I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved any one. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over, just like you: ‘I am busy with matters of consequence!’ And that makes him swell up with pride. But he is not a man – he is a mushroom!
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
You see, Mr. H. told me that my last post was weak, lacking in content, that I should have gone on to explain more about mushrooms. In my defence I pointed that the mushroom topics I learnt about at university were all thrush related. Athletes feet. And so on… Not very dainty at all. I don’t know how to pick mushrooms from forests either. Therefore I thought I could put together some fun mushroom facts just to keep us all amused and hopefully we’ll all learn something extra along the way.
- Mushrooms are very low in calories. It depends on the variety, but most are made of about 90% water and some protein. Even so, they contain more protein than corn, soybeans or peanuts, which makes them adequate as a alternative to meat for vegetarians.
- Mushrooms contain some vitamins but they are usually lost during cooking. They contain hardly any salt and lots of potassium, more potassium than in bananas.
- Mushrooms are not from the plant kingdom. They are fungi. Their DNA is more similar to humans than to plants. Thats why getting rid of a strong fungal infection can be difficult, the medicines used can attack our own cells too.
- Mushrooms have an immune system.
- Mushrooms don’t need sunlight to grow. Some varieties grow and glow in the dark thanks to a chemical reaction called bioluminescence. They can even be used as a source of light to find your way through the woods at night, as if they were torches.
- Mushroom that are exposed to sunlight can produce vitamin D – like humans do.
- In Ancient Egyptian times it was thought that mushrooms were magic because they would appear overnight. Like magic.
- Before synthetic dyes existed, mushrooms used to be used to dye wool and other fabrics. Their organic pigments would produce vibrant colours.
- Mushrooms produce antibiotics. This might have something to do with their immune system. In fact, penicillin comes from the Penicillium family of fungi.
- Some varieties of cheeses have certain fungi added to them to give them their distinctive flavour, texture and colours. For example Roquefort cheese contain Penicillium roqueforti and Camembert cheese and a few others contain Penicillium camemberti.
Thank you for reading!