrooms sprouts, as they tend to absorb heavy metals from the ground. This means that a mushrooms found on polluted ground can be dangerous to eat.