Mushrooms in themselves do not necessarily need an introduction simply because they are quite common and are found growing everywhere you can possibly think of. They grow in places that include the ground, on other plants, wooden surfaces, concrete floors, metal surfaces, etc. Most of us at least have seen one or two species of wild mushrooms growing around us but have not really taken out time to study them for what they are and as such, we are grossly ignorant of the potentials inherent in them. Potentials that could either be positive or negative.
Anyway, as we have already pointed out, the word mushroom may not be strange to us but it is necessary at this point for us to correctly define and analyze what the object is and also to throw light on the characteristics of some of the known species as well as hinting on the many advantages or disadvantages derivable from them.
Firstly, by means of definition we could say a mushroom or toadstool as some may choose to call it, is a conspicuous fleshy umbrella-shaped fruiting body fungus. They do not possess chlorophyll (i.e. the green pigment which allows plants to manufacture their own food from sunlight) and as such, they absorb their food from the environment in which they live. Mushrooms grow from mushroom spore which is a minute one-celled reproductive unit capable of developing into a new individual without undergoing sexual fusion. This, we can call mushroom seed in a layman’s language.
Myths about mushrooms
It behooves us to use this medium to enlighten people who are unaware and hold a totally negative notion just like it was with a lot of us a couple of years back until the light switch was turned on and the right paradigm was birthed in us, correcting the ill-gotten idea that all mushrooms are generally a no-good affair and are indeed very harmful whenever they are ingested. On the contrary, though, there are quite a whole lot of them that are highly nutritious and can be made into palatable delicacies that need to be enjoyed by all and sundry. Secondly, apart from the tastiness of edible mushroom meals, they also have a very good record when it comes to treating diverse health challenges which range from cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular anomalies, etc.
Anyway, we can truly understand and rightfully relate to the rationale that lies behind the abysmal assumption that all mushrooms are bad and are by all means useless to us. Yes, there are tens of thousands of species of mushrooms that are known today and new species are being discovered on a regular basis and a whole lot of them are very harmful to humans and animals if mistakenly ingested but be that as it may, there are some that are very delicious and have a high nutritional value. The dilemma here is; how do we know which one is good and which one is poisonous? Well, that is a question we would address in this article.
Mushrooms are divided into two broad groups which are edible and non-edible mushrooms.
Edible mushrooms are innocuous ones that can be eaten as food by humans and animals without suffering any form of harm.
On the other hand, non-edible mushrooms are hallucinogenic or toxic mushrooms that can cause a lot of discomforting problems or even lead to a more lethal consequence when eaten.
Difference between edible and non-edible mushrooms
The question we believe should be asked at this point is:
“How then can one differentiate between edible and non-edible mushrooms?”
Well, the response to that question is, first, do not go about picking unknown/wild species of mushroom to consume. It is best we left the search of edible mushrooms to professional mycologists (i.e. scientists that study fungus) and stick to whatever they tell us about them. Of course, non-professionals can also engage in the act of identifying edible mushrooms in the wild if they can learn the myriad of techniques required in identifying them.
However, the best rule of thumb is; “leave it to the expert” so as to avoid making costly or irreversible mistakes because poisonous ones are very hard to identify in the wild. Another precautionary step is buying your mushrooms from a reliable grocery store or market. With this being said, it is expedient to go on to discuss the various benefits derivable from eating the right kinds of mushrooms.
Benefits of consuming mushroom
For many years people who know about mushrooms have used them for their unique ability to add flavor to different cultures’ cuisines. They are rich in vitamin B, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. These combinations help to protect the health of our hearts. There are lots of edible mushrooms such as:
- Button or white mushroom
- Chicken of the woods
- Hen of the woods
- Golden chanterelles
- Lion mane etc
Each of these edible mushrooms has its unique look and taste and can either be preserved fresh in the refrigerator or dried and stored properly. You can never go wrong with these mushrooms. Some of them can be used as an alternative to meat especially for those who are medically advised to steer clear from cholesterol. These mushrooms have both a meaty feel and taste in the mouth. Examples of such mushrooms are; chicken-of-woods, morels, hen-of-the-woods, etc. Apart from the rich flavours derived from mushrooms, they are also highly packed with fibers, vitamins, and minerals and are also fat-free, low sodium, low calorie, and cholesterol-free.
The nutritional benefits according to a medical review from Healthline Media states that there are different composite nutrients depending on the type of mushroom. Some of the nutrients they contain are:
Mushrooms are rich in B vitamins which are riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. These combinations protect heart health. Riboflavin is good for red blood cells, niacin is good for the digestive system and for maintaining healthy skin, and pantothenic acid is good for the nervous system.
Antioxidants help to protect the body from damaging free radicals that cause conditions like heart disease and cancer. They also protect us from aging and boosts the immune system.
Copper helps the body make red blood cells, which are used to deliver oxygen all over the body. This mineral is also important in other body processes like maintaining healthy bones and nerves
Potassium is extremely important when it comes to body organs like the heart, muscle, and nerve function.
In Nigeria, a lot of people know what a mushroom is, however, only a negligible fraction of them know it as a veritable source of food and nutrient. The time has come for us as a people to key in on the benefit that is obtainable from edible mushrooms by incorporating them into our meals. The good news is, “GreenMall”, an agro enterprise is one of the businesses in the country that has taken initiative in investing its resources in providing good and reliable varieties of mushroom and other vegetables within the Nigerian market. At the moment, the company has taken a stand to not only produce good and affordable mushrooms but also to help in educating the large population of unaware individuals on the need to keep a balanced and healthy lifestyle by eating the right kind of food items.